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Controversy over whether San Diego bay cruise companies can begin operations

Posted at 7:19 PM, May 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-27 22:19:49-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A battle is brewing between the San Diego bay cruise companies over which companies can start up again and which ones cannot. Some companies are cleared to resume dinner cruises next weekend, while others are still stuck at the docks.

On Hornblower Cruises & Events’ Facebook page, the announcement is up that it's reopening this upcoming weekend. Wednesday, the fleet was docked but starting Saturday, the company is offering dining cruises through the bay.

“At the moment, we have not been permitted to leave the dock,” said Carole Noska, owner of Charter Services. She told 10News that her boat and other charters still can't operate bay tours. County guidelines only permit recreational boating, not charters, and the recreational sailing is only for passengers within the same household.

The County reports that dining cruises, though, are fine to set sail so long as they operate within the County's dine-in guidelines for restaurants.

“We probably lost $10,000 to $15,000 over Memorial weekend after having already been at the dock for the last two months since COVID started," Noska told 10News and added, “Those of us in the legal charter community the credentialed vessels for charter would just ask that the County and the Port and the State level the playing field.”

In a press release, Hornblower Cruises & Events provided an extensive list of safety measures its implementing, including social distancing aboard, and facial covering requirements. The company sent 10News the following statement on Wednesday.

"In accordance with the latest Stage 2 Variance which now permits dine-in restaurants to operate, we are thrilled to be able to offer a limited choice of seated dining cruises starting this weekend. Like other restaurants within the County, we are adhering to the specific guidelines laid out in the San Diego Safe Onsite Dining Plan for Restaurants and the State guidance for Dine-in restaurants. In addition to already stringent cleaning protocols, we are adapting the onboard experience to reflect the need for social distancing, alongside elevated health and hygiene practices. So, while our Guests can still expect the same high standards and welcoming service, they can be assured we are fully compliant with all relevant and necessary requirements."

Flagship Cruises & Events is starting dining cruises as well, but the company is also doing bay tours which is in violation of the County health code. The company was cited by Harbor Police over the holiday weekend but reports that it is continuing its operation, maintaining its allowed to do so under a certain section of County code, which the County disputes.