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Cruise calls to Norfolk 'an economic shot-in-the-arm' for city

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Passengers saying Norfolk call was smooth, businesses looking at influx of people

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The unexpected changes in cruise ship schedules are an economic shot-in-the-arm for Norfolk.

Sunday, passengers who had to divert from Baltimore because of the bridge collapse said it was smooth sailing.

And now, even more ships are heading to Hampton Roads.

Norfolk's attitude is whatever we can do to help. So Royal Caribbean will bring in "Vision of the Seas" Thursday morning with 2,500 people getting off, and by 11:30 a.m., 2,500 will start boarding to go on to begin their own cruise.

Stephen Kirkland, executive director of Nauticus, said he had been talking with Royal Carribean since last Tuesday, when the container ship Dali collided with the Francis Scott Key Bridge.

Thursday, Royal Caribbean and Kirkland decided to divert the cruise ship the Vision of the Seas from Baltimore to here at Nauticus.

"So, there were a lot of logistic issues that they had to work out at their end,," Kirkland said, "and we had to work out at our end, but we are happy to support them. We are happy to help."

And make no mistake, you do not just change a port of call, which is defined as "an intermediate port where ships customarily stop for supplies, repairs or transshipment of cargo, and a stop included on an itinerary."

"It is so much more complicated just opening the terminal doors," Kirkland said. "You have got to coordinate with Customs and Border Protection, with the maritime community, with the stevedore services, with thousands and thousands and thousands of pieces of luggage."

What usually takes a month to confirm a port of call in this case took days.

"I cannot impress upon you enough that this is not just a Nauticus effort," Kirkland said. "This is a maritime community and citywide effort, and we're proud to support it.

Benefitting the most — Granby Street businesses such as the Hilton Norfolk The Main.

Down the street, we found Jai Brown, general Manager at Jack Brown's Beer & Burger Joint.

"it's just an influx of business up and down Granby Street," Brown said. "So, it is our anniversary day on top of all the cruises coming in," Brown said. "It's going to be amazing. It is going to be busy though."

Said Kirkland: "Well, we will have 2,500 passengers on April 4. We'll have somewhere around 50 to 55 buses that will take those guests back to their vehicles in Baltimore, and then we will load the vessel again for another cruise that same day this coming Thursday."

Those new passengers that will be boarding are encouraged to park in the MacArthur Center South parking lot.

"We have pulled the entire community together," Kirkland said. "I mean, from the passenger and visitor services side to the maritime side, I think we are in great shape. I cannot promise flawless calls just because of the nature of getting these guests back to Baltimore, but we can promise you that we will work as hard as possible to turn these ships as efficiently as possible."

There is no doubt, Thursday morning Norfolk will be a happening place — getting people off the cruise ship and then getting them back on.

In times of crisis and tragedy the operating word at Nauticus is cooperation.

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