One of the more popular ports of call for cruise lines like Celebrity Cruises, Princess Cruises, and Holland America Line has banned cruise ships until March 1 of 2022. Santa Barbara, perched between the Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean in California, is a popular tender port on the Pacific Coast cruises that many cruise lines have on their itinerary.
The Santa Barbara Waterfront Department and the city mayor, Cathy Murrillo, decided to put its cruise ship program on hold until at least March 2022 because of COVID-19 concerns.
Officials on Monday voted to delay the return of cruise ships, which haven’t visited the California port since March 2020.
Protect the Health of the Community
According to city officials, the move to ban cruise ships from the city for the coming six months has been taken following the recent outbreak of COVID-19 amongst the fully vaccinated crew of Carnival Vista, which was linked to the death of one of the passengers.
Cruise ships bring in millions of dollars to the local economy and generally have a low impact on the city as guests use tenders to come to the town center. Nonetheless, the city believes it is not ready for resuming cruise operations just yet, saying it wants to protect the “health and safety of our community.”
Waterfront Director Mike Wiltshire said the decision was not taken lightly:
“Our cruise ship program brings millions of dollars to the local economy as well as introduces Santa Barbara to tens of thousands of people from around the world. It is a well-run program that strategically minimizes impacts by scheduling visits only during the shoulder seasons and often mid-week. That being said, the health and safety of our community, as well as the health and safety of cruise ship passengers visiting our area are our top priority so we have decided to pause the program. We remain optimistic that once we’re back to pre-pandemic status, Santa Barbara will return as a premier destination for the cruise line industry, “
One more port along the California coastline could be heading the same way. According to Wiltshire, Monterey could also be suspending cruise ship visits. Where this will be heading remains to be seen. The move will be a blow for the local community most of all, as cruise ships will reposition to a port that will allow entry—potentially causing issues for the future after the pandemic as well.
Several Cruise Lines Affected
Multiple cruise lines had cruises scheduled to Santa Barbara in the upcoming period. Holland America Line has the Zuiderdam and the Koningsdam scheduled for visits in October. Other cruise lines that have been affected are Princess Cruises and Celebrity Cruises.
The first Royal Caribbean ship that is scheduled to call in the port is Radiance of the Seas, a call that looks to go ahead in the spring of 2022.
For now, not many ports have decided amongst themselves to ban cruise ships from entering. And while Santa Barbara is not the busiest cruise port in the world by any measure, it is a sign of the negative connotations that still linger around cruise ships since the issues seen last year. Multiple outbreaks painted a grim picture of an industry struggling to battle an enemy that later brought the entire world to a standstill.
With the enormous investments that cruise ships have made in a safe and healthy experience onboard and fully vaccinated cruises, one can wonder whether Santa Barbara’s banning cruise ships is more based on gut feeling than science.