2 Fresno women aboard first cruise to sail from North America since 2020

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- This isn't the first time Fresno locals Julia Hamilton and Irene Cota set sail on a cruise, but they never imagined they would be on this historic voyage.

The longtime friends are sailing across the Caribbean on the first cruise to depart North America since the start of the pandemic.

RELATED: 1st cruise ship to depart US in more than a year sets sail June 26

The Celebrity Millennium pulled away from St. Maarten on Saturday with all of its adult passengers and the entire crew fully vaccinated

"We are not required to wear a mask. If we would like to we can. The crew and staff all wear masks," says Irene.

The ship's 2,000-person capacity is still limited to 30%. All passengers had to present a vaccine card, a negative PCR test and complete a health questionnaire before boarding.

Another change - rather than a classic buffet-style aboard the ship, food is handed to passengers by a crew member.

But they say the extreme precautions make for a carefree feeling on board that they haven't felt since the start of the pandemic.

For Julia, seeing the cruise industry back at sea means more than just a good time.

As a travel agent, it plays a big factor in her livelihood.

"All I was doing the whole pandemic was canceling bookings and we don't make any money when we cancel bookings," she says.

Their first stop will be Barbados.

Carriacou and Aruba are next!

In the event someone does test positive for COVID, there is a medical facility on board with two doctors and 11 nurses.

Anyone that tests positive will be placed in an isolation cabin - then contact tracing begins.

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