For better or worse, the world is back to cruising, and Princess Cruises' Majestic Princess came into port in San Francisco around 7 a.m. on Monday, letting a couple thousand passengers disembark to wander the city.
This is the first cruise ship to dock in San Francisco since the pandemic began — and since the Grand Princess infamously had to sit offshore and then dock in Oakland with hundreds of potentially COVID-infected passengers on board in early March 2020. At the time, it was not even clear that a pandemic was going to shut down the entire globe — or that the virus was airborne — but the coronavirus had clearly been circulating on this ship, infecting passengers and crew members alike.
The first known case of COVID-19 in Marin County was in a passenger on the Grand Princess, and they later died. A total of six passengers and one crew member died in that early outbreak.
But now, even though the pandemic rages on in some pockets of the country, cruises have resumed, with full vaccination required for all passengers and crew. And so far, there already have been a few scares and outbreaks, like one scare that confined 3,000 people on a ship in Singapore back in July, and an outbreak among crew members on a Carnival cruise ship in August that infected and killed one passenger.
Is it really wise to go cruising again? Well, people are going to do it anyway, and the industry has been dying to get sailing again, despite the risks and horrible environmental impacts.
The Majestic Princess was one of a group of ships sitting idle off the Baja Peninsula in Mexico this past spring, which became the target of environmental complaints because they were spewing toxic exhaust into the air and allegedly spilling oil and other substances in to the ocean as well.
The industry suffered more than most during the pandemic, with the New York Times reporting that the three largest cruise companies, Carnival, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean, together lost $900 million per month during the past year and a half. Princess Cruises is a subsidiary of Carnival.
Also, the city is glad the cruise ships are back — and this is the first of 21 expected cruise calls happening at the Port of SF this fall.
"Tourism is a critical part of our city’s economy, helping to pay for important services that allow us to take care of our most vulnerable residents," Mayor London Breed said in a statement. "This announcement is just another example of our City coming back to life and emerging from this pandemic stronger than ever before."
The Majestic Princess is operating at reduced capacity, as the Chronicle reports, so instead of 3,560 passengers onboard, there are somewhere between 2,100 and 2,700 — many or all of whom disembarked today to do some touring.
The CDC has new criteria that rates ships "green," "yellow," "orange," and "red" based on recent cases found among passengers and crew, and ships are required to restrict travel based on each level.
This cruise is on a Pacific coast route that took it from the Port of Los Angeles, up to San Francisco for an overnight, and then down to San Diego and Ensenada before returning to L.A. on Thursday.
Next year, assuming the pandemic doesn't take another dark turn and shut down cruising again, the Port of San Francisco is expected a record 127 cruise calls.