The past week, passenger cruises have made their first post-pandemic appearances in some ports that haven’t seen such activity in 17 months, since cruising was halted globally by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the U.S.’ major East Coast cruise ports largely resumed operations of the past couple of months, eager to make the most of the summer season, West Coast sailings seem to be off to a slower start.
On August 21, Carnival Panorama became the first cruise ship to resume sailing from California and marked the sector’s first departure out of the Los Angeles-area harbor Long Beach Harbor since the global pause began in March 2020.
The Panorama actually pioneered multiple post-pandemic firsts over the past week, as it called on ports along the Mexican Riviera that haven’t welcomed passenger cruises in nearly a year-and-a-half.
It became the first cruise ship to be welcomed back in Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlán and Puerto Vallarta, where it called as part of its seven-day itinerary. The Panorama is set to continue weekly sailings along the same route throughout the remainder of the season.
For this first voyage, the Vista-class Carnival Panorama is sailing at 75 percent capacity, with roughly 2,750 passengers, at least 97 percent of which are fully vaccinated. The ship has a total guest capacity of 4,008 and sails with up to 1,450 crew members.
The vessel is Carnival Cruise Lines’ eighth ship to return to service out of the carrier’s 24-vessel fleet, trailing those that are already sailing from Miami, Orlando and Galveston. Two more Carnival ships—Carnival Miracle and Radiance—are to be homeported in Long Beach, though their return dates have not yet been announced, the Long Beach Post reported.
Head of the Integral Port Administration of Los Cabos, Fernando Hoyos said that his organization expects to welcome 50,000 cruise passengers over the next four months.
Cruise Hive reported that other cruise lines are also set to return various ships to sailing the Mexican Riviera before the year is out, including Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas, Princess Cruises’ Grand Princess, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Bliss, and Holland America’s Koningsdam and Zuiderdam.
Outside of Mexico, other destinations are also celebrating the return of international cruising to their shores, including Colombia, where the first post-pandemic voyage arrived at the Port of Cartagena on August 24. The ship was Windstar Cruises’ Star Breeze, with 312 passengers and 190 crew members aboard, which stopped as part of its current 14-day Caribbean cruise.
According to Cruise Mapper, 122 cruise ships are scheduled to arrive in the port of Cartagena this season, which kicked off with Star Breeze’s arrival on Tuesday and continues through June 14, 2022.
In a press release, ProColombia said 26 cruise lines are expected to visit Cartagena along their routes this season and seven in Santa Marta, a city also situated in the country’s Greater Caribbean region. Among those that have already planned arrivals in Cartagena are Carnival Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, Holland America, MSC Cruises, Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean, while Norwegian is slated to stop in Santa Marta.
In the Netherlands Antilles, Bonaire is also preparing is preparing to receive its first visiting cruise ship since the pandemic shut down the sector. Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Equinox—which just departed Fort Lauderdale on a nine-day, round-trip voyage with stops scheduled in the Bahamas, Aruba and Curacao—is due to dock in Bonaire’s capital of Kralendijk on September 2.
The Dutch Caribbean island stands ready with new health protocols in place for cruise ship guests. Fully vaccinated passengers must provide proof of vaccination, as well as show their original pre-boarding PCR test results, while those who are unvaccinated will be required to present a negative antigen test taken no more than 24 hours prior to arriving on Bonaire.
“We are happy with the restart of the cruise tourism; this will mean the restart of more economic activity on our island after the pandemic,” Hennyson Thielman, Bonaire’s Commissioner of Tourism and Economic Affairs, told the Caribbean Journal. “Our goal is to maintain the cruise industry, but introducing a few changes in order to deal better with crowd management and to attract the type of tourist who are able to spend more on our island. One of the changes is the one call a day protocol, and to create a better balance in the number of cruise ships during the super high and low seasons.”