San Diego

Volunteer Passengers Could Test Cruise Line Safety During Pandemic

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention specifies how ships can get back into the water

NBC Universal, Inc.

The pandemic has taken its toll on the San Diego economy, but you may be surprised to know just how much of a toll. This week is National Travel and Tourism week, a time to celebrate the economic impact the travel and tourism sector brings to the local economy. This year it comes during the pandemic.

The tourism industry was devastated by the pandemic.

“Literally in March 2019, our industry just came to a screeching halt,” said President and CEO of the San Diego Tourism Authority Julie Coker. 

She said in 2019, visitors spent about $11.6 billion. 2020 finished at $5.2 billion, a number close to what visitors spent in 2001.  

“So, literally during the pandemic we lost about 20 years of gain,” said Coker. "However, the great thing is that we're on a comeback.”

Meetings, conventions and trade shows can return on June 15. For a meeting with five thousand or more, attendees would have to show vaccination records or be tested. As of October 1, neither a vaccine nor a test will be required to attend.

Cruise lines docked for the last 14 months could be back by summer.

New CDC guidelines specify how cruises can take trial voyages in U.S. waters with volunteer passengers. The so-called test volunteers would help determine if it is safe to sail during the pandemic.

Each practice cruise could be between two to seven days long and would be at 10% of the ship's capacity.

Volunteers will have to wear face masks and observe social distancing. They must also be at least 18 years old and either be fully vaccinated or free of medical conditions that would put them at high risk for severe COVID-19. At least 75% of them must be tested for COVID-19 at the end of the trip.

It is a step forward to resuming full operations as soon as July.

“We really do see brighter days ahead so we're excited about the future,” said Coker who also said we can help by taking vacations in San Diego and California. “Lean into our great destinations before you plan a trip outside of San Diego or outside of California. Support Californians first and let's get our Californians back to work."

The San Diego Port Authority declined NBC 7’s request for an interview but sent the following statement:

“We are working with our cruise partners and the CDC to resume cruising out of San Diego in the fall, in line with our cruise season which runs fall through spring."

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