First two sailings of Seattle cruise season canceled amid coronavirus outbreak

SEATTLE --  The first two sailings of the Seattle 2020 cruise season have been canceled in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Grand Princess, which docked in the Bay Area in California this week after 21 of the ship's 3,500 passengers and crew members tested positive for the virus, was set to sail from Seattle's Pier 66 on April 1.

The second ship, Celebrity Eclipse, was set to stop in Seattle on April 5.

Port of Seattle officials said both cruises are "port of call" sailings, meaning the ships make a one-day stop in Seattle on its way to another destination.

“This region is in a public health emergency and we will postpone the start of cruise season by at least two weeks,” said Port of Seattle Commission President Peter Steinbrueck.  “The health, safety, and well-being of our residents is our top priority.”

No other Seattle cruises have been canceled, but port and industry leaders will continue to evaluate as the outbreak continues. The next scheduled cruise is April 15.

Officials said although the first two sailings are port of call sailings, the large majority of cruises out of Seattle are "home port" sailings that start and end in Seattle.

Local businesses supply the ships, and local tourism dollars rely on cruise ship guests spending time in the region before or after their cruises.

Cruise season in Seattle contributes $900 million to the local economy and supports 5,500 jobs, according to the port.

The announcement comes on the same day that the state banned large social gatherings (more than 250 people) in King, Pierce and Snohomish Counties.

King County took the ban a step further. Public Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin will sign an order prohibiting smaller social gatherings (less than 250 people) unless they meet certain guidelines for social distancing, sanitation and other measures.

“We’re facing an unprecedented health emergency,” Duchin said. “The number of cases doubles every several days. We expect a large-scale outbreak in weeks, and this will be a very difficult time. It’s similar to what you might think of … as an earthquake that’s going to shake us for weeks and weeks.”

There were 24 deaths and 267 confirmed cases in Washington state as of Wednesday morning (March 11).