TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Have a nice trip! The first cruise set sail from Port Tampa Bay on Saturday since March 2020.
Travelers, cruise employees, and local business owners are all thrilled.
“It’s a day to remember… we’re so excited,” said Vicky Evans, AAA vice president for sales and travel development at the celebratory event on Saturday.
This weekend, travel industry leaders including Visit Tampa Bay, the Port of Tampa Bay and AAA celebrated a new voyage.
After rough waters last year for the cruise industry, many are hoping for smooth sailing ahead. According to experts, the cruise industry accounts for 20% of the port’s revenue, which translates to $ 7.5 million.
Evans said cruise bookings for 2022 have already passed 2019.
“We’re here because we continue to see people excited to travel again and cruising has proven to be one of the safest vacation options around,” said Russell Benford, vice-president. president of government relations of the Royal Caribbean group.
Benford said they need COVID-19 vaccines for all guests 12 and older, a covid test for all passengers, and strict interior mask policies.
8 on your side asked Benford what changes passengers can expect on the ship?
“As for the buffets, instead of serving you, we have the crew on board the ship who will prepare your plate for you,” said Benford.
But Benford said all normal experiences will still be open, including the pool, shows and nightclubs.
The CEO of Visit Tampa Bay said a 3,000-passenger vessel is expected to generate more than $ 300,000 in the city it sails from.
Business owners in Tampa’s Sparkman’s Warf are thrilled. “We can’t wait to see tourism return to Tampa, we’re enjoying it,” said Trent McAree, owner and founder of Fit Bowl Co.
McAree said they specialize in acai bowls, smoothies, and drinks for adults. He said COVID-19 is forcing all industries and customers to navigate new territories.
“It seems people are also very excited to resume cruises, so we will definitely be a safe haven for alfresco dining and offer them this option before and after. [they’re on the boat]”McAree said.
Royal Caribbean International set sail this weekend. The Carnival and Celebrity cruises will depart from Port Tampa Bay in November and Norwegian Cruise Line in December.