The first Royal Caribbean Group cruise just set sail from the US after 15 months - see what it was like

·5 min read
the Celebrity Edge cruise ship at sea
The Celebrity Edge. Celebrity Cruises
  • Royal Caribbean Group's Celebrity Edge set sail from Florida on une 26.

  • The Edge, operated by Celebrity Cruises, is the first non-simulated voyage cruise to resume sailing in the US.

  • The cruise was first announced at the end of May after it was "greenlit" by the CDC.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

The cruise industry has been battered by the COVID-19 pandemic, which left cruise lines struggling financially and cruise ships docked for over a year.

the Celebrity Edge cruise ship at sea
The Celebrity Edge. Celebrity Cruises

But after 15 months of no sailings, June 26 officially marks the return of cruising in the US.

a worker assists passengers checking into the Celebrity Edge cruise
Passengers checking into the Celebrity Edge cruise on June 26 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Marta Lavandier/AP Photo

That Saturday evening was when the Celebrity Edge - run by Royal Caribbean Group's Celebrity Cruises - became the first "non-simulated voyage" cruise ship to sail from a US port since the start of COVID-19.

a closeup of the front of the Celebrity Edge
The Celebrity Edge at Port Everglades on June 26. Marta Lavandier/AP Photo

The ship officially set sail from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

A closeup of the Celebrity Edge emblem on the cruise ship
The Celebrity Edge at Port Everglades on June 26. Marta Lavandier/AP Photo

Now, the Edge is spending seven nights at sea on a voyage to Mexico and the Bahamas.

Richard Fain, Royal Caribbean Group's chairman and CEO, and Brian Abel, senior vice president of hotel operations and Celebrity Cruises, walking in front of the Celebrity Edge
Richard Fain, Royal Caribbean Group's chairman and CEO, and Brian Abel, Celebrity Cruises' senior vice president of hotel operations, walking in front of the Celebrity Edge on June 26 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Marta Lavandier/AP Photo

The Edge is sailing under Captain Kate McCue, the "first and still only American female to captain a major cruise ship," according to Celebrity Cruises.

a picture of Captain Kate McCue
Captain Kate McCue on June 26 in in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Marta Lavandier/AP Photo

Source: Celebrity Cruises

"This is a momentous sailing and one that we have been preparing for a long time," Richard Fain, Royal Caribbean Group's chairman, said in the press release.

Richard Fain, the chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Group, speaking in June
Richard Fain, the chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Group, speaking before the Celebrity Edge set sail on June 26 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Marta Lavandier/AP Photo

Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas first set sail on June 20 from Miami, but the ship was operating as a free "simulated voyage" full of Royal Caribbean employees who volunteered for the voyage, and their adult plus-one's.

volunteer employees for Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas Sailing walking and holding luggage
Volunteer Royal Caribbean employees for the Freedom of the Seas sailing at PortMiami on June 20. Marta Lavandier/AP Photo

Source: Insider

That makes the Edge the first non-test cruise back in operation.

The Celebrity Edge docked in Florida
The Celebrity Edge in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on June 22. Lynne Sladky/AP Photo

Unsurprisingly, pandemic health protocols can still be seen throughout the Edge cruising experience.

a cruise worker tagging the bags of two passengers standing nearby
Passengers arriving to board the Celebrity Edge on June 26 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Marta Lavandier/AP Photo

For example, there are now servers at the buffet and plenty of hand sanitizer by the elevators and restaurants, Natasha Chen and Kevin Conlon reported for CNN.

Passengers arrive ahead of the Celebrity Edge's departure on June 26 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Passengers arrive ahead of the Celebrity Edge's departure on June 26 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Marta Lavandier/AP Photo

Source: CNN

The ship also has more medical resources onboard, including extra intensive care beds and ventilators, Seema Mody reported for CNBC.

Beach chairs inside of the adults only section of the Celebrity Edge
The Solarium, an adults-only section of the Celebrity Edge. Celebrity Cruises

Source: CNBC

Another difference is the crowd size (or lack thereof): the ship can accommodate over 2,900 passengers but is currently sailing at 36% capacity for social distancing purposes.

Crowds waving Port Everglades flags at the departing Celebrity Edge.
Crowds waving Port Everglades flags at the departing Celebrity Edge. Celebrity Cruises

Source: Celebrity Cruises, CNBC

At least 95% of passengers and crew on the ship had to be vaccinated in order to sail in accordance with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidelines, Marnie Hunter reported for CNN.

A closeup of the Celebrity Edge emblem on the cruise ship
The Celebrity Edge at Port Everglades on June 26. Marta Lavandier/AP Photo

Source: CNN, Insider

All crew and almost all guests - except for two adults and 24 children - have received the vaccine.

the Celebrity Edge cruise ship at sea
The Celebrity Edge. Celebrity Cruises

Source: CNBC

The Edge's departure comes at a tumultuous time for cruise lines looking to sail fully vaccinated.

outdoor seating and tables among plants and public art on the rooftop garden of the Celebrity Edge
The rooftop garden aboard the Celebrity Edge. Celebrity Cruises

Source: Insider

Earlier this month, Celebrity Cruises rolled back its vaccine mandate for cruises sailing out of Florida due to conflicts with the state's vaccine passport ban.

the Celebrity Edge sailing away from Port Everglades in Florida with other boats nearby.
The Celebrity Edge. Celebrity Cruises

"Companies doing business in Florida, including Celebrity Cruises, should immediately cease to impose such discriminatory policies upon individuals," Christina Pushaw, DeSantis' press secretary, told Insider in an email in May before the cruise line changed its vaccine requirements.

the Celebrity Edge sailing away from Port Everglades in Florida with other boats nearby.
The Celebrity Edge. Celebrity Cruises

To be deemed "fully vaccinated," passengers were required to show a completed vaccine card the day they boarded the cruise ship, according to Celebrity Cruises.

indoor black and white spa chairs overlooking a deck behind glass panels aboard the Celebrity Edge
The spa aboard the Celebrity Edge. Celebrity Cruises

But anyone who didn't present proof of the vaccine was considered unvaccinated, subjecting them to more on-board restrictions like mandatory mask-wearing and out-of-pocket expenses for extra COVID-19 tests. This applies to all Celebrity cruises operating out of Florida.

An overhead shot of the Celebrity Edge
The Celebrity Edge. Celebrity Cruises

Source: Insider

Cruise lines operating in Florida are still allowed to ask passengers to show proof of vaccination on the passenger's own accord, Chris Gray Faust reported for Cruise Critic.

a bed, desk, and chair overlooking the ocean in the Iconic Suite of the Celebrity Edge
The Iconic Suite aboard the Celebrity Edge. Celebrity Cruises

Source: Cruise Critic

Requiring proof, however, isn't allowed, and companies in Florida could face a $5,000 fine per customer if they choose to do so.

the exterior of the Celebrity Edge
the Celebrity Edge. Celebrity Cruises

Source: Insider

"We have longed for this day, not only because it represents a return to service and doing what we love to do most, but because we know that for many the return of cruising is a symbol of the world's return to normalcy," Brian Abel, senior vice president of hotel operations for Celebrity Cruises, said in the press release.

The rooftop garden aboard the Celebrity Edge full of artwork
The rooftop garden aboard the Celebrity Edge. Celebrity Cruises

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