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After a lengthy hiatus, cruise lines are finally setting sail once again in South Florida. But with COVID-19 still on everyone’s mind, passengers are facing a much more rigorous set of safety precautions.
Bahamas Paradise Cruise Lines has resumed operations at Riviera Beach’s Port of Palm Beach, making it the first cruise line to launch out of Palm Beach County since the pandemic restrictions began.
Setting sail for the first time in 16 months, the cruise line made its return on Saturday night with a two-night trip to the Bahamas. The ship returned Monday morning and was back on the water later that afternoon for another two-night cruise, with over 400 passengers on board.
Monday’s busy activity gave one of the first glimpses of new safety precautions as cruise lines adjust to the pandemic.
Francis Riley, chief commercial officer for Bahamas Paradise Cruise Lines, said they instituted a “rigorous” set of new procedures in order to comply with CDC guidelines.
While the cruise line isn’t requiring vaccinations, all passengers must pass a rapid COVID-19 antigen test before being allowed into the terminal. Non-vaccinated passengers must also present a negative COVID-19 test within the previous three days. The tests are conducted at a nearby parking lot, allowing passengers to remain in their car while they wait for the results.
Once on board, passengers are required to wear masks while inside but can remove their facial coverings when out on the deck. Additionally, all crew members are vaccinated.
While the ship can hold about 1,300 to 1,500 people, Riley said they plan to stay around 400 people “for a little bit” as they work their way back.
“We’re controlling it,” Riley said. “We’re going to be building slowly.
“We could sail full if we wanted to, but we don’t think that’s the right thing to do. We want to be cautious of bringing people slowly into the process.”
With cruises having been docked for over 16 months, Riley said they also want to navigate through any “rustiness” from the layoff and become fluent with the new guidelines.