GALVESTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Just days after the Port of Galveston said it was one step closer to cruising amid negotiations with the CDC, one of the cruise liners that launches out of the port announced it will restart service from Galveston beginning Aug. 15.
Royal Caribbean said its Independence of the Seas, which routinely ships out from Texas to the Western Caribbean on seven-night itineraries, was also approved for an Aug. 1 start of simulation cruises, which will test whether the cruise liner's new safety and health protocols are effective at preventing the spread of COVID-19 ahead of the restart.
Last week, the Port of Galveston said Carnival, another cruise liner that serves the port, said it got the CDC approval to resume sailing with the hopes of restarting service as early as July 3.
On May 25, the Galveston Wharves Board of Trustees, Galveston County Health District and Carnival signed off on a 40-page agreement detailing safe sailing processes and procedures that was submitted to the CDC, which requires the agreements to grant a "Conditional Sailing Order."
Under these agreements, cruise liners are expected to address the following:
- Simulated passenger cruises
- Compliance with port COVID safety procedures
- A tabletop exercise with cruise line and port staff on port COVID safety procedures and protocols
- An emergency response plan in the event of an outbreak
- A plan for medical evacuations at sea coordinated with the U.S. Coast Guard
- Cruise terminal and transportation vehicle cleaning requirements
Approvals for Carnival and Royal Caribbean are significant for the port that had to shut down 15 months ago at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the port, cruise suspensions will have resulted in $44 million in lost revenue by the time cruises are targeted to resume in July.
As for Royal Caribbean, the company, which is also relaunching from ports in Florida and Washington State, said all crew members will be vaccinated against the virus, and it strongly recommended guests to be fully vaccinated by the time they set sail.
"Those who are unvaccinated or unable to verify vaccination will be required to undergo testing and follow other protocols, which will be announced at a later date," the company said in a statement.
The company's president and CEO, Michael Bayley, also stated about 90% of vacationers who booked with Royal Caribbean are either vaccinated or planning to get vaccinated in time for their cruise.
Bookings for Royal Caribbean sailings out of Galveston can be made beginning Tuesday, June 8, through the company's website.
Port plans job fair ahead of cruises restarting
With the cruise industry set to return, the Galveston Wharves, which is the governing body behind the Port of Galveston, is planning to hold a job fair on Friday, June 18.
The hiring event is from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Cruise Ship Terminal 2, and open positions include those for security, transportation and janitorial work.