LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) — A cruise ship headed for the Mexican Riviera set sail from the Port of Long Beach on Saturday — the first cruise ship to depart from California in 17 months.
The Carnival Panorama is on a seven-day voyage and will stop in the Mexican ports of Cabo San Lucas and Mazatlan before returning to Long Beach, Carnival Corp. said in a statement.
The 1,060-foot Carnival Panorama debuted in 2019.
Passenger Bob Lechtreck said he and his wife were on the inaugural sailing on Dec. 11, 2019.
“I can’t tell you how excited I am to be on the Panorama for its inaugural return to service,” Lechtreck told the Press-Telegram in a text. “It’s been way too long since we’ve sailed, and we couldn’t be happier returning to our favorite activity.”
The cruise industry was hard-hit by the pandemic after passengers and crew members tested positive for COVID-19 and some ships were turned away from ports. The industry has battled the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over health requirements for resuming sailing in U.S. waters.
The company said its operational protocols exceed CDC recommendations. They include having all employees vaccinated and requiring all passengers to show a negative COVID-19 test.
Passengers must be vaccinated, but the company will allow “a small number of exemptions” for those unable to get the vaccine, including children under 12 who are not yet eligible. Those who are unvaccinated will have to follow additional precautions, according to Carnival’s COVID-19 guest protocols.
Last week, 27 people tested positive for COVID-19 on a Carnival cruise just before the ship made a stop in Belize City, Belize. The ship headed back to Galveston, Texas, Friday after stopping in Mexico.
The positive cases were among 26 crew members and one passenger on the Carnival Vista, which was carrying over 1,400 crew and nearly 3,000 passengers, the Belize Tourism Board said in a statement.
All 27 were vaccinated, had mild or no symptoms and were in isolation, according to the statement. The tourism board said 99.98% of the ship’s crew was vaccinated, as well as 96.5% of its passengers.