There is no greater litmus test for the return of the travel industry overall than cruise ships. How people start to embrace or not embrace vacationing on a cruise ship with hundreds of other people in close proximity will be the clearest sign whether the billion dollar international travel industry has emerged from the pandemic. Cruise ships are back putting their toe into the water, so to speak.
The luxury ship Celebrity Edge set sail from Fort Lauderdale yesterday. It’s the first cruise ship to set sail from a U.S. port in more than a year. Rarely has a seven-night cruise of the Caribbean come with such symbolism and hope. The Celebrity Edge set sail for Mexico and the Bahamas.
“Today marks the rebirth of our company and our industry. Our beautiful Celebrity Edge sets sail on a new-luxury experience that will – once again – feed peoples’ love of travel,” says Celebrity Cruises’ President and CEO, Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, in a tweet.
Industry giants raise more than $40 billion in financing to stay afloat
The cruise ship industry’s three giants – Carnival, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean – were forced to raise $40 billion in financing to stay in business with zero revenue since shutdowns hit.
During the pandemic’s height cruise ships were stranded at sea with sick passengers, without a port to pull into. Deadly outbreaks of the virus on crowded cruise ships were some of the more disturbing media images.
The Celebrity Edge is running at 36% capacity because of social distancing – almost 1,100 passengers. All the crew are fully vaccinated – “fully” meaning that the last shot was received at least 14 days prior to sailing. There are no unvaccinated adults on this sailing.
There was a Federal court ruling in Tampa earlier this month overturning a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s decision to bar cruises from Florida ports with unvaccinated people on board. Everywhere except Florida, Celebrity Cruises requires that everyone sailing who is eligible to receive the vaccine, has been fully vaccinated. But in Florida, it’s not required, although the company recommends it.
Currently, the Celebrity Cruises policy regarding vaccines is for guests aged 16 and above. On Aug. 1, that policy will change again – all guests over the age of 12 will have to be vaccinated. Requirements for non-U.S. guests vary – more details here. There’s a larger medical unit on board now, that staffs doctors and nurses. Plus there’s a full intensive care unit with beds and ventilators.
Canada’s best luxury website: Celebrity Edge targets the luxury cruise ship market with unique design and amenities
So there’s a lot riding on this first cruise going well. The 1,004-foot-long Celebrity Edge debuted in December 2018, with its outward-facing design, a break from traditional ship-building. The ship features The Magic Carpet, a cantilevered, floating platform above the sea, that can be parked on different levels of the ship. At the top of the ship it becomes a stunning area with top-level sea views to have dinner. Lower down it becomes an extension of the pool deck area, while on Deck 5 it becomes another outdoor dining experience.
Celebrity Edge also includes lux two-storey villas with private plunge pools.
The billion-dollar vessel, captained by Kate McCue, the first female to captain a major cruise ship, targets the affluent traveler looking for the finest in luxury touchpoints. The ship was featured in Time Magazine in its “Greatest Places 2019” feature.
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