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Cruise ships return to San Diego Embarcadero only for fuel and supplies

Passenger voyages still not allowed
Posted at 6:03 PM, Dec 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-23 21:39:31-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- Starting Wednesday, cruise ships will return to the San Diego Embarcadero — but they will not be picking up any customers for months to come.

Experts say the longer the vessels stay, the harder it is for the cruise industry to bounce back.

The Holland America Koningsdam returned to the Port of San Diego Wednesday morning. It is one of five cruise ships scheduled to dock at the Embarcadero for fuel and supplies. But not to pick up guests.

The vessels include:

  • Holland America Koningsdam – December 23
  • Princess Cruises Emerald Princess – December 24 (leaves for Los Angeles after San Diego visit)
  • Holland America Westerdam – December 28
  • Holland America Zuiderdam – January 8
  • Holland America Noordam – January 11

"Their revenues compared to say the same time last year are literally down 99%," financial advisor Dennis Brewster said.

According to the Port of San Diego, there have been 119 canceled cruises since March and a loss of $200 million in regional economic activity. Unlike airlines and restaurants, which are two other industries hard hit by the pandemic, Brewster says cruises have no Plan B.

"Their revenues literally went to zero," Brewster said. "I mean, the others were really bad too, but you can't do a cruise ship on a takeout or drive-through."

The Port says each cruise line must follow the CDC's "Framework for Conditional Sailing Order" before they can set sail. The first phase is to test and safeguard the crew. The second is a simulated voyage where the ships must prove their ability to mitigate COVID-19 risk. After that, they can slowly reintroduce passengers on their voyages.

In the meantime, the ships and crews will stay put. But will the companies be able to stay afloat?

"Even if the CDC and other organizations say, 'January one, you can resume your operations,' how many people would get on today?" Brewster asked.

The hope is that travel will be on everyone's radar once it shifts away from the coronavirus.

"I think all of us have spent enough time at home the last nine months to last the next nine years," Brewster said. "So that's a good thing for the industry. There is going to be quite a bit of pent-up demand."

According to the Port of San Diego, Holland America has some cruises scheduled to depart in April and May. However, they will only be able to set sail if they get their certifications from the CDC.