The first cruise ship in North America set sail on Sunday after the industry was forced to shut down and pause all operations last year when the coronavirus pandemic threatened the health of crew and passengers.

The Royal Caribbean Group owns the Celebrity Cruises that scheduled the departure of the Celebrity Millennium from Philipsburg, St. Maarten. The vessel has carried its passengers since Saturday. From March 2020, Royal Caribbean was not allowed to hold cruises because of safety protocols.

In a statement, President and CEO of Celebrity Cruises, Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, said the sail of the cruise ship marked a significant moment for the company, the industry, and the Caribbean. She expressed her gratitude to the crew and passengers for making the endeavor possible.

Return of Celebrity Cruises

The Celebrity Millennium will go on a seven-day cruise from St. Maarten and will make several ports stops including in Aruba, Barbados, and Curacao. The ship is carrying about 500 passengers, 95% of whom have received their coronavirus vaccinations. Officials required children who were not yet eligible to get vaccinated to show negative COVID-19 test results before boarding the vessel.

Officials also made sure all crew members were fully vaccinated before allowing them to work on the ship and serve passengers. The Editor-in-Chief of Cruise Critic, Colleen McDaniel, who was also aboard the Celebrity Millenium, said they conducted a survey that showed more than 80% of passengers were willing to go on a cruise if other people on the ship were vaccinated.

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McDaniel noted how the Celebrity Millennium was the first big ship to set sail since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, marking a special day for the company. She said the crew was excited to serve passengers once again and many people, including passengers, were clapping in celebration of the situation, CNN reported.

Waiting for Vaccines

Despite the success of the return of Celebrity cruises, many Caribbean residents are eagerly waiting for their chance at getting coronavirus vaccine shots. Many experts believe the restarting of cruises at a time when the region's rise in infections is doing more harm than good.

The Pan American Health Organization's Incident Manager, Dr. Sylvain Aldighieri, said officials had to tread carefully with the threat of the COVID-19 virus still in sight. While many cruises companies have increased their safety guidelines, Aldighieri and his PAHO colleagues there are no guarantees ships will be free of the coronavirus.

Last year, ships were responsible for many COVID-19 outbreaks in the region. The incidents forced authorities to close down Caribbean nation ports in March 2020. Officials were worried that sick passengers would bring the infection to the mainland and spread the pandemic even further, the Miami Herald reported.

The Caribbean has much fewer resources compared to other countries worldwide. Leaders are discussing the economic benefits of cruises and what they could mean for the nation. At the same time, they are worried passengers may cause potential public health calamities. Many islands in the Caribbean are still recording a high number of new infections per day, including St. Maarten.

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