Carnival Mardi Gras docked in Puerto Rico

Published on : Wednesday, August 4, 2021

The Carnival Mardi Gras has docked in Puerto Rico on Tuesday. It is for the first time a cruise ship has visited the U.S. territory since the pandemic began.

Some cautiously celebrated the arrival. It comes as Puerto Rico has reported an increase in COVID-19 cases blamed on the Delta variant but also as it seeks to restart its crucial tourism sector, which depended largely on record numbers of cruise ship passengers in recent years.

Carlos Mercado, executive director of Puerto Rico’s Tourism Company, told that the government took several precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including allowing only those who are fully vaccinated to disembark.

He said the ship was traveling at 70% capacity, with some 4,500 people aboard, and that he estimates a total of 3,500 will disembark. Mercado noted that 95% of the ship’s passengers are vaccinated, with children younger than 12 making up the majority of those who have not been inoculated.

The visit was expected to generate some $360,000 during the nine hours that the ship is docked in the historic part of Puerto Rico’s capital known as Old San Juan.

The passengers began to trickle out of the ship to the sounds of Puerto Rico’s traditional bomba and plena music filling a nearby plaza while artisans prepared their wares and government officials distributed maps of the historic cobblestone district.

Passenger Tom Seuberling, of Oak Hill, Florida, said he was impressed by the health protocols aboard the ship.

Mercado said the ship will dock twice more this month, generating an estimated total of $1.2 million for August. He added that starting next month, a Royal Caribbean cruise ship will start using San Juan as its base port, and that by next year, he expects the cruise schedule to go back to normal.

Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi said that visits of the Carnival Mardi Gras and Carnival Celebration in the next two years alone will deliver an estimated 300,000 passengers and generate some $28 million for the island’s tourism sector, which represents nearly 7% of its economy.

Some 1.9 million cruise passengers visited Puerto Rico in 2019, a record for the island, according to tourism spokeswoman Astrid Rolón.

The Carnival Mardi Gras departed Port Canaveral, Florida, and Puerto Rico was its first stop.

The island of 3.3 million people has reported more than 127,500 confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 2,500 deaths. Some 1.9 million people are fully vaccinated.

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