SEATTLE (KOMO) – Cruise season is officially underway.
The Norwegian Bliss set out from Seattle on Saturday on a week-long excursion to Alaska.
Businesses downtown and along Seattle's waterfront, like many other cities around the U.S., depend on tourists to help them stay afloat. Tourism dropped drastically during the coronavirus pandemic, mainly because there weren't any cruises.
But with the Norwegian Bliss docked at Pier 66, it starts a much-needed boost to small businesses.
Along with economic vitality, officials say staying safe from COVID-19 is still one of their top priorities. All guests over 12 are required to be fully vaccinated and take a test within two days of sailing out of Seattle. They also have significantly improved filtration systems on board.
"Seeing giant cruise ships like the one behind me here in Elliott Bay, the Norwegian Bliss, not only symbolizes that cruise season is back but that there's a much-needed economic boom that's about to make its way to the Seattle waterfront," one official said.
For places like Pike Place Market, these last couple years have been painful.
"It was tremendously difficult to maintain a business without guests," store owner Colleen Wilkie said.
Places along Seattle's waterfront crave tourists to help stay afloat.
"Having the cruise ship industry back in port on the Seattle waterfront is such a relief to my business," Wilkie said.
Most come from all over for the chance to set sail in the city, and their wallets make a billion dollar difference to the city's economy.
Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell welcomed the start of the season at Pier 66, along with the Port of Seattle and Norwegian Cruise Lines.