Houston - A cruise ship left with passengers from Galveston Saturday for the first time in 16 months.
"The last time we were on a cruise was July of 2019," said Mike Dawson.
Dawson spoke with us from the cruise ship with his wife and friends. They’re on Carnival Vista, setting sail on a week's vacation to Honduras, Belize, and Mexico.
"We’re just ready to have fun and get away from cellphone service," said Dawson. "It just seems like a [normal] cruise. Like we’re turning back the hands of time a couple of years."
This is the first Carnival cruise to leave the United States in more than a year. According to Carnival, all passengers must show proof of a COVID-19 vaccine and/or receive an approved exemption. At least 95 percent of passengers are vaccinated.
"We’ve had 13 canceled cruises over the past year," said Stephanie McClure, a passenger. "We are so excited to be back."
"It’s a little busier than I thought it was going to be," said Dr. Philip Keiser from Galveston County Public Health Authority. "It’s a good thing everyone is vaccinated and wearing masks."
Masks were required as passengers checked in for the cruise. Carnival Vista is the first cruise ship with passengers to leave Galveston since March of 2020.
"Cruise lines bring close to a million passengers to the island," said Galveston Mayor Dr. Craig Brown. "We benefit from that. Over 35 hundred jobs are associated here on the island with the cruise lines."
A large crowd of people holding Texas flags waved and cheered as the ship set sail Saturday evening. The next Carnival cruise to leave Galveston is scheduled for July 15th, 2021.
"We feel pretty safe right now," said Dawson. "Everyone is vaccinated. [COVID-19] is not really a concern."