RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. — The U.S. cruise industry was hit hard over the last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially here in South Florida.
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However, the CDC and cruise companies are coming together with hopes of allowing ships to set sail this summer.
The first cruise ship operating out of the Port of Palm Beach is scheduled to set sail in July.
The Grand Classica is scheduled to leave July 2 from the Port of Palm Beach en route to Freeport.
"For Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line, our purchasing within the Palm of Palm Beach is north of $70 million per year," said Oneil Khosa,
CEO of Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line. "That's direct spending, so imagine the multiplier effects of that spending, which have been
absent for a year now."
Cruise lines have been prohibited from sailing in U.S. waters or stopping at U.S. ports since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cruising is the last big industry in the nation that is still waiting to reopen.
"People are ready to travel," said Laura Reece, owner of Reece Worldwide Travel. "Most people have received their vaccinations and they're ready to go."
Reece has been receiving a spike in calls from travelers hoping to take a cruise from the U.S. and set sail during the summer months.
CRUISE LINE CRUNCH☀️⛴️ 🌊⚓️💦Cruise industry crippled by COVID-19, eager to resume— Linnie Supall WPTV (@LinnieSupall) May 20, 2021
“People are ready to travel, most have received their vaccinations and they're ready to go,” travel agent says
Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line set sail from Port of Palm Beach 7/2 #wptv #wflx #travel pic.twitter.com/QbMrycfm5E
She said there's a lot of incentives for travelers to book early while cruise lines navigate vaccine requirements and ship readiness.
"The cruise lines will require passengers to be vaccinated in order to sail just to make sure that the clients, as well as people working on the ship, are protected," Reece said.
Reece is also encouraged by the latest updates from the CDC regarding domestic travel and masks for those who are fully vaccinated, especially as more grocery stores and retail establishments relax mask requirements.
"What's going on with the masks is really important, and kind of foreshadows what's going to happen with the cruise industry," Reece said. "We're seeing that people are more relaxed when they're outdoors in an open-air environment."
Meanwhile, Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line had to sell one of its ships, the Grand Celebration, last year.
The cruise line is also reporting a series of ongoing discussions with the CDC to ensure all terms of the conditional no sail order are met.