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'The demand’s there' | Galveston business owners confident cruise traffic will return

Galveston’s port is the only one in Texas, and those big ships bring big business.

GALVESTON, Texas — Two asymptomatic passengers onboard the Celebrity Millennium cruise ship are isolating after testing positive for COVID-19. Cruise officials say that ship was sailing with fully vaccinated crew and passengers.

So what precautions are in place for people sailing from Galveston?

At least 95 percent of passengers will be fully vaccinated on Carnival’s cruises from Galveston. Carnival officials believe they’re allowed to require it, even under the state’s new ban on "vaccine passports."

Company officials say there will be testing and mask requirements for the few unvaccinated passengers, like kids under 12.

On Friday afternoon in Galveston, Charles Tompkins and his son Jason were hard at work outside at EZ Cruise Parking to get ready for the return of cruises, just weeks away.

The spaces at their family-run businesses have been empty since February 2020, when cruises stopped because of the pandemic.

“Last year for all of us has been brutal,” Tompkins said.

The word he used to describe the return of Carnival Vista on July 3: Euphoric.

“July 3 is gonna be biblical, hopefully, for all of us,” he said. “We really need these people back.”

Some nearby businesses did not survive the pandemic.

Galveston’s port is the only one in Texas, and those big ships bring big business.

The Port of Galveston says in 2019, there were $1.6 billion in direct cruise industry expenditures. They note 1.3 million passengers and crew members visited the town and spent $125 million while there.

Now that cruises have the green light, some people KHOU 11 met on the Strand are ready to set sail.

“It seems like it’d be a fun family trip to do,” said Brandon Cesario.

Others plan to make memories a different way.

“Maybe somewhere down the line, but right now, I’m just flying,” said Kim.

Tompkins says he doesn’t believe reports like the one about the Celebrity Millennium will stop people from filling up his parking spots and the ship just blocks away.

“The demand’s there,” said Tompkins, noting many people are fully vaccinated. “The emails that we’ve received on this has been staggering. They’re ready to send their kids off to grandpa and grandma or put their kids in summer camp, or whatever it might be, and get back on the ship. A lot of people want to just bring the entire family and get away from the rigmarole of being stuck at home.”

Carnival did not respond to KHOU 11’s requests by phone and email requesting more details on passenger testing or protocol for any positive COVID-19 cases onboard the ship.

Carnival will restart cruises from Galveston July 3 with Vista.

Passengers who decide they’d rather not sail can rebook by Monday, June 14.

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