Princess Cruises has put the kibosh on a two-year pilot program that would have had two cruise ships calling at Yorktown, Virginia, during summer 2024.
The cruise line told local officials it has decided that Island Princess and Emerald Princess will instead visit Norfolk, Virginia, on three itineraries. The change is likely to be welcome news to several thousand local residents who opposed the pilot program and signed a petition to prevent it from going forward.
Princess Cruises Chooses Norfolk Over Yorktown
A proposal by Princess Cruises to be the first major cruise line to call at historic Yorktown, Virginia, has been withdrawn in favor of visits to Norfolk, Virginia. The cruise line in February 2023 announced that two ships would make multiple calls at the port, offering guests the opportunity to explore Virginia’s Historic Triangle — Yorktown, Jamestown, and Williamsburg.
It was the Battle of Yorktown that decisively ended the Revolutionary war; Colonial Williamsburg is a living-history museum; and Jamestown is the site of the first permanent English settlement in North America. The three historical sites are within a short drive of each other, lending themselves to exciting shore excursion possibilities.
The 2,200-guest Island Princess was to make three calls and the 3,080-guest Emerald Princess would have made two. With the Princess ships sailing at full capacity, the planned port calls would have delivered around 14,000 cruise guests to the area, representing a boost to regional tourism and to local tour operators.
Both ships would tender guests to the port’s Riverwalk Landing, where tour guides for excursions and independent touring options would be available. A communication from Princess Cruises to York County officials on January 26, 2024, delivered the news.
“To ensure our guests experience legendary Virginian hospitality as they explore the region’s significant historical contributions to American history, Princess is confirming Norfolk on the published itinerary for Island Princess and its three new calls to the Commonwealth this summer,” wrote Vicki Johnson, senior vice president of communications for Princess Cruises.
History Cruises to Explore Eastern US, Canada Ports
Norfolk, a considerably larger port some 40 miles south of Yorktown, will be the recipient of the ships’ economic benefits.
Island Princess will operate 10-day “American Heritage” cruises on June 4 and 25, 2024, roundtrip from New York, and calling at Norfolk, Charleston, South Carolina, Boston, and Halifax, Canada. An 11-day option, departing on June 14, 2024, adds Newport, Rhode Island.
Emerald Princess will sail one 14-day “Canada & Colonial America” cruise from Fort Lauderdale to Quebec City on July 19, 2024, with calls at Charleston, Norfolk, New York, Newport, Boston, and Sydney and Saguenay, Canada.
“We hope the collaboration between Norfolk and Princess Cruises is a mutually successful one and also that the ship passengers have wonderful vacations where they make lifelong memories of their travels to Virginia,” said Mark Bellamy, interim county administrator for York County.
York County had come under fire from local residents for its handling of the Princess Cruises’ proposal, which was not fully revealed until a public forum was held in August 2023. A month later, a grassroots group had gathered more than 5,400 signatures on a petition from people opposing the plan.
The petition, by a local group called Preserve Yorktown, cited environmental concerns and impacts on the town’s culture. Yorktown joined a growing list of ports, both small and large, that question the effects of cruise ships on the local quality of life and on environmental practices. These include small ports such as Bar Harbor, Maine, and large ones such as Barcelona, Spain, and Venice, Italy.
Just one cruise line currently includes Yorktown on its itineraries — American Cruise Lines, which operates small ships carrying under 200 guests. The line’s 10-night “American Revolution Cruise,” sailing roundtrip from Washington, DC, is offered from March to June 2024 then again in October and November 2024. The sailing, operated by American Constitution, calls at both Yorktown and Norfolk.