Mar. 28—More than 12,000 overnight cruise boat passengers are expected to visit Clarkston this year, marking the end of a coronavirus-induced hiatus of an important part of the region's tourist industry.
While that projection means numbers will be dramatically down compared to the 19,000 on the route between Portland, Ore., and Clarkston in 2019, it's a good start after the boats canceled all their trips for 2020, Port of Clarkston Manager Wanda Keefer said.
The vessels could be back as early as April or no later than June.
Queen of the West, American Pride and the American Harmony operated by American Cruise Lines and the American Empress run by the American Steamboat Company are among the boats on the roster for the coming season along the Columbia and Snake rivers, Keefer said. Other cruise lines have made inquiries.
The average age of the passengers is 70, putting them among the first groups of people eligible to be vaccinated for COVID-19.
"It's just a matter of time," Keefer said. "The protections in place by cruise lines exceed those being practiced by other visitors, such as those arriving by car or by plane."
Multiple daily temperature checks, isolation areas for anyone believed to have COVID-19 and on-board medical personnel are among the precautions that have been introduced.
"Everybody is looking for normal," Keefer said. "The cruise boats being back is one of those signs."
Williams may be contacted at email@example.com or (208) 848-2261.