A popular San Diego Bay cruise company found itself in hot water Tuesday after reopening for business last Friday, and faces thousands of dollars in fines if it stays open.
San Diego Harbor Police Department cited Flagship Cruises for violating the county’s public health order, but there’s a disagreement as to which category the fleet falls under within the county's order.
Harbor PD said the county’s health order prohibits passenger vessel charters for recreational purposes unless all passengers live under one roof which, is why Flagship was cited last Saturday.
But should Flagship’s bay cruises be considered a charter? Or is the bay cruise the same as Flagship's ferry service to Coronado, which never stopped operating since the onset of the pandemic.
The company told NBC 7 it’s a matter for the courts to decide, and, for now, if you have $28 you can cruise San Diego Bay on one of its boats.
“We were a little shocked that they were open,” visitor Lisa Carnevaly said. She and her family came down from Orange County to see the sights, not expecting they could do it by boat.
“We thought if there were not very many people on there we might think about going, but obviously not today,” she said.
Last Friday, Flagship opened its bay cruise tours, which run nearly every hour from 10 a.m. to 5:15 p.m.
Company spokesperson Tim Rongley said if Flagship’s shuttle service to Coronado is considered safe, then its bay tours should be too.
Mandy Martinez agrees.
“We all still have to live,” Martinez said. “We've got to get normal again somehow so we have to start somewhere."
Martinez and her family took the afternoon cruise. They had to wear face coverings and stay physically distanced from other passengers, but she said they felt perfectly safe.
“We had a great time,” Martinez’s wife Valarie said. “We would not have been able to do this is if they were not open. The kids wouldn't have been able to experience this at a time like this."
Valarie Martinez also said she felt like Flagship was taking all the necessary precautions, and testified, “As individuals you have to be also responsible."
Besides the Martinez family there were seven other passengers on board. The boat can hold up to 600 people, but Rongley said they are limiting cruises to a third of that.
“We noticed that most of the people were on top where it was open air so that would probably be better,” Carnevaly said.
Reopening San Diego county is a fight on several fronts, including people battling stay-at-home boredom, businesses fighting to survive, and the community fighting to stay safe.
“This was probably the safest thing we'd done as a tourist type thing or even the grocery store,” Mandy Martinez said.
Passengers on Flagship’s six weekend cruises totaled a little over 600 people, according to Rongley, which is about half its max for that many cruises.
Flagship and Hornblower cruises will begin dining cruises this weekend which are allowed under the public health order, which permits cruises that serve full meals and have licensed kitchens to reopen under the same strict standards that restaurants must follow.