The cruise also marks the first time Norwegian is setting sail from Athens.

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After 500 days away from the high seas, Norwegian Cruise Lines has officially returned.

The Norwegian Jade set sail from Athens this week as the first Norwegian cruise ship with ticketed passengers on board since the start of the pandemic. The sailing was also the first Norwegian cruise to homeport in Athens.

"Welcoming our guests and crew on board has been one of the most memorable moments of my over 30-year career," Harry Sommer, president, and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line, said in a statement Monday. "We are excited to embark on the Great Cruise Comeback with a brand-new itinerary and homeport for our brand, offering our guests an even greater selection of unique vacations at sea."

Cruises aboard the Jade sold out "shortly after we made the announcement that we were on our way back," Sommer said.

To help meet the rising demand, Norwegian is bringing even more ships into the region. The Norwegian Jade will sail a new Greek Isles itinerary through November, with stops in Crete, Mykonos, and Santorini.

Norwegian Cruise Line Jade ship in Norway
Credit: Danny Lehman/Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

By 2023, a total of seven Norwegian ships will set sail from their new homeport of Athens, helping to increase the cruise line's presence in Europe. The Norwegian Dawn, Epic, Escape, Getaway, Gem, and Star ships will slowly join the Jade in Athens over the next two years.

The Norwegian Jade is the first of Norwegian's 17 ships to resume sailing. On Aug. 7, the Norwegian Encore will become the first ship to return to service in U.S. waters, debuting in Seattle for the start of the Alaska cruise season.

All Norwegian Cruise Line passengers and crew are required to be fully vaccinated at least two weeks before sailing. This order will remain in effect at least through Oct. 31.

Cailey Rizzo is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure, currently based in Brooklyn. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, or at caileyrizzo.com.