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Swine flu bringing more cruise passengers to Seattle

Post by John Gillie / The News Tribune on May 1, 2009 at 2:47 pm with No Comments »
May 1, 2009 2:47 pm

Mexico’s loss is becoming Seattle’s gain as cruise ships once headed for the Mexican Rivera are rerouted to domestic destinations because of the swine flu outbreak south of the border.

Five major cruise lines with Mexican destinations have canceled calls at those ports because of the possibility that passengers could become infected and spread the virus to other passengers.

With a ship full of passengers and no place the ships can travel southward from home ports in Los Angeles, Long Beach and San Diego, some cruise lines are sending their ships north.

Royal Caribbean Cruises, for instance expects to make about a half-dozen previously unscheduled calls in Seattle in the next few weeks. The company’s ships will bring 3,000 passengers on each call to tour Seattle. Carnival Cruises may do the same with some of its vessels.

Because federal law prohibits foreign-flagged vessels from serving itineraries with only U.S. destinations, those vessels calling on Seattle will also call on Victoria or Vancouver, B.C. during their cruises.

Other cruise lines, not wanting to travel the more than 2,000 miles back and forth from Southern California to Seattle and Canada, are making “technical stops” in Ensenada, Mexico and then cruising to destinations such as Santa Barbara, San Diego and Catalina in California.

Those “technical stops” are brief visits to the northern Mexico port during which no passengers or crew members leave the vessel.

Fortunate for the cruise lines, many of the vessels now deployed in the Mexican market are moving northward to cruise to Alaska for the summer from Seattle and Vancouver.

Other ports benefiting from the diversions include San Francisco and Astoria, Ore., both of which will see more ship calls than normal.

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