SEATTLE - It’s been nearly a year and a half since tourists flooded Seattle to begin the first leg of a cruise all the way to Alaska.
The coronavirus pandemic froze more than 5,000 local jobs connected to the Port of Seattle that once took care of nearly 1 million passengers traveling through the Emerald City. But today, that ship is again ready to set sail.
The cruise industry’s economic impact ripples through Puget Sound and beyond, and is worth nearly $1 billion, according to the Port of Seattle.
"It’s a great day," said port executive director Steve Metruck. "I don’t know if it could get any better."
The 2021 Alaska cruise season opened with passengers cheering. Families wearing smiles underneath face coverings came to Seattle with visions of Alaska in their future.
Wendy and Jay Lominick brought nearly a dozen family members from Alabama for Monday’s voyage, even after spending months separated during the pandemic.
"It’s a little crazy, we’re a little crazy," said the couple, adding that birthdays and anniversaries could finally be celebrated together. "It’s a big one for all of us."
"This is our first time we are very excited," said the Thot family, who came to Seattle from North Carolina.
However, in order to get on board the ship, crew and passengers have to prove they have been vaccinated against COVID-19. Royal Caribbean also has a plan for passengers who are too young to receive a shot.
"Underage, they are doing some testing to get them in," said mother Raji Thot. "I think that is making us comfortable now."
The boat is barely running at 40% passenger capacity, according to port officials. There are also layers of sanitation protocols to minimize the virus’ spread. Clearly, they are enough to convince the thousands of passengers who joined Monday’s voyages they would not return home with new pandemic infections.
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