The coronavirus pandemic has created some choppy waters for the Maritime Museum of San Diego but after a series of shutdowns, the attraction will reopen – again – to the public this Saturday.
Of course, the Maritime Museum’s reopening comes with a new set of pandemic-era rules and safety guidelines set forth by state and local health officials. The museum said it is closely following those rules and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as it safely reopens to the public.
Under its latest round of reopening protocols, the museum of tall, historic ships will be open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
To stagger how many people are at the landmark at once, the museum will run “Timed-Ticketing,” monitoring capacity every 15 minutes. Capacity will be reduced so visitors are able to keep the proper social distance from one another. With those ticketing systems in place, the museum said visitors could experience a short wait to get in, so patience will be key.
"We put a lot of thought in reinventing ourselves as an outdoor museum that would allow us to be open like the zoo is," said Ray Ashley, President and CEO of the museum.
The Maritime Museum is spread out among several docked historic ships – including the iconic Star of India – and the museum believes that this unique set-up will help them keep visitors safely distanced from one another.
"The Star of India is the most recognizable icon in San Diego so opening the ship once again, it's important to the community," Ashley said.
The museum has also set up 6-foot markers on the decks of the vessels to remind visitors about the social distance rules. There is a new one-way tour path, too.
Also on deck: temperature checks and wellness screenings, now required for all staff, volunteers, and visitors before they enter the museum. All staff and visitors must also wear face masks, all the time.
"It’s not going to be forever but we do have to adapt to the current circumstances and anticipate they’re going to remain like this for some time," Ashley said.
The attraction is still offering some of its on-the-water experiences, including the 45-minute Pilot Boat Bay Tour, but others are temporarily not available. It’s best to check the museum’s website ahead of your visit to get the latest updates on what is and isn’t open there.
"You can see a group of people here going on a boat ride," said Aaron Smith, who visited the Museum on Saturday. "It's part of the admission when you come to the maritime museum. It used to cost extra, but it's free right now as the museum tries to attract more visitors while still maintaining their safety."
Some interior exhibit areas remain closed for public safety and only self-guided tours are available right now, as group tours are temporarily discontinued. USS Dolphin, Soviet Naval Submarines, and HMS Surprise will also remain closed. The self-guided tour begins at the Berkeley steamboat and ends with the Star of India.
Maritime Museum docents, staff, and volunteers will still be stationed throughout the tour to help guests with any questions.
The museum’s gift shop remains closed due to its “high-touch” nature, the museum said.
Additional sanitation, disinfection and cleaning procedures have been implemented throughout the attraction, and there are more hand sanitizer dispensers available for visitors to use, the museum said.
As for tickets, the museum urges visitors to go “touch-free” and buy tickets online in advance. Museum Ticket Booth machines near the attraction will still sell tickets, but bring a credit or debit card, because cash will not be accepted.
Tickets cost $20 for adults and $10 for kids age 12 and under. Seniors (62+), military and students can get in for $15.
The Maritime Museum was temporarily closed in mid-March as the coronavirus pandemic reached San Diego County and restrictions for businesses – including museums – went into effect.
The museum was able to reopen on July 1, but that progress was short-lived.
As COVID-19 cases surged across California and San Diego County, museums – among many other types of businesses and attractions – were ordered to close again in an effort to help slow the spread of the virus across the state.
The Maritime Museum closed again, six days after its brief first reopening.
Over the past six weeks, the Maritime Museum has used the downtime to give its tall ships and facilities a facelift. The museum is normally a very busy tourist attraction, so this kind of time to get work like this done is rare. You can read all about that here.
The Maritime Museum of San Diego is located along north Embacadero and is home to the Star of India, the world’s oldest active sailing ship. The museum’s fleet also includes tall ships, steam-powered boats and submarines, and exhibitions that highlight maritime heritage.
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