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CDC OKs Royal Caribbean For First Revenue Cruise From Florida

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The approval is a welcome milestone for the cruise industry, which has been paralyzed in the U.S. since March 2020 after COVID-19 outbreaks and deaths on several ships.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday gave Royal Caribbean approval to start seven-night cruises to the Caribbean on its Celebrity Cruises brand ship, Celebrity Edge, on June 26.

The ship is the first to win CDC approval for revenue cruises since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

The approval is a welcome milestone for the cruise industry, which has been paralyzed in the U.S. since March 2020 after COVID-19 outbreaks and deaths on several ships.

“Cruising from the U.S. is back!” Richard D. Fain, Royal Caribbean Group chairman and CEO, said in a news release. “After months of working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other government officials, our Healthy Sail Panel and industry partners, we can again offer cruise lovers the chance to enjoy the wonders of cruising.”

The CDC has given cruise lines two options: meet vaccination thresholds of 98% of crew and 95% of passengers and start revenue cruises immediately, or first perform test cruises to ensure COVID protocols are working. Celebrity Cruise has decided to comply with the vaccination threshold.

A company spokesperson told the Miami Herald it is working with the state in regards to a new law that bans companies from requiring proof of vaccinations. Those that do can be fined $5,000 per violation.

Gov. Ron DeSantis sued the CDC last month, asking a judge to force the agency to drop its cruise safety requirements and allow cruises to begin immediately. The judge sent the case to mediation, which begins Thursday.

Earlier this week, the CDC approved test cruises for Royal Caribbean with volunteer passengers in late June from PortMiami on its Freedom of the Seas ship. PortMiami also submitted an agreement to the CDC with Carnival Cruise Line that has not yet been approved.

Also, Norwegian Cruise Line has announced plans for seven of its ships to sail from a variety of U.S. ports in the coming months. Four of the cruises are out of South Florida.

Information from WLRN coverage partner the Miami Herald was used in this report.