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Wondering what it's like to cruise during COVID? We found out.

A local travel expert who recently returned from a week-long voyage gave us an inside look at his experience.

If you’ve been thinking about taking a cruise again but wondering what all of the new COVID protocols might look like once you get on board? You'll want to keep reading.

We got a first-hand look at images and video from onboard one of the first cruises to set sail since the ban was lifted, courtesy of one of our local travel experts who recently returned from that week-long voyage.

The owner of Tampa’s Travelworld Tavel agency Don Oneal has been on about 50 cruises. But none quite like this one.

Oneal and about 14-hundred other passengers set sail aboard Celebrity’s Edge for a 7-day voyage.

“I mean, these were your hard-core cruisers. They couldn’t wait to get on the ship,” Oneal said of his shipmates.

One of his first observations was check-in. The ship had assigned times to reduce crowds that were highly automated but not socially distanced.

“So, right off the bat I’m going, 'OK, there goes that protocol,'” he said.

RELATED: 6 people test positive for COVID-19 after Caribbean cruise

Oneal said the muster station lifeboat drill at the start of the cruise was also done virtually via the cabin’s smart-TV.

“Nobody was sitting around, waiting and congregating. So, I thought that was an improvement. But it was very different from the past,” he added.

Onboard, Oneal said unvaccinated people were given wristbands and told to wear masks. Buffets had staffers serving the food, so passengers’ hands didn’t touch utensils.

Dining rooms and restaurants were spread out for social distancing and vaccinated and unvaccinated parties, he said, dined together.

“You know, they try to keep an open table between each other. But, other than that, there’s no other segregation,” Oneal explained.

RELATED: Appeals court vacates stay on keeping CDC pandemic restrictions on Florida-based cruise ships

Entertainment, says Oneal, wasn’t packed, and passengers were courteous enough to leave distance between themselves and others. In outdoor and common areas passengers also commingled. The same for bars and the casino, he said.

“For example, at the blackjack table, people were sitting elbow to elbow just like old times,” said Oneal.

Off the ship, Oneal found destinations were almost eerily quiet. Excursions, in some ports, were also more strictly controlled for COVID-19.

“We counted about four gift shops. There were two or three bars you could get a drink at. And there were no restaurants open,” he said of stops in Mexico and the Bahamas.

RELATED: Norwegian cruises sues Florida over virus vaccination law

Numbers show the vast majority of those setting sail are vaccinated, and willing to voluntarily show proof. Oneal said those who are not should be prepared to pay more for testing and other onboard fees. Some ships might also set more limits and restrictions for those unvaccinated.

“Once you’re on, as long as you’re wearing the wristband and mask you’re pretty much allowed to go and do anything else as the rest of the people,” he said.

Several websites show cruises starting up again at Port Tampa Bay in September. But virus variants and court cases there could make for changes between now and then.

Oneal says cruise companies are, for the most part, staying the course when it comes to COVID protocols but that it’s a good idea to check with them or your travel agent for the latest updates.

RELATED: Disney delays test cruise over 'inconsistent' virus results

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