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'People are ready' | Nauticus Director says 2022 cruise season will be the busiest yet

Cruises are still setting sail across the U.S., despite the CDC’s recent warning to steer clear of ships. Norfolk will welcome a cruise ship next month.

NORFOLK, Va. — Cruises are still setting sail across the U.S., despite the CDC’s recent warning to steer clear of ships.

In Norfolk, after a long period without setting sail, officials said they are looking forward to their busiest cruise season ever.

“We haven’t had a major ship here since before the pandemic,” said Nauticus Executive Director Stephen Kirkland.

Starting next month, cruise ships will once again fill the Norfolk skyline.

“People are ready,” Kirkland said. “We are getting calls every day just saying 'Hey, where can I book? Where do I go?'”

Kirkland said tourism heats up in February when a Norwegian cruise ship is set to dock.

“So that is 4,000 passengers that are getting off in this community and spending some money,” Kirkland said. “That is a huge tourism indicator in this region.”

Once spring arrives, the Carnival Magic will set sail from the Mermaid City.

“We are set to welcome 180,000 passengers this year and 65,000 crew members,” Kirkland said. “This will quite literally be the busiest cruise ship season we have ever had.”

Recently the CDC said people should avoid cruises.

"I think the cruise industry would tell you that, 'Hey our standards are so high that we mandate vaccinations, that we do testing,'” Kirkland said. “But this virus, as we know, is everywhere and certainly the cruise industry is not immune.”

A spokeswoman for Carnival tells 13News Now that crew members and most guests are fully vaccinated. Everyone 2 years old and up must present a negative COVID test before boarding.

“But even with these measures and other stringent COVID-19 protocols we have in place, it is possible we will have some positive cases on board, given the prevalence of the Omicron variant. Should that happen, we are prepared to actively manage the situation, protect guest and crew health, and continue to operate the cruise. In December 2021, over 217,000 guests sailed with us. Thanks to our multilayered protocols, not only was our case rate much lower than what was experienced in the U.S., but we did not encounter any serious guest cases on board that required medical attention. 

 We recognize that, given the circumstances, some of our guests may want to consider sailing at a different time, so we are providing those guests with cruises booked through Jan. 31 the option to rebook at a later date or receive a full refund.” – Carnival Spokeswoman

 Carnival has its safety protocols posted here.

If you do set sail, the CDC recommends that you get fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and get a booster if eligible. The agency also said passengers should get a COVID test right before the trip, and another three to five days after the trip.

Kirkland is looking forward to seeing businesses across the 757 get a much-needed tourism boost.

“It is truly the biggest year in our history,” Kirkland said. “Obviously we don’t know what this pandemic is going to do, but the red carpet is beginning to roll out. We are ready to welcome these guests.”

AAA is starting to see some travel cancellations. Still, a spokeswoman at AAA’s Tidewater Travel Agency said bookings are steady.

“Many destinations have changed COVID protocols which may make the trip not as attractive for some travelers,” said agent Sheila Hale. “Travel bookings have been steady going into the future. We advise all travelers to stay up to date on the CDC guidelines as well as local guidelines of where they are traveling. Working with a travel agent can help make sure you have the most up-to-date information so your trip can be as smooth as possible.”