The first Caribbean cruise in more than a year officially set sail this weekend in St Maarten.
Celebrity Millennium kicked off a seven-night sailing from the Port of St Maarten on Saturday, a return for the cruise industry in the Caribbean after 15 months — and the first cruise in North America in the same period.
Notably, all passengers have been fully vaccinated, part of a broad new set of health and safety protocols for cruise pasengers amid the new realities of travel. (Celebrity calls them “Healthy at Sea”).
“I am truly overwhelmed with pride and emotion. The hard work and dedication that went into making this happen is indescribable. Everyone from our crew and shoreside teams to partners in St Maarten and throughout the Caribbean played a vital role,” said Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, CEO of Celebrity Cruises. “This is indeed a cause for celebration, not only for our teams and guests, but for all the businesses, large and small, that support our operations around the world. As I’ve continued to say during this difficult and unprecedented time, “the comeback will be stronger than the set-back.’”
It was also a significant milestone for the Port of St Maarten, long one of the most active cruise ports in the Caribbean but one that is now finding itself in a different position — homeport.
This weekend’s sailing of the 2,200-passenger Celebrity Millennium is the largest home-porting operation St Maarten has ever seen, officials said.
“The homeporting of cruise ships out of St. Maarten is an integral part of the country’s efforts in collaboration with Port St. Maarten and the Princess Juliana International Airport in promoting fly-cruise from the country,” said St Maarten Tourism Minister Ludmila de Weever. “The continual development of homeporting marks another significant milestone in our destinations longstanding and valuable relationship with the cruise industry. St. Maarten is well-positioned to further develop more fly-cruise deployments, serving as a hub for the region in the North Eastern Caribbean. We will continue to work diligently with our partners both local and abroad in building sustainable growth and provide further opportunities for our cruise and hospitality workers.”
The St Maarten sailing comes as the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has maintained a a no-sail order, although that is likely to change in the next month.
Celebrity Millennium will be operating two different seven-night sailings out of its St Maarten homeport: one will stop in Aruba, Curacao and Barbados; the other will stop in Tortola, Saint Lucia and Barbados.
This initial sailing is the former, with stops in Aruba, Curacao and Barbados.
It’s a major step forward amid the pandemic for the region, with destinations working to prepare for the return of cruising.
Destinations are requiring pre-testing for cruise calls.
Barbados, for example, is requiring passengers to have a valid negative PCR test three days prior to arrival.
“There is testing that is going to be taking place on board the ships that will make sure that people are continually kept safe, but there are multiple different scenarios, and we want to spend some time just talking you through what that looks like,” said Barbados Tourism Minister Lisa Cummins. “So everybody’s comfortable that we have been robust and rigorous in the assessment of what the parameters need to be, what the risk is going to be, what risks are going to be posed, and what measures need to be put in place.”
Celebrity Millennium makes its Barbados stop on Monday.
The launch comes ahead of another significant launch early next month, when Crystal Cruises debuts its first-ever sailings out of The Bahamas.
For more, visit Celebrity.