WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Cruise ships could set sail once again from U.S. ports by mid-July following a year-long shutdown on all domestic cruises because of the coronavirus pandemic.
CEO Oneil Khosa of Bahamas Paradise Cruise Lines said he eagerly awaits the lift on the cruise ban.
"We of course are enthusiastic about getting back to cruising," said Khosa.
Since last March, the CDC banned voyages from U.S. ports because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Khosa said getting back to business will now be all of his attention and focus.
"Implementing the good practices. Let's not forget, cruise lines want to make sure people enjoy a location and come back healthy. So the emphasis is providing a safe and sound location again," Khosa said.
The CDC announced this week several new steps to speed up the approval process for cruise lines to resume voyages.
This includes proving that 98 percent of its crew and 95 percent of passengers are vaccinated from COVID-19.
Khosa said each cruise line is different and will make adjustments according to their particular itinerary. Excursions may be limited at the beginning.
"Start limited short excursions so that we can monitor and more closely, again in an effort to make sure ... we are consistent in providing a good product," Khosa said.
The Port of Palm Beach said they are meeting with representatives from cruise lines discussing the fastest path back to sailing without compromising safety.
"On the front end, it has to be as fun as before. On the backhand, we have to make sure all of our loose ends tighten up," Khosa said.
Joseph Anderson, the chairman of the Board of Commissioners at the Port of Palm Beach, released the following statement on the issue Friday:
The Port of Palm Beach is working closely with Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line to ensure we are in compliance with CDC protocols, before sailings resume from the Port. We can assure you the Port of Palm Beach will be ready to safely welcome back cruise passengers who want to take a two-day getaway to Grand Bahama Island.
Our top priority is the health and safety of cruise passengers and the crew members. In the past 14 months, we’ve intensified healthy and safety procedures by enhancing our sanitation procedures, installing touchless hand sanitizing stations, refurbishing restrooms to include touchless fixtures, adding plexiglass in the U.S. Customs and Border Protection area and we upgraded our HVAC system by increasing fresh air intake and adding MERV 13 filters. We will use the next upcoming weeks to address any other improvements required by the CDC.