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.
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.
But after 15 months of no sailings, June 26 officially marks the return of cruising in the US.
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.
The ship officially set sail from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Now, the Edge is spending seven nights at sea on a voyage to Mexico and the Bahamas.
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.
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.
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.
That makes the Edge the first non-test cruise back in operation.
Unsurprisingly, pandemic health protocols can still be seen throughout the Edge cruising experience.
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.
The ship also has more medical resources onboard, including extra intensive care beds and ventilators, Seema Mody reported for 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.
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.
All crew and almost all guests - except for two adults and 24 children - have received the vaccine.
The Edge's departure comes at a tumultuous time for cruise lines looking to sail fully vaccinated.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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