PORT CANAVERAL, Fla. — The cruise industry is taking a step closer to normalcy here in Central Florida.
People are getting on a Carnival Cruise ship for the first cruise with paying customers out of Port Canaveral in over a year.
Carnival’s Mardi Gras is set to depart at 6 p.m. on Saturday.
Before boarding the ship, passengers had to start following some health guidelines.
Three days before passengers even arrived, they had to fill out a health declaration.
When this ship leaves dock, it will have 4,000 passengers on board -- which is only 70% of its normal capacity.
On Saturday, Carnival’s liquified natural gas-powered “Mardi Gras” will start operating 8-day cruises to the Caribbean from Port Canaveral.
The ship has what will be the only rollercoaster at sea.
The biggest change passengers will experience is having to declare if they’ve been vaccinated or not, because there are different protocols.
“I’ve had COVID and I’ve been vaccinated, and I don’t think I’d want to get on a ship where everyone wasn’t vaccinated,” said travel agent, Kathy Stilton.
Unvaccinated guests must have a negative test in hand at the cruise terminal – plus, they’re tested before they board.
And if the trip is longer than four days, they’re tested again.
“Someone goes to the health center and has COVID symptoms, we have testing capabilities on board, we also have isolation and quarantine cabins. We have a full medical facility,” said Carnival Cruise Line president Christine Duffy.
The last 16 months have been far from smooth sailing for the cruise industry as COVID-19 forced ships across the world to sit empty in the water.
Captain John Murray says Port Canaveral survived off its capital construction funds but the governor set aside $250 million of the state’s stimulus money to help revive Florida’s struggling seaports and $72 million of that will help get this port back on track.
“It’s a huge milestone because we’ve got a brand new ship and a brand new terminal. And the ship is sailing on a revenue voyage instead of a simulated cruise. So, that’s big news for us,” said Port Canaveral CEO John Murray.
Per CDC requirements, most of the passengers and crew on this ship will be vaccinated and Carnival’s president told us cruising is safer than ever now, because of all the safety measures.
Disney Cruise Lines first voyage with paying customers in over a year will sail out of Port Canaveral in a little over a week. The Disney Dream sets sail Aug. 9, but there are safety precautions in place people must follow. Masks are required in most indoor public areas. Passengers have to test negative before leaving home and at the port on the day the ship leaves unless they show proof of vaccination.
Royal Caribbean is expanding its COVID-19 testing requirements. Passengers must prove they tested negative before boarding a trip that’s five nights or longer. The test must be done no more than three days before boarding. This new policy comes after six passengers on a seven night cruise from the Bahamas tested positive for covid-19.
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