Cruise ships to Cleveland still on hold due to Canadian pandemic border closure

Published: Jul. 14, 2021 at 8:27 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - The coronavirus pandemic halted cruise ship trips from Canada to Cleveland and the Great Lakes.

And with the Canadian border still closed, that may not change any time soon.

For some people, their first view of Cleveland is from a cruise ship.

The Port of Cleveland welcomes tourists to the shores of Lake Erie.

“Most are from Europe, other parts of the world. So it’s really been a good showcase of Cleveland,” said Jade Davis, vice president of external affairs with the Port of Cleveland.

Cruising the Great Lakes was just starting to gain steam.

Tourists from as far away as Europe boarded ships in Canada, eventually making a stop here.

Cruise ships started docking at the Port of Cleveland in 2017 with just nine ships.

That went up to 22 ships in 2018 and 28 ships in 2019.

In 2020, 40 ships were supposed to dock here, but the pandemic changed that to zero.

“So what we have not seen, is that pick back up at all. And part of that is due to current closure of the U.S. border to travelers, things like that,” Davis said.

They are not expecting any cruise ships this year either.

Davis isn’t sure when things will get back to normal.

“I think there’s still interest from the cruise lines, interest from the public of people wanting to get back to cruising as soon as possible,” he said.

Two years without cruises is bringing an economic loss to the Cleveland area.

Tourists visit places like the Rock Hall, our restaurants, and shops.

In 2019, the Port estimated about 4,000 cruise ship passengers landed here.

You can watch that story here.

Davis said more cruise ship lines are showing interest, which could bring more people in the future.

“If you’re looking at 10-20,000 people a year spending a couple hundred dollars each, you can see how that trickles down in the economy and supports other people as well,” Davis said.

The new U.S. Customs facility at the Port of Cleveland.
The new U.S. Customs facility at the Port of Cleveland.(WOIO)

We also learned their brand new U.S. Customs facility hasn’t been used yet.

International visitors will pass through here for passport checks.

Davis hopes it will be a welcoming first impression of Cleveland.

“It’s not much, but it’s a big step in bringing people to Cleveland, for many of those folks, first trip to the United States,” he said.

The new U.S. Customs building cost about $650,000, paid for by the Port of Cleveland.

They paid for it because they said it’s an economic benefit for the city.

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