BALTIMORE (AP) — Cruise ship passengers readied to leave Baltimore’s port for the first time in 18 months on Sunday, a celebratory moment after putting in place plenty of COVID-19 safety precautions for guests.
As a steel drummer played in the port terminal, the Carnival Pride welcomed 1,500 passengers for a weeklong voyage to the Bahamas, The Baltimore Sun reported.
All passengers had to be fully vaccinated, with some exceptions for children under 12 and people with documented medical conditions. Those unvaccinated equal less than 5% of the passenger total, Carnival Cruise Line President Christine Duffy said.
All passengers also had to get a negative COVID-19 test within three days of boarding, and guests age 2 and older must wear face masks in elevators and certain indoor areas.
While passenger Donna Ford, 60, of Pittsburgh, wasn’t thrilled with the mask mandate, she was still happy to sail: “I don’t like it, but if that’s what it takes for me to cruise, then I’m OK with it.”
The Pride, operating at 70% capacity, is Carnival’s ninth ship to welcome passengers back since the pandemic halted cruise operations in March 2020, Duffy said.
Port preparations were extensive, port Executive Director William P. Doyle said. Port officials also contracted with a transportation firm in case sick passengers must be removed from the ship during the trip.
“To see the Carnival Pride as you’re coming off of (Interstate) 95 — it’s just wonderful,” said Doyle, who had yet to see a cruise ship leave during his arrival on the job 14 months ago.