Seattle cruise travel up 50% from 2019, COVID cases not deterring passengers

Cases of COVID-19 are continuing to pop up on cruise ships nationally and internationally. However, it's not stopping large numbers of people from once again booking vacations on the water. 

The Port of Seattle says cruise travel is already up 50% from 2019 as people are eager to get back to traveling. 

"The numbers are really impressive.  We are so excited to have all the ships back and you can see it on the weekends around town," said Linda Springmann, Port of Seattle Director of Cruise and Maritime Marketing.  "We thought we’d see a build in May, as the ships coming back and we know by the second week of June, it really picks up after school is out.  So we are really seeing the trend that we expected with the numbers growing." 

"We are getting on the Royal Caribbean tomorrow," said Rebecca Janis, a cruise ship passenger. 

The Seattle waterfront is once again bustling with visitors like the Janis family, who are taking a 7-day cruise to Alaska. 

"We were originally supposed to take one in May back in 2020 and this is the chance to take that vacation we missed out on," said Stephen Janis. 

The Janis family said they were all vaccinated and explained that the online testing process to board the ship was fairly easy, once they figured out the online system. Stephen told FOX 13 that his family was able to take the test in their hotel room. 

"It was very quick and simple and done in 20 minutes," said Rebecca. 

Sally Rosenberg, another cruise ship passenger, told us she was fully vaccinated and heading out on a cruise to Norway soon. 

"It is a relief. A huge relief. We can get out and enjoy life again. It's wonderful," said Rosenberg. "The Norway cruise was canceled, so we are finally doing it."    

Rosenberg said her cruise was going to take off from London. On Friday while in Seattle, she was planning to visit the Space Needle.

She isn't the only one taking in iconic Seattle sites. The number of people visiting Seattle's waterfront are at pre-pandemic levels, according to Andy Lipscomb, the owner of The Frankfurter hotdog stand at the center of the bustling waterfront. 

"People have been starving to get out of the house," said Lipscomb "It is back in full force.  It’s not just trickling back, it’s back. There is going to be a record number this year for 2022 as far as cruises go. I think it’s 1.3 million cruise passengers expected to come through Seattle, which beats the old record by about 100,000 people."

The Port of Seattle has also estimated there will be around 1.2 million or more visitors, which includes passengers both coming in and going through the facilities.

As for COVID 19 cases, as of June 1, the Centers for Disease Control reported that nearly 90 cruise ships had COVID cases under investigation. 

As of June 1, there were four ships reported in the "green" category, which means there were no reported cases on those ships. Two ships were designated as "yellow," which means the ship has reported less than 0.3% of its passengers and/or crew members have COVID-19. 

87 ships, by far the highest number, were designated as "orange."  That means the ship has reported that 0.3% or more of its passengers and/or crew members have COVID, enough for the CDC to investigate. 

No ships were listed in the red zone, which could trigger more testing onboard, masking or other measures. 

"If we just stop because of a low number, I think we give up a lot more than we get out of that," said Stephen. 

The Janis family says they'll employ safety measures, but it's time to start living again. 

"Handwashing, wearing masks in crowded places and still taking proper precautions-- it’s going to be no different than if you are out and about on a normal day," said Rebecca. 

The CDC says cruise travel will always pose risk for COVID and vaccination remains the best way to protect yourself against the virus. 

As for tourist traffic in general in Seattle, James Sido, Director, Media Relations and Issues Management with the Downtown Seattle Association (DSA), said Seattle saw high numbers for foot traffic last week. He says across the 7-day period for total visits-- including workers, residents and visitors combined-- last week, Seattle averaged 380,000 daily. 

He says the average is the highest DSA has seen since the start of the pandemic.