More than a year after South Florida's cruise industry was shut down for the COVID-19 pandemic, ships from Royal Caribbean are set to sail out of Miami and Fort Lauderdale.
The Miami-based company announced Friday that six of its ships will begin sailing from ports in Florida and Texas, beginning with a July 2 cruise out of PortMiami on the Freedom of the Seas.
The next day, July 3, the Odyssey of the Seas will sail out of Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale.
The Symphony of the Seas will sail from Miami starting on Aug.14. Two other ships will sail out of Port Canaveral starting in August.
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By the end of August, 12 Royal Caribbean ships will be cruising once again across The Bahamas, Caribbean, Alaska and Europe, the company said.
“This is it. Vacationers can finally plan to take their precious time off this summer and truly get away after what has been a challenging time for everyone," Royal Caribbean President and CEO Michael Bayley said in a statement. "Thanks in large part to the successful rollout of vaccines, the world of adventure is beginning to open up, and we are all excited to start delivering great vacations to our guests, who have increasingly told us they are getting vaccinated."
All Royal Caribbean crew members will be vaccinated against COVID-19, and the company said guests are strongly recommended to be fully vaccinated. Guests who aren't vaccinated or are unable to verify that they are vaccinated will have to undergo testing and follow other protocols that will be "announced at a later date," the company said.
Royal Caribbean said 90% of vacationers booking with them are either vaccinated or planning to get vaccinated in time for their cruise.
The federal government shut down all cruises in March of 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier this year, the state of Florida filed a lawsuit against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over its no-sail order.
Florida is the nation’s cruise capital with three of the world’s busiest ports: Miami, Port Canaveral near Kennedy Space Center, and Port Everglades near Fort Lauderdale. The cruise industry generates billions for the economy and employs tens of thousands of Floridians.
The CDC had set certain guidelines to let cruises sail again, including if 98% of the crew and 95% of passengers are vaccinated and if ships take other measures to limit the risk of transmitting the virus.
But Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill banning businesses from requiring proof of vaccination.
The current process requires each ship that will be permitting non-vaccinated guests to complete a simulation cruise before receiving approval to resume sailing once again from U.S. ports.
Royal Caribbean said they are continuing discussions with the CDC regarding the requirements for upcoming sailings.