Cruise lines preparing to return to international waters, despite CDC no-sail orders

Celebrity Cruises to embark from St. Maarten beginning June 5; other cruise lines following suit
Posted at 11:04 PM, Mar 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-25 23:04:58-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Itineraries with Celebrity Cruises are officially open for bookings. It's a decision that has the cruise industry paying attention.

"I think we'll see an ever-evolving changing wheel here as we kind of navigate through these waters per se," said Vicky Garcia, chief operating officer of Cruise Planners.

Celebrity Cruises has decided to embark from St. Maarten beginning June 5, since there are still no-sail orders from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for ships to sail in U.S. waters.

"So this might be a way to prove to the CDC that this can be done," said Garcia. "So it wasn't just Celebrity. Actually, Royal Caribbean also announced a ship sailing, and Crystal Cruises did as well, and I think there's a few more coming up in the week or so."

The cruise line will tour the Caribbean for seven nights. Garcia said crews will be fully inoculated and require cruisers to be vaccinated as well.

With the recent announcement by Gov. Ron DeSantis on lowering COVID-19 vaccine eligibility for Floridians to 18 and older come next month, it could be a game changer.

"You know, it opens up the doors to families being able to book their travels," said Garcia. "Where maybe before they were hesitant because their kids couldn't get vaccinated, and now they can."

The president of the Cruise Lines International Association is also weighing in on the industry's frustration.

"Over the past eight months, a highly-controlled resumption of cruising has continued in Europe, Asia and the South Pacific -- with nearly 400,000 passengers sailing to date in more than 10 major cruise markets," said Kelly Craighead, CLIA's president and CEO. "These voyages were successfully completed with industry-leading protocols that have effectively mitigated the spread of COVID-19. Additional sailings are planned in the Mediterranean and Caribbean later this spring and summer."

According to Craighead, the industry has adopted changes and revised plans in order to keep guests safe while enjoying the experience of cruising.

"Our members continue to follow this multi-layered approach to enhancing health and safety that has proven effective, making cruising one of the best and most adaptable choices for travel," said Craighead.