(7 a.m. EST) -- Celebrity Cruises has announced its return to cruising in Europe today, with its newest ship Celebrity Apex homeporting in Athens from June 19.
Celebrity Apex, which missed its christening last year and has not yet had a passenger sailing, will offer two week-long itineraries -- one to the Greek islands including Santorini, Mykonos and Rhodes as well as to Limassol, Cyprus; and one to the Greek islands and Haifa and Jerusalem, Israel. The sailings will open for booking on March 30.
The line is mandating all crew and passengers above the age of 18 be vaccinated against COVID-19, and those under the age of 18 with negative PCR test results. All passengers must also present a negative PCR test taken 72 hours prior to arrival in Greece.
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The announcement comes just days after Celebrity announced its Caribbean comeback with seven-night summer cruises departing from St. Maarten on Celebrity Millennium, starting June 5. Sister brand Royal Caribbean is also restarting in June -- in Bermuda and the Bahamas, as well as in Europe in July, with Cyprus as its homeport.
"Celebrity Apex is such an exquisite ship and for her to finally begin sailing in the beautiful Aegean, where it all began for our fleet, and after so long away, is incredibly meaningful,” said Celebrity Cruises President and CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, referring to its Greek origins (the line was founded in Greece in 1988).
Lutoff-Perlo also personally thanked the Greek government, which she praised for its close collaboration with the line: "This is a very special homecoming for Celebrity Cruises made possible with the strong collaboration of the Greek government. I extend my enduring gratitude and wish them well as they celebrate their country's bicentennial today."
"I am proud to be welcoming Celebrity Cruises back to its Greek roots on this special occasion of our country's independence bicentennial and am eager for travelers to return to the unforgettable experiences of all of our destinations on one of the world’s newest ships," said Greek Tourism Minister Haris Theocharis.
Captain Dimitrios Kafetzis added: "It is such an honor for me to Captain the newest ship in the Celebrity fleet. I have been anxiously awaiting the day when I can welcome our first guests onboard this magnificent vessel and it will be a very proud moment for me to do this in my homeland."
The line has not revealed at what capacity the 2,900-passenger ship will sail at, but sister ship Celebrity Millennium is sailing at 40 percent from St Maarten.
As well as all passengers over 18 being vaccinated, Apex will sail with the comprehensive, multilayered health and safety measures drawn up by its Healthy Sail Panel, Royal Caribbean Group's Global Head of Public Health and Chief Medical Officer and local Greek health and government authorities.
The line confirmed that the health and safety measures, including vaccination and testing requirements, will evolve with public health standards. Celebrity will announce further details on additional health and safety measures nearer the sail date.