This marks the first time Celebrity has homeported in St. Maarten, where it will be operating Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries through August.
Apart from SeaDream Yacht Club's short-lived attempt to restart from Barbados last November, no other Caribbean cruises have embarked since the global shutdown.
Celebrity President and CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo called it a 'significant moment,' adding: 'I am so happy to have our crew back on board doing what they love and providing amazing vacations and service to our guests.' She also expressed appreciation to the St. Maarten government for its vision and support.
Celebrity will sail in the Caribbean with a COVID-19 vaccinated crew and at least 95% vaccinated travelers.
On board, they'll find 'reimagined accommodation, spa and entertainment offerings, along with considered and thoughtful health and safety measures,' according to Brian Abel, SVP hotel operations for Celebrity. 'The end result of all that we have implemented will make cruises one of the safest ways to explore the world, while enjoying a wonderful and uncompromised vacation experience.'
'For the past several months, I had the privilege of maintaining this beautiful ship with a small 75-person crew,' Celebrity Millennium Capt. Theodoros Zakkas added. '[Saturday], with a full crew who were all smiles as we welcomed our guests on board once again, has been very emotional for me. It has been a beautiful and historic homecoming, one that everyone involved guests and crew — will never forget.”
App among health safety features
In addition to the vaccination mandate, Celebrity is launching its phased restart with reduced capacity and leveraging technology to create new arrival, departure and muster safety drill procedures. Shipboard and shoreside experiences have been updated to reflect new standard health and safety practices for the well-being of travelers, crew and the communities visited.
These include staggered cruise terminal arrivals and departures, by appointment, with passengers having the ability to select their preferred times based on travel plans.
A mobile app transforms the safety drill into a personal eMuster experience travelers can complete on their mobile device (or interactive stateroom TV), avoiding large gatherings. The app also expedites the boarding process and allows users to read menus and book dining reservations and shore excursions via their smartphone.
Masks not required on board
During the terminal check-in and check-out process, travelers need to mask up. On board, unless otherwise stipulated by local governments, masks will not be required for vaccinated travelers in accordance with recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance for sailings with 95% vaccinated crew and passengers.
Regardless of vaccination status, passengers are 'strongly encouraged' to take Celebrity's curated shore excursions.
On CelebrityCruises.com/healthy-at-sea, a note for US travelers points out that if a certain (unspecified) threshold level of COVID-19 is detected on board during a voyage, it will end immediately, the ship will return to the port of embarkation, and subsequent travel, including return home, may be restricted or delayed.
Eight Celebrity ships scheduled to sail
Celebrity has announced plans to sail eight of the 14 ships in its fleet as part of its phased restart. Celebrity Millennium will soon be joined by Celebrity Apex from Greece beginning June 19, Celebrity Edge sailing the Caribbean from Fort Lauderdale on June 26, Celebrity Silhouette plying the UK coast as of July 3 and, in the Galápagos, Celebrity Flora July 3, Celebrity Xpedition July 24 and Celebrity Xploration Sept. 18.
Alaska sailings from Seattle are to begin July 23, with those to be operated by Celebrity Millennium, which will be replaced in St. Maarten by Celebrity Summit in July.