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Celebrity Cruises launches first post-pandemic voyage

Passengers were delighted to take off their masks one by one and clear security and health screenings to board the first cruise ship departing North America since the pandemic was declared in March last year.

A woman threw her bag on the floor and started shimmy on a Caribbean calypso beat playing in the welcome hall. I hit my fist with the crew before I hugged another triumphantly. While an elderly man stood still and stared at a delighted guest, he shined his eyes as he handled the reality of returning to the cruise. In his lifetime.

“We’re back, we’re at home,” exclaimed a passenger entering the ship. “Welcome back,” the crew responded with a glittering smile. “We missed you.”

For many of the 600 or so passengers embarking on Saturday from St. Martin on Caribbean to the Celebrity Millennium operated by Royal Caribbean Celebrity Cruises, this was the moment they had dreamed of over the last 15 months due to the remaining cruise ships. .. Even after vaccination began in the United States and people started traveling again, they were moored in the harbor.

For the ship’s 650 crew, the event was just as fun and a relief after a tough year with no jobs or stable income.

“It was very difficult to survive at home for 14 months,” said Donald Sihombing, a 33-year-old private room clerk in Indonesia. “I feel very happy and lucky to be back. There are still many people who have to wait for the cruise to begin in the United States.”

Major cruise lines are preparing to resume operations from US ports this summer. Celebrity Edge departed Fort Lauderdale, Florida on June 26, with at least 95% of all crew and passengers fully vaccinated. , According to the guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But those plans can be confusing If Florida does not exempt the cruise line from recently enacted state law that prohibits companies from requiring companies to certify vaccinations from people who are trying to use the service.

Celebrities are currently in talks with the Florida CDC and state authorities and are optimistic about reaching a solution in time for the voyage. Susan Lomax, vice president of global public relations for the company, said she would continue to offer vaccinated voyages to ensure the health and safety of the guests, crew and communities she visited.

There are some points from the first major international cruise by American passengers since 2020. The 7-day cruise itinerary from St. Martin included stops at Barbados, Alba and Curacao.

To board the Celebrity Millennium, all adult passengers had to complete a health questionnaire to show evidence of vaccination and a negative PCR test. In addition, St. Martin requires visitors to present a printed copy of their medical examination document. This must be approved in advance.

The check-in process begins at home via the Celebrity app or website. This allows you to scan your passport, fill out forms and book your boarding time frame. When all steps are complete, the system will generate an express pass designed to minimize contact and speed up check-in. In the departure hall, guests were able to enter the ship after the pass was scanned and vaccinations and test certificates were reviewed by staff.

But be prepared for surprises. Initially, at Barbados, the first port of call, visitors were required to present a negative Covid test that was conducted 120 hours before departure. However, it changed the requirement to a test that takes place within 72 hours. That is, the results for some passengers would have expired by the time they arrived.

Celebrities have set up a test station at the departure terminal, offering free rapid antigen testing that gives results within 20 minutes, allowing guests to board.

Those who cruise on a regular basis will be familiar with the master drill, a safety exercise where passengers usually gather at a cramped master station and need to watch a safety demonstration that takes more than 30 minutes. One passenger described this process as “miserable.”

This week, Celebrity announced a new e-muster system. This allows passengers to take electronic tutorials, show them how to wear life jackets, and become accustomed to the sound of emergency traffic lights. After boarding, passengers simply walk to the designated meeting area and are given a small sticker on the room card to indicate that the process is complete.

After boarding, guests were allowed to go straight to their room. (Before the pandemic, I had to wait until 1 pm) All rooms had hand sanitizers and face masks, which were disinfected daily.

All ship facilities, including the gym, spa, casino and theater, were open and fully functional, but the ship operated with about one-third of regular passengers. To reduce your contacts, you can unlock your room using the Celebrity app on your mobile phone and book all restaurants, activities and port of call visits from the app.

Cruise passengers did not need a face mask because of the need for vaccination, but the crew was expected to wear a face mask during work. This is a rule that will be reviewed after service.

Both the PCR and the antigen Covid test were free and available on board.

Some cruise fans were afraid that the cruise buffet would be abolished in the post-pandemic era, but at the Ocean View Cafe on the 10th floor of the Celebrity Millennium, the buffet station was fully functional. The main difference was that the meal was served by the crew.

When guests enter the restaurant, they must first wash their hands in the entrance basin — a requirement even before the pandemic. Next, take a walk from station to station and point to what you want the staff to share.

The new system worked well with the ship at 30% capacity. The server was catching up with demand and the station wasn’t crowded, but the experience would be even busier as it was a ship sailing with 2,210 guests fully.

While some guests expected food quality to decline due to the financial blow to cruise companies since the launch of the pandemic last year, most guests have celebrities with high standards of food and service. He said he was keeping it.

Lorenzo Davidou, Celebrity’s Vice President of Outstanding Services, said:

After a frustrating year of booking multiple cruises and canceling or postponing them, many guests were delighted to return to the ship, even though they weren’t entirely sure what to expect.

“We have cruised various types of ships about 28 times, but with this crazy virus we didn’t know what this would look like, so we’d like to give it a try and see if it feels safe. “It was,” said Squirrel Simpson. , 68, an avid cruiser in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I was sitting with my husband at the pool bar, sipping mimosa.

Her Verdict: “This is just unbelievable. Feeling like we’re back before the pandemic era, we’re alive again. Interacting with people without masks, dining in restaurants , Watching the show. It’s a dream. “

Still, Simpson realized that the emptiness of the boat was surreal and said he missed a lot of the hustle and bustle of the passengers.

“Usually I have to come here at 7am and I’m lucky if I can find an empty chair to put my towel on, but now I have a lot of options,” she said, pointing at the empty line. .. Of deck chairs around the pool area.

Michelle Lewis, 56, and Chad Curtis, 34, from Orange County, California, sat smiling at each other as they celebrated their first night of their honeymoon at the upscale Tuscan grill restaurant on the ship.

They are swayed by the suggestion that they are guinea pigs testing a set of health and safety protocols.

“I feel like a pioneer, not a guinea pig,” Lewis said with a laugh.

“I think we need to be prepared for things that can go wrong along the way and things don’t go completely, but look at us,” she said, gesturing the ocean in the background. It was. “We are on a maskless luxury cruise with great people and crew in the middle of the Caribbean. It feels great.”

The couple are considering leaving St. Martin on June 19 for a series of cruises on the same itinerary.

“The idea of ​​spending time in a Covid-free bubble instead of going straight to the plane is very appealing,” Curtis said.

Normally, when a cruise ship calls at a port, guests are free to take a short trip organized by the cruise company or explore their destination for the assigned time.

Restrictions on the coronavirus at the first port of call, Barbados, meant that passengers could only participate in “bubble excursions” designed to limit interaction with locals.

There were several options, including a tour of the island and its white sands, but the most popular excursion was a catamaran voyage, which included swimming with sea turtles.

A mask was needed when passengers got off the boat to catch the bus to the catamaran. Catamaran moored not far from the shore to allow passengers to swim, but they were repeatedly told not to swim on the beach.

“I usually don’t choose to visit ports and it feels strange to be restricted,” said Harvey Fried, a guest from Miami. “I like to get off and visit local restaurants, try food, meet locals and check out the casino. But what can you do? This isn’t too bad,” he said. Said.

At the second port of call, Aruba, guests were free to travel alone, and many jumped at the opportunity.

“It’s really cool to get to a new location on a cruise ship, get off again and walk around as before,” said Marni Turner, 52, a longtime Florida cruiser. “But it’s strange to have to put on the mask again and worry about Covid. It feels much safer and more comfortable on board.”


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Celebrity Cruises launches first post-pandemic voyage

Source link Celebrity Cruises launches first post-pandemic voyage

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