FORT LAUDERDALE -- The first large cruise ship to depart from the U.S. in more than 15 months set sail on Saturday, with the Celebrity Edge embarking from Port Everglades at 6 p.m.
Crew members cheered as guests embarked the ship, which sailed with 1,600 passengers.
"Today marks the rebirth of our company and our industry, as our beautiful Celebrity Edge sets sail on a new luxury experience that will, once again, feed peoples' love of travel," tweeted Celebrity CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo hours before the Edge left Fort Lauderdale.
The ship is helmed by Capt. Kate McCue, the first and still only American female to captain a major cruise ship. The Edge is sailing a seven-day cruise to the Caribbean.
"This is a momentous sailing and one that we have been preparing for a long time," said Richard Fain, chairman of the Royal Caribbean Group, Celebrity Cruises' parent company, who spoke at a media reception at Port Everglades' Terminal 25 prior to embarkation. "It's not only a huge honor to be the first ship back in the water, leading the industry in the long-awaited return to U.S.-based cruising, it's also an incredible achievement and testament to the tireless efforts of our shoreside team and onboard crew."
Great day for Port Everglades
Saturday's departure was momentous not only for the cruise line but for Port Everglades, which said it suffered a more than 50% loss in revenue in 2020 primarily from the cruise shutdown. Cruising typically generates nearly $60 million in revenue annually for the port.
Spectators at Port Everglades wave "bon voyage" to the Celebrity Edge. Photo Credit: Port Everglades
As passengers emerged from the gangway, they were greeted with shouts of "welcome home" and "welcome back" from crew members, many of whom said they were thrilled to be back at work.
"It was very hard, a year without work," said Robert, an attendant for the Edge's all-suite Retreat. "But Celebrity Cruises is the best cruise line to work for. They supported us during the year we had no work. It helped me and my family so much. I thanked Mr. Fain yesterday. I told him how much he helped us get through this with the crew relief fund."