First cruise ship of delayed season departs Seattle

SEATTLE — Cruise ships have been back in Seattle for a few weeks, but the first paying passengers stepped aboard the Serenade of the Seas on Monday.

The Lomenick family is up from Alabama, taking a trip to Alaska they first scheduled for last summer.

“We were on pins and needles waiting to see if it was going to happen. It did. We’re on the first cruise; we’re super excited,” said Wendy Lomenick.

Earlier this month, people in Ketchikan, Alaska, welcomed the same ship as it took a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention simulation voyage to test COVID-19 protocols.

“That went extremely well,” said Mark Tamis, an executive with Royal Caribbean International.

On Monday, the cruise line checked vaccination cards for adults and gave COVID-19 tests to children too young for the shots.

The ship can hold more than 2,400 passengers but will carry just 800 on the first cruise as it ramps up capacity.

The Port of Seattle touts the big economic benefits of cruise ships returning.

Environmental groups on Monday held a news conference to point to the industry’s downsides, including waste discharges into the ocean and emissions into the air.

“Cruise companies offshore their profits and import pollution,” said Rachel McDonald of the climate activist group 350 Seattle.

Activists calculate the total emissions, including associated air travel, from 2019 cruises leaving Seattle roughly equaled a third of Seattle’s emissions in a year.

“This kind of impact from nonessential leisure activity while we face the unprecedented danger of climate collapse in our lifetime is inexcusable,” said Stacy Oaks of 350 Seattle.

Port officials said the industry is working on environmental improvements and said ships at Smith Cove can now plug in to reduce their emissions.

The Serenade of the Seas is beginning the first of 83 sailings this year from Seattle by several cruise lines.

That’s down from more than 200 in 2019.