What had been tapped to be a momentous summer for Port Milwaukee's cruise ship traffic has taken a slight turn due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Guilford, Connecticut-based Pearl Seas Cruises
has delayed the start of its 2020 Great Lakes cruise season until July, Port Milwaukee director Adam Schlicht announced on Friday.
The company’s 210-passenger Pearl Mist was originally slated to make its first port call of the season in Milwaukee in mid-June. The delay is in accordance with current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance and no sail order, which was renewed April 9.
Schlicht said that no other cruise partners of Port Milwaukee have made changes to their summer schedule as of Friday. But considering the impact COVID-19 has already made on the cruise industry, that could change.
“The port and its cruise operator partners place the highest priority on passenger safety," he said. "Understandably, the ongoing pandemic may necessitate further rescheduling of other passenger cruises."
Pearl Seas last year selected Port Milwaukee as a turnaround port for its 8- and- 12-day cruises between Milwaukee and Toronto. During the next two cruise seasons, 20 Pearl Mist trips are expected to begin or end in Milwaukee.
Prior to the pandemic, the Great Lakes cruise industry was about to hit its stride, and Milwaukee was positioned to capitalize on the growth. In 2019, cruise ships made a total of 10 port calls in Milwaukee, bringing 3,214 visitors to the city. That was up from four port calls in 2017 and in 2018. This year, the port is expecting 14 vessel visits to bring more than 4,000 passengers to the area.
“Port Milwaukee has seen significant increases in cruise passenger visits over the past year, and I remain optimistic that additional cruises companies and itineraries will include Port Milwaukee in the future," said Schlicht. "The Port and its tourism partners in the Milwaukee Cruise Collaborative will continue to promote Milwaukee as an attractive destination for American and international cruise lines."
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