Strong demand is expected for new Royal Caribbean and Celebrity sailings

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The Adventure of the Seas, which will offer cruises to the Bahamas and Mexico from Nassau this summer.
The Adventure of the Seas, which will offer cruises to the Bahamas and Mexico from Nassau this summer.

Travel advisors applauded Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises for their decisions to resume North America sailings this June from the Bahamas and St. Maarten, respectively.

The Adventure of the Seas will be based in Nassau and will call at Grand Bahama Island, its private island in the Bahamas and Cozumel, Mexico. Celebrity's Millennium, meanwhile, will be stationed in Phillipsburg and will offer Eastern and Southern Caribbean itineraries.

And according to Royal Caribbean CEO Michael Bayley, if the intrest the line has seen for its cruises in Singapore and Israel is any indication, demand for the Caribbean cruises will be strong.

"In Singapore, we were delighted with the demand, and then when we announced an extended season, the demand literally exploded," he said. "None of us could believe it. In Israel, our first week's sales totally exceeded our pretty optimistic expectations. It was a gangbuster week. Really huge demand -- it was fantastic, and we're pretty confident that Adventure is also going to generate a huge amount of demand."

The itinaries are all beyond the U.S., thereby bypassing the CDC, which currently does not allow ships to sail in U.S. waters. Both lines are mandating that any adult passengers be vaccinated; those 18 and under must produce proof of a negative Covid test.

"We were surprised and elated to hear the news," said Drew Daly, senior vice president and general manager of Dream Vacations, CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. "While we knew this may happen eventually, we didn't expect it to be this soon. Many people are already traveling safely to the Caribbean, and with the health and safety protocols being put in place for these sailings, we are confident that this will be met with excitement from consumers. This is a positive step forward in the rebuilding and recovery of the cruise industry."

Vicky Garcia, COO of Cruise Planners, said she was "thrilled" by Celebrity's announcement of "a safe return to sailing option for American cruisers."

"Celebrity has found a creative solution with a beautiful Eastern Caribbean itinerary while still delivering a great onboard experience," Garcia said. "I am vaccinated, and I'm ready to sail now. American cruisers are excited a major cruise line has provided an option in the Caribbean for those who are eager to cruise while following safely protocols.

"While some travelers may not be able to sail until they are vaccinated, they should make their reservations now with a travel advisor, since there will be limited onboard capacity and there is a lot of pent-up demand."

The Crystal Serenity.
The Crystal Serenity.

But the luxe brand’s relaunch comes as it tries to make right a year of long delays on refunds and commissions.

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Royal and Celebrity are the first of the major cruise lines to now have definitive restart dates for North American sailings. They are also the first to include multinational itineraries. Luxe line Crystal Cruises is launching Bahamas-only sailings from Nassau in July, and the line said last week that it had its best booking day to date after it opened reservations on those sailings.

Bayley said specific protocols for the sailings would be released in the coming weeks, but that it was safe to assume that for the most part, the cruises will operate as they normally would.

"I think that's a very reasonable expectation," he said.

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