PORT EVERGLADES, Fla. – Royal Caribbean’s new Odyssey of the Seas ship pulled into its home port, Port Everglades, Thursday morning as its crew prepares to set sail next month for the first time.
But there will be a limited number of passengers onboard for the trip and social distancing and mask wearing will be enforced.
Everyone on board will also be tested for COVID-19.
“All we’re doing right now is we’re reacting to what CDC is mandating for the lines and the ports to do,” Port Everglades Director Jonathan Daniels said.
“It’s a great day for Broward County, certainly for Port Everglades and Royal Caribbean, as well,” he added.
The ship’s arrival comes the same day as U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday held a hearing in Tampa regarding the state’s request for a preliminary injunction against restrictions imposed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the cruise industry.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody filed a lawsuit against the CDC in April, challenging restrictions that Moody and Gov. Ron DeSantis believe will continue to hurt the industry.
“We support what the governor has done in pushing forward with a lawsuit,” Daniels told reporters on Thursday. “Part of it is cruise and cruise returning, but part of it is that everybody is able to return to some level of normalcy.”
As for Royal Caribbean, the company reversed its vaccine policy last week, making vaccines optional for most cruises.
“As the vaccines now have come online and the state’s working with the CDC and the lines are working with the CDC, the science is there to show that with the vaccinations working, that we are seeing the situation where it’s a combination of both testing regimen, as well as vaccines,” Daniels said.
“We saw the numbers go from record numbers, down to basically zero,” says Ralph Bias of Amazing Cruises, a booking agency since 1997 that specializes in ultra luxury cruising. “For the past three or four months, bookings have basically stabilized. Theyr’e through the roof.”
Now, there is a lot of pent up demand from avid cruisers who want to spend money and make up for the lost year.
Therefore, don’t expect cruising to be cheap right now. However, do expect the ships to be ready.
“They’ve spent months, you know, getting the crews back, you know quarantining them, getting them all vaccinated, getting them retrained and then be put back on ships,” added Stewart Chiron, known as “The Cruise Guy,” a cruise expert.
Odyssey of the Seas will remain at Port Everglades until its first passenger cruise.