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The last ship to dock at Pier 90 on Hell’s Kitchen’s west side was the USNS Comfort in April 2020. Although the US Navy’s hospital ship remained mostly empty throughout its stay, it represented the height of the COVID-19 crisis in New York City.

Now, in a sign of the city’s comeback, Manhattan Cruise Terminal at Pier 88 and Pier 90 is preparing to host ships once again. As amNY reported, the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) is working with Norwegian Cruise Line and Crystal Cruises to resume sailings in late September. 

The Norwegian Breakway and Celebrity Eclipse pass on the Hudson River in 2016. Photo: Phil O’Brien.

The plans were first revealed during an EDC board of directors meeting on June 22. Both Norwegian and Crystal will enter into agreements with the city and state officials to follow updated CDC guidelines that were released in May. These include vaccination mandates for all crew and passengers, as well as testing, masking, social distancing, cleaning, and sanitizing protocols. The same standards will need to be met at destination ports as well. 

Norwegian — which reportedly lost more than $6 billion in revenue so far during the pandemic — has already scheduled its first trip to Bermuda on September 26. We walked by the piers yesterday and saw dredgers at work getting the docks ready. The EDC expects 50-60 cruise departures by June 30, 2022, the end of the city’s current fiscal year. 

The USNS Comfort was the last ship to dock at Pier 90 at the height of the pandemic in New York. Photo: Lynnette Blanche.

Last week, the giant Oasis of the Seas was the first cruise ship to sail along on the Hudson River in 18 months. The ship embarked on a test sailing out of the Cape Liberty cruise port in Bayonne, New Jersey on August 22. Under the new guidelines, ships need to make trial voyages before they can receive a Conditional Sailing Certificate and bring on paying passengers. These trial runs are designed to allow operators to “stress test” their COVID-19 protocols. 

The Oasis of the Seas was the first cruise ship to be seen on the Hudson last week after 18 months. Photo: Gary Hershorn.

The news is a boost for the cruise industry, which suffered enormous losses, but its revival will have a far-reaching impact. Renewed activity at the piers will be welcomed by Hell’s Kitchen businesses on 11th Avenue that were hit hard when the area lost ad agencies Ogilvy and Mother during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reported today that 26 passengers and crew tested positive for the coronavirus aboard the Carnival Vista cruise ship — one passenger, a 77-year-old woman, later died.

The Belize tourism board (where the ship docked after sailing from Galveston, Texas) reported that more than 96 percent of passengers and all but one of the crew were fully vaccinated.

Last week, the CDC issued new advice to recommend travelers who are at increased risk for severe illness avoid cruise ship travel, regardless of vaccination status.

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