Santa Barbara suspends cruise ship visits until March
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -- Santa Barbara announced its continued suspension of cruise ship visits on Monday.
Waterfront Director Mike Wiltshire said," It was really a tough decision, cruise ships play a big role in the community and to the city and the waterfront and so making a call to put it on pause until the Spring doesn't come lightly."
The decision follows a crew outbreak on a Carnival Vista cruise out of Galveston, Texas that is linked to a passenger's death.
Santa Barbara Mayor Cathy Murrillo said they are watching the increase of COVID cases and want to protect the health of the community.
She believes the industry will bounce back.
Wiltshire said Monterey is also suspending its visits, but he believes Catalina will allow visits.
"It just seems like we really shouldn't be the first ones diving back into this."
The suspension of all cruise ships will last until March 1, 2022.
Visit Santa Barbara said many guests book excursions on the Santa Barbara Trolley Co., Land and Sea Tours (aka the Land Shark) and Totally Cali Tours.
Passengers visit Los Olivos, the Old Mission Santa Barbara and other popular spots.
Passengers known as free rangers walk from their drop off spot at the Sea Landing and shop along State Street and Stearns Wharf.
Resident Heidi Harbaugh said she feels bad for the businesses that are already losing tourist dollars due to the pandemic.
The ships visit during what the industry calls the shoulder season between September and May.
They usually book stops off the coast of Santa Barbara more than a year in advance.
That changed due to COVID.
"Our cruise ship program brings millions of dollars to the local economy as well as introduces Santa Barbara to tens of thousands of people from around the world. It is a well-run program that strategically minimizes impacts by scheduling visits only during the shoulder seasons and often mid-week. That being said, the health and safety of our community, as well as the health and safety of cruise ship passengers visiting our area are our top priority so we have decided to pause the program. We remain optimistic that once we're back to pre-pandemic status, Santa Barbara will return as a premier destination for the cruise line industry, " said Wiltshire.
He said the Discovery Princess is the next cruise ship scheduled to visit on March 10.