First cruise ship arrives in San Diego for crew member vaccinations

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SAN DIEGO — The first of three cruise ships expected in San Diego this week arrived at the port on Wednesday.

Crew members of Holland America Line’s Koningsdam were the first group to receive coronavirus vaccinations from Sharp Healthcare employees over the next two days. Sharp will vaccinate nearly 450 people on three of Carnival’s ships as part of a larger effort to make it safe for cruises to resume.

Sharp’s vaccinators later traveled by boat to the Royal Princess laterand administered 144 coronavirus doses to crew as the ship is anchored off San Diego’s coast. An additional 179 crew members on Holland America Line’s Noordam will be vaccinated on Thursday.

Sharp COO Brett McClain says getting the shots in the arms of crew members Wednesday was more than a typical vaccination clinic.  

“It’s been such an incredible dark 14-15 months you can just feel the energy in this building and this morning and the energy from the crew now going back to work and being able to provide for their families back home wherever they may live – we are just honored to be a part of it,” McClain told FOX 5.  

Adam Deaton with the Port of San Diego called the vaccinations the first step in getting cruises running again.

“Since the pandemic started, we lost about 160 cruise calls in San Diego. And each homeport, that’s a ship that begins and ends in San Diego, is $2 million. We’ve calculated that San Diego lost about $280 million in economic impact from the cruise industry because of the pandemic,” Deaton said. “So we’re excited to finally see these vessels come back and maybe we can get a little boost to the economy when that happens.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said earlier this month that cruise lines could soon begin trial voyages in U.S. waters with volunteer passengers helping test whether the ships can sail safely during a pandemic.

Ships are required to make at least one practice run before resuming regular cruises, unless operators can vouch that 98% of crew and 95% of passengers are vaccinated.

Sharp said all three ships will return to San Diego in approximately three weeks so crew members can receive their second vaccination dose.

San Diego’s cruise ship season starts in September and goes until May.  

“The thought of that happening at the Port of San Diego make us feel very good because we understand how many people depend on this industry for their livelihood,” said Port of San Diego Commissioner Rafael Castellanos.

The cruise ship industry helps facilitate thousands of jobs, Castellano says: “restaurants, retail, lodging, transportation, shipping agents.” 

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