GLAD TO BE BACK
Matzel isn’t alone in her enthusiasm for pandemic cruising. More than a dozen passengers who have boarded cruises in Florida this summer interviewed by the Herald gave the experience two big thumbs up. Despite new rules, including pre-boarding COVID-19 tests and vaccine requirements, passengers say it’s largely cruise business as usual.
“It felt like a regular cruise, surprisingly so,” said Julie Reed, 51, from Orlando, who went on the Carnival Horizon ship from Miami with her husband and daughter. “I thought there would be more protocols in place, but there wasn’t any distancing. You could sit in all the seats at the theater, the lounges. The nightclub was open.”
First-time cruisers Isabella Mathis, 24, and Avery Mathis, 27, from Georgia, took a four-night cruise on Freedom of the Seas from Miami for a family vacation to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday.
“It’s been two years since we all vacationed,” said Avery. “We were ready to get out.”
The ship had fewer passengers than they expected, and enough on board activities — restaurants, pools, shows — to keep them busy. Their favorite part was getting off the ship at Royal Caribbean Group’s private island in The Bahamas, CocoCay.
“We did the floating cabana with the slide out over the water,” said Isabella. “It was pretty.”
CocoCay was a favorite for Betsy Lanners, 63, and Jack Lanners, 69, from Naples, who were also on the Fourth of July Freedom of the Seas cruise with their adult son. The family enjoyed it so much, they were already looking for their next cruise as they pulled out of the PortMiami terminal.
“Everyone was so nice,” said Betsy. “The only difference was the masks; other than that it was just like any other cruise.”
Longshoreman Clarence Allen Jr., 54, is glad to have the passengers back. When the cruise industry shut down last year, Allen’s regular work as a porter, loading and unloading passenger luggage from cruise ships, dried up, and he had to switch to working heavy machinery on the cargo side of the port.