SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — The Carnival Mardi Gras docked Tuesday in Puerto Rico — 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 The Associated Press 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.
“This is incredibly important for us,” Mercado said, noting that Puerto Rico’s hotel and aviation sector has boomed in recent months. “This is what we were missing.”
Some 1.9 million cruise ship passengers visited Puerto Rico in 2019, a record for the island, said tourism spokeswoman Astrid Rolón.
The Carnival Mardi Gras departed Port Canaveral, Florida, and Puerto Rico was its first stop.
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