SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Cruise ships are returning to San Diego's shore, bring a significant boost to the town's tourism economy.
Monday morning, Holland America announced 43 cruises will make San Diego their homeport, heading to Mexico, Hawaii, the Panama Canal, Tahiti, and the California coast. Their first cruise is scheduled to leave on September 18. That will be the first cruise out of San Diego since March 2020.
"We're incredibly excited," says Holland America Lines President Gus Antorcha. "We've been waiting over 14 months for this."
San Diego officials welcomed the news, with Mayor Todd Gloria declaring that "San Diego tourism is back" at a news conference Monday morning.
According to the Port of San Diego, each time a ship makes San Diego its homeport, meaning the cruise starts and ends here, it pumps $2 million into the economy. Every ship that stops in San Diego mid-cruise adds $600,000.
"Over the last year, we've lost $280 million without cruises," says Board of Port Commissioners Chairman Michael Zucchet. "I think everybody understands that it's not going to come back with a snap of the fingers. It's going to take a little bit of time. I think it's going to take confidence in the industry that it's healthy, that it's safe."
Part of that confidence comes from vaccines.
Monday morning, Holland America landed its Koningsdam ship at Broadway Pier so 140 employees could come ashore and get their second dose of the COVID-19 Vaccine.
Antorcha says every traveler on the ship will also be required to show proof of complete vaccination before boarding.
"We'll be following the CDC guidelines," he says. "That will allow us to have a very normal experience that our guests expect on board to have a great, safe vacation on a Holland America ship."
Zucchet says the port expects up to 80 ships to stop in San Diego this coming season, and the calendar is filling up with cruises from Holland America, Disney, Princess, and Celebrity. He adds vaccines will be vital to making sure the industry stays afloat.
"It seems perfectly clear that vaccinations will end this pandemic," says Zucchet. "That's what's going to make people feel safe to do everything, including cruising. I think the industry itself shares our view because they want to make sure their patrons are safe and healthy."
The CDC still hasn't approved the cruise industry to resume but is allowing simulated cruises as part of a phased approach towards reopening. Since April, the CDC has met with other federal agencies and cruise operators twice a week to discuss plans.
Zucchet and the Port say they believe ships will be allowed to return to full operation in time for Holland America's planned September voyages.