The Port of San Diego anticipates the cruise industry will resume as soon as this fall. So far, 450 crew members have been vaccinated in San Diego. Photo courtesy of Port of San Diego.

The Port of San Diego anticipates the cruise industry will resume as soon as this fall. So far, 450 crew members have been vaccinated in San Diego. Photo courtesy of Port of San Diego.


In April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) placed a conditional sail order that required a number of steps be taken before cruise ships could start sailing again. This included simulated voyages to test ships’ ability to manage COVID-19 outbreaks on board, among other requirements.

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Elizabeth Catton, Vice President of Global Patient Services and Out-of-Network, Sharp HealthCare

But more recently, the CDC announced it would allow cruise lines to bypass the test sailings if at least 98% of crew members per ship and 95% of guests on board are vaccinated.
With this in mind, a number of ships have docked at the Port of San Diego to get their crew members vaccinated. So far, and in partnership with Sharp HealthCare, nearly 450 crew members from one Princess Cruises and two Holland America Line ships have already been vaccinated, said Adam Deaton, cruise business manager at the Port of San Diego. More cruise ships, potentially as many as 16, are expected to schedule their crew vaccinations in San Diego in coming weeks, he said.

98% of Crew Members Vaccinated
“The main thing here is if 98% of a cruise ship’s team is vaccinated and 95% of guests onboard are vaccinated as well, then that cruise ship is able to skip the simulated cruises which were CDC requirements,” he said. “But, this doesn’t mean it can skip the other requirements. For example, they need to have agreements with all Ports they plan to call in the U.S. as well as those local health authorities to assure the CDC those areas are ready for business and have a plan in place to deal with outbreaks that may occur related to COVID-19.”
As a result, cruise travel could resume as soon as July, although it will most likely start in the fall locally,” said Deaton. This could mean anywhere between 50 and 87 calls this season depending on whether the industry picks back up in November versus September, comparatively.
Added Elizabeth Catton, vice president of global patient services and out-of-network at Sharp HealthCare: “Seeing the cruise lines resume business represents a return to normalcy and means we are seeing the end of the COVID pandemic. Sharp HealthCare is dedicated to supporting the health and well-being of San Diego and the worldwide community, so it was important for us to step up and work with the San Diego Department of Health, the Port Authority and cruise line medical teams to provide vaccinations to crew members so that we can safely return to traveling. The freedom to cruise and travel is incredibly important to our mental well-being and will positively impact our local economy with tourism and jobs for so many San Diegans that work in the hospitality and traveling industry.”
Holland America had roughly 125 crew members vaccinated, according to the Port. Beginning October 23, four Holland America ships are scheduled to be in San Diego through the Spring, added Erik Elvejord, director of public relations for Holland America.
"Koningsdam will be the main ship and makes its debut in San Diego," he said. "Before that time, ships in pause make periodic calls in San Diego for provisioning, vaccination shots, crew transfers and bunkering."

$2M in Economic Activity
Traditionally, each cruise route that starts and ends in San Diego generates about $2 million in economic activity, he said. A single in-transit call, meaning a ship that makes one stop in San Diego during the course of a cruise, generates nearly $600,000 for the city (pre-COVID-19).
Overall, the economic impact of the cruise industry for the San Diego region had grown from $82 million in 2014 to $131 million in 2018, according to the Port.
Steps Toward Normalcy
Before COVID-19, the Port of San Diego anticipated about 137 cruise calls with 450,000 passengers for the 2020-2021 season, which runs from September to May/June. But due to the pandemic and the CDC implementing a no-sail order in March 2020, roughly 160 vessels didn’t sail as a result. This equates to $200 million in lost economic activity, said Deaton.
“But, we are ready to see them come back,” he said. “The community is ready, businesses are ready and tenants are ready to see that happen again. It is positive news that we are seeing these vaccinations happen and it’s one of many steps toward normalcy in our industry.”