Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last March, Carnival Cruise Lines halted its operations. It will launch the Carnival Vista on Saturday in Texas. Photo by Heyder Castillo/EPA-EFE
July 3 (UPI) -- Carnival Cruise Lines boarded passengers on a 1,100-foot cruise ship in Texas on Saturday, marking the first cruise since the company halted operations in March of last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Two passengers cut a ribbon on the Carnival Vista is it prepared to leave Galveston, Texas, on a trip to Honduras, Belize and Mexico with 2,700 vaccinated or pre-approved exempted passengers, KHOU-TV reported.
The Carnival Horizon will leave Miami on Sunday.
The return of cruise ships to the Texas port will spur economic growth in the region. Cruise ships brought nearly 1 million visitors through Galveston prior to the pandemic. An estimated 135 cruises will leave the port city this year, and 238 will leave next year, the Houston Chronicle reported.
In April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that cruises could begin passenger voyages from the United States in mid-July.
At the start of the pandemic, outbreaks occurred on several cruise ships. The Diamond Princess spent weeks at sea with its 3,700 passengers quarantined after over 700 tested positive for COVID-19.
The first cruise ship to leave the U.S. this year was Royal Caribbean Cruises' Celebrity Edge cruise ship, which departed from Miami last Saturday.
And Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas departed Friday from Miami, the first revenue cruise for the brand in 15 months.
With the rise of infections due to the highly infectious delta variant, new guidelines are being adopted by cruise lines in countries where vaccination rates are low. Royal Caribbean wants all unvaccinated guests leaving from Florida to have travel insurance after two of its unvaccinated passengers under age 16 tested positive for the virus.
For ships with at least 95% of crew and 95% of passengers fully vaccinated, cruise ship operators, may advise passengers and crew that they do not have to wear a mask or maintain physical distance in any areas, according to the CDC.
On May 3, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation banning vaccine proofs, known as passports.
Australia put new restrictions in place to prevent the spread of the new variant, forcing Carnival to cancel its Princess Cruises in and out of the country until Dec. 19.
The cruise industry is one of the last to resume pre-pandemic operations.
"We think the cruise industry will be one of the slowest sub-sectors to recover from COVID-19," Morgan Stanley analyst Jamie Rollo told CNBC. "Cruising needs not just international travel to return, but ports to reopen, authorities to permit cruising, and the return of customer confidence."
The CDC requires