The nonexistent cruise ship industry in Seattle is but one example of the moribund state of tourism resulting from a certain pandemic.
Cruise ships in Seattle were a novelty as recently as 1999, when only six vessels carried just over 6,000 passengers. Since then, however, Seattle has emerged as the premier hub for Alaska and Pacific Northwest cruises. The sailing schedule in 2020 was supposed to begin on April 1 and extend until Oct. 19, with an estimated 1.2 million cruise passengers passing through Seattle on 11 different cruise lines making over 210 departures.
Mind you, we are not talking about itty-bitty boats – instead, they are more like small floating villages. The cruise ship in the featured image is the Norwegian Star, which cost $400 million to build and was christened in November 2001. As long as three football fields, it has 1,176 cabins and a maximum capacity of 2,348 passengers. But even this ship was deemed too diminutive for the Seattle market, as its owner (Norwegian Cruise Line) reassigned the Norwegian Star and replaced it in May 2018 with the newly commissioned Norwegian Bliss. With 20 decks, 2,200 cabins, and 4,000 passengers, it’s the ninth-largest cruise ship ever built and now proudly bills Seattle as its home port.
The boon to the regional economy is equally gargantuan. Cruise passengers on average extend their stay two days in Seattle, spending $1,547 on lodging, entertainment, food and beverage, transportation, and souvenirs. On an even larger scale, statistics show that each vessel call brings $4.2 million in economic value ($893 million per season); provides 5,500 local port jobs; and contributes $14.5 million in state and local taxes. A large part of this largesse goes to local suppliers who sell provisions to the cruise lines. It’s estimated, for example, that a single ship carrying 3,080 passengers on a week-long cruise needs 11,460 pounds of seafood, 91,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables, and 69,000 eggs.
But alas, Seattle’s cruise season in 2020 just wasn’t meant to be. Things started to unravel in March when Canada announced that it would temporarily ban all cruise ships carrying more than 500 passengers from its ports until July 1. The coup de grâce was the July 6 announcement by the Port of Seattle confirming that no cruise ships will be arriving for the 2020 cruise season due to the covid-19 pandemic. Although cruise lines are now offering Seattle bookings as early as May 2021, it sure looks like the unrelenting novel coronavirus has a different timetable in mind. Consequently, while an Alaska cruise would undoubtedly be spectacular (see side image taken in Sitka on a fishing trip), partner Carol and I are keeping all travel plans on the indefinite hold.
On a more positive note, the Washington State Ferries remain in full operation. Should you partake of the scenic 35-minute ride from Seattle to Bainbridge Island, please feel free to visit us at our gallery in downtown Winslow. Like most other local businesses, we are “covid-19 safe” and adhere to the guidelines of Gov. Inslee (e.g., mandatory masks, use of hand sanitizers, and occupancy limits). We will also have our usual wide selection of travel, nature, landscape, and urban images, including an excellent assortment of metal prints, canvas prints, custom-framed black-and-white prints, and fine art acrylic prints.
As always, in these trying and stressful times, we hope everyone is staying healthy, safe, and strong!
Ciao for now,
Andrew (Andy) Bergh