SEATTLE – At least it wasn’t raining at the moment when Mary Calderon disembarked from the Royal Caribbean cruise ship on Thursday. Originally, her ship was scheduled to visit sunny Mexican beaches. Instead, the cold, rainy weather in the Pacific Northwest prompted Calderon, her daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend to buy fleece jackets.
“We came with jackets, but San Diego jackets. Not anything for rain. They were thin,” said Calderon, who lives in the Southern California city.
The three tourists were among scores of passengers from two cruise ships – one Royal Caribbean vessel and one from Carnival Cruise Lines – that diverted north to Seattle because of the swine flu scare in Mexico, and arrived here Thursday for a one-day stop.
More ships are expected to dock here in the next few weeks in response to the swine flu outbreak in Mexico, bringing welcome, unexpected cash to the Port of Seattle and businesses in the downtown area.
“More cruises is good news for the Port of Seattle,” said Peter McGraw, the port’s spokesman. “Having several thousand folks coming in here for the day and spending their money is great for shops, retailers and the local economy.”
For passengers arriving Thursday, the last-minute rerouting meant a change in itinerary and a change of scenery.
“At first I was (upset), but then we found out where we were going, and it was OK. These are places we haven’t been before. We’d already done the Mexican Riviera,” said Calderon, who was notified of the route change a few days before the departure date.
Because Seattle usually serves as the home port for cruise ships, the port didn’t have an estimate of how much money a one-day visit could bring to the city. In San Francisco, however, officials there estimate that day stops can generate $1 million for the city. Cruise ships can carry as many as 4,000 people, with staff included.
Cynthia Martinez, spokeswoman for Royal Caribbean, said ships will dock in Seattle every week through mid-June in response to the swine flu outbreak. She added that many passengers were upset, but that the company attempted to provide compensation to clients, including cruise credit and rescheduling of travels.
Royal Caribbean will visit San Francisco, Victoria, British Columbia and Seattle. Some of the ships will call at Astoria, Ore., instead of San Francisco. Both the Port of Seattle and the cruise line worked to figure out a schedule that works. Everything from the speed of the ship to the size of the ports has to be considered in mapping routes, Martinez said.
“We thought we’d be in our bikinis and bathing suits. Now we’re in the cold,” said Philipe Tabet, of Albuquerque, N.M., as he walked down the Seattle waterfront. His wife, Yolanda, donned an oversize sweater.
The Tabets were notified of the cruise’s reroute just a few days before the departure date, but the couple decided to go anyway because they’ve been to Mexico before, but never to Seattle.
“We just had to pack a little bit different, that’s all,” Tabet said.
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