The number of cruise ships visiting the Port of Astoria this spring continued its precipitous drop after global cancellations by Princess Cruises and an order by Gov. Kate Brown banning public gatherings of more than 250 people in Oregon for the next four weeks.
Local officials had already confirmed the Grand Princess would not dock March 31. The ship was quarantined off the coast of California and later in Oakland after a former passenger became the state’s first confirmed death from coronavirus.
Astoria, Clatsop County and the Port announced on Thursday that no cruise ship visits will be allowed through April 10, citing Brown’s announcement and warnings by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention against cruise ship travel.
The announcement cancels a scheduled visit April 4 by the Celebrity Eclipse of Celebrity Cruises.
“Additionally, in the absence of specific policy on cruise ships from higher authority, we have agreed to consider cruise ships as public gatherings and will cancel all visits of cruise (ships) with greater than 250 persons aboard as long as the state prohibitions remain in place,” Astoria Mayor Bruce Jones, Commissioner Kathleen Sullivan, the chairwoman of the county Board of Commissioners, and Will Isom, the executive director of the Port, said in a statement.
Princess Cruises on Thursday canceled all cruise ship voyages scheduled to start May 10 or earlier. The cancellation covers visits to Astoria by the Star Princess on April 12, Ruby Princess on May 6 and Grand Princess on May 7.
“It is our intention to reassure our loyal guests, team members and global stakeholders of our commitment to the health, safety and well-being of all who sail with us, as well as those who do business with us, and the countries and communities we visit around the world,” Jan Swartz, president of Princess Cruises, said in a news release.
Jones said that health issues surrounding visiting cruise ships affect the entire county, rather than just Astoria and the Port.
“Because of this, our three entities have been working closely together to develop unified policy and decisions,” he said. “We are leaning forward to put public health first where there is a gap in state policy.”
Princess Cruises’ announcement and Brown’s ban on large gatherings have so far cut the amount of ships visiting Astoria down to at most 30. Bruce Conner, the Port’s cruise ship marketer, said that aside from Princess Cruises’ announcement, there have been no ship cancellations beyond April 10.
Astoria’s next scheduled cruise ship visit would be the Eurodam from the Holland America Line on April 13.
The coronavirus has reinvigorated the debate over whether to continue allowing large cruise ships to dock in Astoria.
Sarah Jane Bardy, owner of the Eleventh Street Barber, recently started an online petition asking the City Council to halt the cruise ship visits. She argued that the passengers don’t contribute much to the local economy and put the region’s most vulnerable populations at increased risk of sickness.
“Astoria has become a tourist destination in an of itself with tens of thousands of people traveling here by way of car and bus every year,” she wrote. “We, unlike isolated towns such as Kodiak, Alaska, do not rely on ships to support our economy.”