RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. — The Bahamas Paradise Grand Classica cruise ship pulled into the Port of Palm Beach on Thursday morning, bringing with it the hope of an economic rebound for South Florida's stalled cruise industry.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has approved the Grand Classica to embark on a two-night, round-trip "test cruise" on June 25 from the Port of Palm Beach to Grand Bahama Island.
The sailing will including dining, entertainment, leisure activities, and shore excursions.
#RIGHTNOW the Grand Classica is returning to the @PortofPalmBeach. @BPCruiseLine received the green light from the #CDC to conduct a simulated sailing with a small group of fully vaccinated passengers and crew.— Sabirah (@sabirahrayford) June 3, 2021
If they pass, full schedule sailing will resume on July 2. @wptv pic.twitter.com/hl9WGXdPLy
"It's absolutely a fantastic day for Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line, for Palm Beach," said O'Neil Khosa, the CEO of Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line. "Our partners, our suppliers, our employees."
The Grand Classica has spent the last 15 months in the Bahamas after the CDC issued a no-sail order because of the COVID-19 pandemic, preventing cruise ships from allowing passengers to embark and disembark at U.S. ports.
Khosa said that once Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line gets further clearance from the CDC, commercial two-night sailings will start on July 2.
All passengers will need a Bahamian travel visa, which requires you to either be fully vaccinated or have a negative COVID-19 test five days prior to your sail date.
In addition, the cruise line is taking extra precautions to keep guests safe. There will be limited capacity on ships, all crew members will be vaccinated against the coronavirus, and there will be frequent deep cleanings in-between sailings.
"It's the safest and coolest place to be, on a cruise ship. Because either everyone is vaccinated or has a negative COVID test," Khosa said. "It's probably the safest place to be on a holiday with your family."
Khosa anticipates the restart of the Grand Classica sailings will create almost 100 new jobs within a month.
"It's been such a lag, an economic lag," Khosa said. "We do create a lot of jobs."
For more information about Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line and its itineraries, click here.
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Disney Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean both received approval to conduct simulated voyages.
Carnival has been approved to begin sailing from three U.S. ports at Port Canaveral, PortMiami, and Port of Galveston in Texas. The company plans to begin service in Miami and Galveston in July with no date set for Port Canaveral in Brevard County.
Celebrity Cruises' Celebrity Edge, which is owned by the Royal Caribbean Group, announced plans to depart Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale on June 26.
Norwegian Cruise Line has not received approval from the CDC yet.
Some cruises lines have announced plans to require passengers and crew members to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, but that policy conflicts with a new Florida law which bars businesses in the state from requiring people to show proof that they have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
That law officially goes into effect on July 1.