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First cruise ship since March 2020 returns to sailing in North America

07 Jun 2021
Matt Hochberg

For the first time since March 2020, a cruise ship is sailing with paying passengers somewhere in North America.

Celebrity Cruises' Millennium departed St. Maarten on Saturday, and became the first cruise ship since to start cruises in the Royal Caribbean Group in the Western Hemisphere since Covid-19 shutdown the entire cruise industry.

While cruise ships have been able to slowly restart in other places in the world, no major cruise ships have been able to sail from North America, primarily due to regulatory hurdles.

Royal Caribbean Group announced in March 2021 plans to offer cruises from outside the United States this summer, and Celebrity Millennium is the first to return.

Celebrity Millennium is sailing a 7-night Caribbean cruise that will visit Aruba, Curaçao and Barbados.

Celebrity will offer cruises from St. Maarten to Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries through August.

Celebrity Cruises President and CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo celebrated the return of cruises, "Today, we sail again! This is such a significant moment for our company, our industry and the Caribbean. That this day has finally arrived for our guests and our crew is truly special – beyond words, really." 

"I am so happy to have our crew back onboard doing what they love and providing amazing vacations and service to our guests. I also am extremely grateful to the leadership of the St. Maarten government for their vision and support to make this moment happen. What an honor to now be the first to enthusiastically say, once again – ‘Welcome Aboard!’"

Our sister site is offering a live blog from Celebrity Millennium that you can follow along with!

New protocols

As you might imagine, there are a variety of requirements and new protocols related to this cruise to make it protect against Covid-19 onboard.

The ship is sailing with far less passengers than the ship's capacity so that it can naturally foster social distancing.

Celebrity has leveraged technology to create new arrival, departure and muster safety drill procedures; and updated onboard and shoreside experiences to reflect new standard health and safety practices; all with the well-being of guests, crew and the communities visited by Celebrity ships at the forefront of the planning process. 

In addition, Celebrity is requiring at least 95% of its guests be fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

Some other protocols include:

  • Staggered Arrivals and Departures – Terminal arrivals and departures will be staggered by appointment, with guests having the ability to select their preferred times based on travel plans. 
  • Contactless Transactions – Celebrity’s digitally advanced mobile app* transforms the decades-old large-group-gathering Muster safety drill into a personal eMuster experience that guests can complete on their mobile device or interactive stateroom TV, avoiding large group gatherings. The app also expedites the boarding process; and allows guests to read menus and book dining reservations and shore excursions via their smartphone. 
  • Appropriate Face Coverings – During the Terminal check-in and check-out process, all guests 2 years of age and older will be required to wear an appropriate face covering. Once onboard, and unless otherwise stipulated by local governments, masks will not be required in accordance with recent CDC guidance for sailings with vaccinated crew and guests.  

Cruises returning to the United States next

While Celebrity is back in the water from the Caribbean, all eyes remain firmly on the United States.

Before that happens,the newest cruise ship in Celebrity's fleet, the Apex, will sail from Greece on June 19.

And then at long last, Celebrity Edge is scheduled to sail from Ft. Lauderdale, FL on June 26, marking the first cruise ship to sail from the United States.

A variety of other ships will return to service over the following months: Celebrity Silhouette – sailing the UK coastline as of July 3; Celebrity Flora – returning to the extraordinary Galapagos islands as of July3, followed by the award-winning Celebrity Xpedition and intimate 16-passenger Celebrity Xploration on July 24, and September 18, respectively; and sailings to Alaska from Seattle begin July 23.  

Matt started Royal Caribbean Blog in 2010 as a place to share his passion for all things Royal Caribbean with readers. He oversees all the writers at Royal Caribbean Blog, and writes a great deal of content on a daily basis.  He has become one of the foremost expert on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Over the years, he has reached Pinnacle Club status with Royal Caribbean's customer loyalty program.

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