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Royal Caribbean's 'Celebrity Edge' Becomes First Big Cruise Ship To Set Sail From US Since Pandemic Began

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The first big cruise ship to set sail from the United States since the pandemic began is on its way to Mexico.

Royal Caribbean's "Celebrity Edge" left Fort Lauderdale Saturday, filled to about 40% capacity. The company said 99% of those passengers are vaccinated.

Chattanooga's Swinford family jumped at the chance to be among the first on a post-pandemic sail.

"Do you have any fear going into this week ahead?" David Swinford was asked by CBS4's Janet Shamlian.

"Not at all," he responded.

It's not a traditional voyage as there are only about 1,200 passengers. The Edge normally holds more than double that.

Every adult has had a shot.

The Swinford kids and some other children aboard weren't vaccinated, so COVID tests were required for them.

One of the biggest changes in the dining room. Long known for over-the-top buffets, the food line is no longer self-serve.

At the pandemic's start, cruises became COVID hotbeds. Carnival's "Diamond Princess" was stranded for almost a month, after more than 700 became sick and nine died.

A Celebrity cruise that left St. Maarten earlier this month had two positive cases, even though everyone was vaccinated.

Abroad this ship, Celebrity says vaccinated crew members still mask up. It's increased cleaning and updated ventilation.

"What would you say to Americans who are thinking, 'Hmmm, not worth risking my health,'" Shamlian asked Richard Fain, CEO Royal Caribbean Cruises.

"I'd say this is the place to come. Our objective is to be safer here than anywhere else on land," he responded.

"A year ago at this time, they were predicting the death of the cruise industry," Shamlian followed up.

"Yes, they were," Fain responded with a laugh. "I think you've seen how wrong they were."

The three largest cruise companies lost about $25 billion since the pandemic's start. But the industry is optimistic returning to the high seas will eventually lead to big profits.

As the Swinfords enjoy their 12th cruise, 8-year-old Will likely speaks for many Americans vacationing this summer.

"I'm just glad I'm away from home, finally," he said with a laugh.

There are a lot of avid cruisers on the voyage who wouldn't have missed it for the world.

But the questions going forward: What does demand look like and will the cruise lines be able to fill big ships like this?


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