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What's next for Florida's cruise industry?

Cruise booking company ramps up operations
Disney cruise ship at Port Everglades
Posted at 4:03 PM, Jul 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-21 18:36:59-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — For the last 18 months, the cruise industry has struggled. Now there is renewed hope and leaders in the cruise industry say it's time to set sail.

For Amanda Locker, March 26, 2020, is a day that didn’t go as planned.

"It got canceled," she said.

The Wellington mom of two says her streak was broken.

"I've probably been on about 40 cruises," Locker said.

Amanda Locker, cruise passenger
Amanda Locker is looking forward to returning to the seas as cruises resume in Florida.

From family to all adult cruises, she describes it as a hotel on the sea. Now she's cruising down memory lane while waiting to set sail on her next adventure.

"The other cruise that I had planned for October of last year, what that cruise line did was they actually kept my money," Locker explained. "They doubled my money. So, now I was able to upgrade my cabin and have a much better experience coming up in October if we set sail."

"You see blue at the end of the tunnel," said Uf Tukel, the co-founder of iCruise.com.

MORE: Cruising in Florida is back amid pandemic; Here's what you need to know

"It's an online travel company that sells nothing but cruises," Tukel said. "We represent all major cruise lines to destinations all over the world."

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Tukel said they were having a record-breaking year.

"We booked almost 50,000 cabins that year, almost 100,000 passengers," he said.

South Florida accounted for many of those bookings.

"We are the cruise capital of the world," he said.

Even still, the pandemic has proven to be choppy waters for the industry.

"There's been a lot of uncertainty with regards to when cruises are coming back," Tukel said. "We haven't had a ship sailing or regularly sailing in 18 months."

Uf Tukel, co-founder of icruise.com
Uf Tukel says his cruise booking business is showing signs of returning normalcy.

"Do you feel like the cruise industry has been left behind?" WPTV Reporter Sabirah Rayford asked.

"There is no other airline, hotel, casino, theme park that has COVID safety protocols that a cruise ship has," Tukel said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a conditional sailing order in October 2020.

In April, Gov. Ron Desantis filed a lawsuit, claiming the order hurt businesses and employment.

MORE: Legal battles brewing as cruising returns in Florida

"I believe cruises will come back," he said.

Cruises returned to Florida last month, but not all, as the cruise lines wait for the lawsuit to work its way through the courts.

"I think next year we are going to see quite a bit," Tukel said.

June was iCruise.com's best month since the pandemic. After cutting their staff in half, Tukel said they are now able to bring back jobs.

"We've got 20 people starting later this month. We're hiring another 20 people in September, so the business is coming back."

As for Locker, the single mom is ready for a vacation.

"They can go have fun and I have fun, and then we meet up, and it's a great family adventure," she said. "You never know who you can meet on a ship."

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