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Clipper, Argosy Cruises in Seattle prepare to start sailing again

The Clipper announced it will resume service with sailings to the San Juan Islands and whale watching cruises on May 28. Argosy will resume daily harbor cruises.

SEATTLE — The Clipper and Argosy Cruises are coming back into service in what is an optimistic sign for Seattle’s waterfront, and large cruise ships may not be far behind.

The Clipper announced it will resume service, after a 14 month hiatus, with sailings to the San Juan Islands and whale watching cruises on May 28. Argosy said it is also resuming five daily harbor cruises on the same day, with a locks cruise as well on June 18.

For the Clipper, it has been a long and painful ride to this point.

“It's been one of the most difficult times in our history, I've been here 34 years,” said Clipper CEO David Gudgel, who had to reduce staff from a peak of 200 to just eight employees. “We’re pretty excited to as we say start making smoke and bubbles again.”

The Clipper’s issues have been related to the health and safety crisis, as well as the continuing border closure. The “Victoria Clipper” is the bread and butter of the business, but was a victim of the pandemic dynamic. It is considered a small craft that doesn’t fall under the same category as larger cruise ships.

Those vessels, which brought 1.2 million people to Seattle in 2019, have also been absent during the pandemic. Transport Canada already signaled that the lucrative Alaska trips would not be allowed in 2021. But a bill, approved by the U.S. Senate, and sponsored by Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski, would eliminate a years old penalty of foreign vessels passing through two U.S. ports.

The legislation has prompted optimism inside the Port of Seattle offices that at least some cruise ships could port here in July or August of this year. 

Individual lines are also suggesting they’ll only allow vaccinated passengers on board, or require rapid testing of children. There were 217 vessel stops in Seattle in 2019, according to the Port.

Gudgel said his company has even floated the idea of a seafaring clinic, much like the Clipper did in 2004 when flu vaccines were in short supply.

But in the meantime, it will be good to be sailing again.

“We're pretty excited,” he said.