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People come out to watch the new Carnival Cruise Line ship Mardi Gras as it departs on its maiden voyage, a seven-day cruise to the Caribbean from Port Canaveral, Florida on July 31, 2021. Photo: Paul Hennessy/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.
People come out to watch the new Carnival Cruise Line ship Mardi Gras as it departs on its maiden voyage, a seven-day cruise to the Caribbean from Port Canaveral, Florida on July 31, 2021. Photo: Paul Hennessy/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.

Puerto Rico sees first cruise ship dock since pandemic’s start as the island plans to restart industry

Puerto Rico is attempting to jumpstart its tourism sector as COVID-19 cases rise.

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The first cruise ship to dock in Puerto Rico since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic — Mardi Gras by Carnival Cruise Line  — arrived in San Juan this past Tuesday, Aug. 3.

The cruise ship carried 4,300 passengers and was estimated to generate $360,000 for the area just nine hours after docking. 

The ship was welcomed to streets of paraders, music, and merchandise stalls. 

The ship docked while the island is facing an increase in COVID-19 cases, mostly attributed to the Delta variant’s spread. 

Ninety-five percent of the passengers were vaccinated, with the majority of those unvaccinated being children 12-and-under. These groups were not allowed to exit the ship. 

All were required to be tested before entering the ship, and capacity was capped at 70%.

Puerto Rico has expressed interest in restarting its tourism sector: a vital part in the island’s recession-recovery effort. However, as cases rise, plans to reopen the island are being met with growing contention. 

There are fears of breakthrough infections from the Delta variant accelerating outbreaks.

Arrival of passengers to Puerto Rico sparks higher interaction with cab drivers, transporters, store owners, and merchandise vendors. While the visitors generate revenue for the area, the same influx can just as easily spread the virus.

Nearly 70% of Puerto Rico’s population is currently vaccinated. Other COVID-19 stats for Puerto Rico can be found here.

Carlos Mercado, executive director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company, said he hopes the arrival of the ship brings Puerto Rico closer to a complete reopening of their tourism sector:

“We have other sectors that have already started a healthy recovery, such as hotel occupancy and air capacity, but the only missing link was the cruise ships,” Mercado said.  

“With the arrival of Carnival Mardi Gras, this process begins in terms of disembarkation after the agreements with the Department of Health and the cruise line.”

The Carnival Mardi Gras is set to make another three stops in San Juan this August. Mercado hopes the trips will generate upwards of $1.1 million.

Mardi Gras will return to Florida after departing from San Juan.

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