NORFOLK, Va. - Norwegian Cruise Lines ships are visiting the Mermaid City on back-to-back days for the first time since the return of cruise ships in February.
The Norwegian Gem arrived on Sunday, April 10, with the Norwegian Gateway set to follow on Monday.
Nauticus museum, which operates the Half Moone Cruise & Celebration Center where the ships dock, says the two ships will bring a combined 5,000 passengers to Downtown Norfolk.
"These guests spend about $125 each while they're in port, and that's real economic impact for this region," said Stephen Kirkland, the executive director for Nauticus.
It's part of what Kirkland calls the busiest season cruise season in Nauticus history, with an estimated 180,000 passengers predicted to arrive by year's end — compared to 60,000 the year before the pandemic, he says.
For those counting, it's a potential $22,500,000 injected into the local economy.
The already busy Sunday staff at Downtown restaurant The Stockpot Norfolk tells News 3 a cruise ship arrival is a guarantee it will get even busier.
"We definitely have had to make some adjustments on our end with staffing and the hours we come in and stuff like that, but it's a good thing," said Mackenzie Miller, a head server at The Stockpot, who enjoys meeting the new faces. "Getting to be a local, sharing what you know is pretty fun."
But not all businesses will get the same opportunity. Many are closed Sundays or Mondays or open later than when the ships arrive.
Kirkland admits the "rolling out of the red carpet" could improve and there are plans to do so.
"We really need to get our sea legs back as a community and remember that these are passengers, these are visitors coming on these cruise ships and they're here to do all the things that you might want to do when you're on vacation," he said. "We want to make sure everyone is ready."
That starts with his own staff, Kirkland said. Nauticus is normally closed Mondays but will be open for the Norwegian Getaway's arrival — which Kirkland calls the beginning of the spring cruise season; ships docking multiple times a week through the summer and for longer hours.
"It's just getting the word out that these ships are very real. They're coming to our waterfront," he said.
Click HERE for a full 2022 schedule of visiting cruise ships to Norfolk.