'It feels different:' Why Galveston's cruise industry is optimistic ships will sail on July 3

GALVESTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The Port of Galveston said cruising will restart in July, but Carnival isn't as committed as it receives new CDC guidance.

WHEN WILL CRUISING RESUME?

On Friday, Port of Galveston director, Rodger Rees, announced Carnival will set sail on July 3 from Galveston. It would be the first cruise from the U.S. since the pandemic started.

ABC13 reached out to Carnival. The cruise line said it's hopeful to resume by July, and it's canceled all other cruises outside of Texas and Florida through the end of July.

Jennifer Zaragoza traveled to Galveston to celebrate her 30th anniversary. She wished it was on a cruise, but is hopeful following the port's announcement.

"It's seeming like it is," Zaragoza said. "I don't want to get too hopeful, but this has been the most exciting news that it might get started."

WILL PASSENGERS HAVE TO WEAR A MASK?

The CDC has said passengers, whether they've been vaccinated or not, will have to wear a mask and practice social distancing. That was guidance posted by the agency prior to last week's announcement that fully vaccinated individuals no longer have to wear a mask.

Future passenger, Peri Taylor, hopes the mask mandate changes before ships set sail. "No way would I go on a cruise if I had to wear a mask," Taylor said.

WILL PASSENGERS HAVE TO BE VACCINATED?

In recent guidance, the CDC said 98% of cruise workers, and 95% of cruise passengers, must be vaccinated. However, in guidance released over the weekend for simulated cruises, which cruise lines must do before receiving approval, the CDC updated boarding processes for passengers based on the vaccine. For fully vaccinated passengers, they don't need to take a COVID-19 test, and can board even if they're exhibiting symptoms or recently exposed to someone with COVID-19.

As for unvaccinated passengers, they must take a COVID-19 test, and may not be able to board if exhibiting symptoms, or exposed to someone with the virus within the past 14 days.

Some passengers said they're willing to get the vaccine if it means they can board.

"If we had to just to go, it's a probably," Adam Zaragoza said.

SHUTDOWN IMPACTING MORE THAN THE CRUISE LINES

Roughly 3,638 jobs in the Galveston area are tied to the cruise industry. According to the Port of Galveston, the ships generate $115 million a year into the local economy.

A revenue stream Charles Tompkins is waiting to tap into. He's the COO of Port Parking.

The business used to make $75 per vehicle for thousands of parking spots. But for more than a year, the spots have sat empty.

"I have to tell you, we've sold houses," Tompkins explained. "We sold properties. We sold a lot of our things we thought we never would sell."

"IT FEELS DIFFERENT"

The cruise lines have hinted at restarting in the past, but Tompkins said this time it feels different. Recently, Carnival brought ships to the Galveston port and vaccinated workers.

Tompkins said he's also met with local industry experts, and after no cruises for a year, he's optimistic the first ship sets sail on July 3.

"If they don't sail it'll be devastating," Tompkins said. "Not just to the industry. Not just to the Carnival cruisers, all Facebook groups they have out there. It's going to be chaos."

In case you're wondering, you can still book a room for the July 3 cruise. It's a 7-day trip that travels to the western Caribbean. Prices start at $979 per person.

SEE ALSO: Royal Caribbean plans first fully vaccinated cruises from Israel

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