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Cruise ships diverted to SF over flu fears

May 2, 2009 1:15:54 AM PDT
The H1N1 flu outbreak is prompting a diversion of cruise ships from Mexico to San Francisco and that means hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars, could come from tourists.

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The Carnival Splendor pulled in around noon on Friday fairly unexpectedly, but its 3,000 passengers were not unwelcomed.

Here is a surprise visit that nobody at the Port of San Francisco is complaining about, unless they arrived on it and had hoped to be in Mexico.

"We saw Cabo, that's it. Turned around, Got out of there fast," said Cathy Nukushina, a tourist.

You might call it the H1N1 flu landfall windfall. Cruise ships with thousands of passengers are diverting to San Francisco, rather than risking their health south of the border.

"We decided to pull all our ships out of Mexico just to be on the safe side," said Capt. Per Krisstofferson, of the Royal Caribbean Mariner of The Sea.

Already, the number of cruise ships scheduled to call in San Francisco, this month, has doubled from nine to 18, and there will likely be more. The port estimates each to bring as $1 million in business.

"I think we get 90-percent local, and 10-percent tourism," said Alan Sproul, a restaurant manager.

But now, it might flip-flop. At Pier 23 Restaurant, Sproul watched the Carnival Splendor pull in early Friday afternoon, right across the way. And he already had tourists, like Larru Cornell and Gail Richards from Tuscon.

"Sand and sea to rain and clouds," says Richards.

Tourists spent more than $8 billion in San Francisco in 2007. That number dropped in 2008 and had declined again. This is a boom for shops and museums.

"We go with the intention of finding what we would not find anywhere else. It's retail therapy," says Paul Burrows, a tourist.

But many of these foul weather tourists were not happy. Royal Caribbean offered $150 to spend on shipboard souvenirs. Carnival offered a future cruise for passengers who left, since this cold spring day in San Francisco, could not replace a warm one down south.

The $1 million a ship can bring in can go to various items such as: $15,000 in labor, $7,000 in waste management services, and $200,000 if it fills up with fuel.

SWINE FLU: Resources, info, links & answers
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SWINE FLU: Map of probable Bay Area swine flu cases

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