SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- For the first time since the start of the pandemic, a towering Majestic Princess cruise ship was docked in the Port of San Francisco. It was a hopeful sight and could signal a comeback for the embattled cruise industry.
In March of 2020, a cruise ship with sick passengers and crew arrived in the Bay. It was San Francisco's first brush with the coronavirus and it raised a lot of people's fears. But, on Monday, a cruise ship once again made port, bringing with it, not illness, but optimism for the future.
For commuters driving into The City it was a site for sore eyes. The Majestic Princess docked at 6:30 Monday morning, the first cruise ship to make port there since the pandemic began.
"Oh, I am so excited. It's like the world is starting to open again for us. It's a light at the end of the tunnel," said Sandy Lipkowitz, owner of a local travel agency called "We Make Travel Easy."
Lipkowitz said it was unfortunate that another ship, the Grand Princess, became an early world-wide symbol of the pandemic. Stuck in Oakland with sick passengers and crew, they sat in a cargo berth, unable to come ashore over fears of the new virus.
"You know, Princess had a hard time in the beginning," said Lipkowitz. "It was really unfair, they got caught out at sea when nobody knew what was going on."
Now, the precautions are tightly monitored. No one gets on the ship without proof of vaccination and a negative COVID test. Guests wear masks when moving about the boat, except in eating areas. The protocols are so strict that what was once seen as a super-spreader environment is now considered by many travel professionals as the safest form of travel in the world.
"It's as safe as anything," said cruise fan Tom Barton. "You can go to a football field with 40,000 people and it's not as safe, in my opinion, as coming here on a cruise ship."
The City is thrilled to see the ships return, as well. The year before the pandemic, cruise ships brought 280,000 tourists to San Francisco, contributing $27 million in economic benefits to local businesses.
"So, you can imagine that that pause in cruise definitely slowed down economic activity," said Andre Coleman, SF Port Deputy Director of Maritime. "But we're excited to have the safe resumption of cruise and looking forward to a record year in 2022."
That's because there are already 127 cruise stops scheduled for San Francisco next year, the most ever. That includes 28 from a new ship that will make The City its home port, the Carnival Miracle.
But Monday morning the Majestic Princess served up a little miracle of its own, to those both on and off the boat.
"I think you see the returning of life," said Richard Bullen, as he took a photo of the huge ship from the dock. "The flow is starting to happen in a way that it didn't before. It wasn't happening before."
And now that the first cruise ship has arrived, there will be many more to follow. Assuming all goes well, 21 stops are planned for the remaining three months of 2021.
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