Long-delayed Seattle cruise industry setting sail

SEATTLE — Just a few hours from now, the long-delayed Seattle summer cruise season will start.

The Royal Caribbean cruise lines will leave Monday for Alaska.

This is surely great news for those who depend on tourist dollars that were taken away by the pandemic. Now they are gearing up for something they have long hoped would happen.

The cruise ship industry is kicking off its summer season here in Seattle.

Seattle’s Pike Place Market is looking and feeling a lot like its old summertime self.

“We’re from Denver, Colorado,” said Natacha Ray.  “Just been one of my cities I’ve wanted to visit. I’m a flight attendant. So I wanted to show him around.”

“So far, so good,” said Marshall Dennis, her partner.  “Very different from Denver, for sure.”

“I basically was only playing like two weeks out of 15 months,” said Jonny Hahn from behind his piano bench.

A market fixture for 35 years, Hahn said he can see the difference a year after the depths of a pandemic. He has seen, too, the signs around the country that COVID-19 still has a foothold in some states.

“Normally, in the summer, this is what you would see pre-pandemic,” he said. “So this is kind of more ‘back to normal.’ That’s kind of how I look at it.”

And the city’s summer season is taking a big step toward normalcy Monday. That’s when the Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas heads out of Pier 91 bound for Alaska. There will be paying customers on board this time -- at reduced capacity.

KIRO 7 was there nearly two weeks ago when the ship went on a four-day Alaska cruise to test its COVID-19 protocols under the scrutiny of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  All 300 vaccinated passengers were Royal Caribbean employees.

The company’s front office is eager to get back to business.

“We’re so thankful to every agency and every politician we’ve worked with over the last couple of months,” said Mark Tamis,

senior vice president for Royal Caribbean, “especially the contingency here in Seattle and Alaska to bring cruising back at a time when people so desperately want to connect with each other and connect with either other on a great vacation.”

The summer magic of Seattle, still intact.

“Oh, yeah,” said Jeff Bert, who lived here before moving to California.  “And it’s a beautiful day here, too, which doesn’t always happen, but it does.”

The cruise season isn’t fully back just yet.

Besides Serenade of the Seas, the Royal Caribbean plans to sail out of Seattle again in August. And Princess Cruise

Lines will sail out July 25.

The cruise lines are working to reassure passengers they will be safe on board.

Everyone who boards here in Seattle must be vaccinated.