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BREMERTON — The American Constellation cruise ship will return to Bremerton in 2021, Port of Bremerton officials announced last week, almost a year after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the international cruise industry.?

This year will mark the third time that the Connecticut-based American Cruise Lines has included Bremerton on its tour of the Puget Sound — the six-deck, 175-passenger American Constellation made stops in Bremerton in 2018 and 2019?but was forced to cancel in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.?

“We were very excited, we’ve enjoyed their visits,” Port of Bremerton marine facilities director James Weaver said.?

The port visit is part of the cruise liner’s “Grand Puget Sound” cruise, which begins and ends in Seattle and includes stops in the San Juan Islands, Port Townsend, Poulsbo and Tacoma. In 2021, the American Constellation is scheduled to stop in Bremerton on May 15, Sept. 23, Oct. 3 and Oct. 13.

American Cruise Lines resumed operation in March 2021 and will operate at 75% capacity through the spring, according to the company’s website. Travelers are “strongly encouraged” but not required to be fully vaccinated before boarding. Riders who are not fully vaccinated will be required to get a COVID-19 test within four days of the start of the cruise.?

A medical officer will be present and able to conduct COVID-19 tests onboard the ship, according to the website. Masks will be required and several staterooms will be kept empty and sanitized in case a passenger needs to be quarantined.

The return of the cruise ship is good news for the city and downtown businesses in particular, Port of Bremerton CEO Jim Rothlin said. The American Constellation docks at the port’s breakwater in Bremerton.?

“It provides an opportunity for these businesses, especially when things are slow for them right now,” Rothlin said. “As long as they have their doors open and are willing to take them in, these people are willing to come in and spend money, buy souvenirs and learn about what we have to offer here.”?

In 2019, almost all of the passengers on the American Constellation came from out of state or out of the country. It was the first trip to the Pacific Northwest for many of them, Weaver said.?

“We take it for granted here but the beauty of our local towns and the uniqueness of our visits, it’s quite a draw for people that are not from the Pacific Northwest,” Weaver said.?

In 2019, the two most popular activities with American Constellation tourists were the USS Turner Joy Museum and the Puget Sound Naval Museum, Weaver said.?

The USS Turner Joy was closed for all but two days in 2020 and reopened on March 26, according to John Hanson, president of the Bremerton Historic Ships Association. Tourists from the American Constellation have provided a big boost in sales for the museum between traditionally popular days like Memorial Day and Labor Day.?

“It’s another indication of things starting to return to what we used to expect, so we’re excited about it,” Hanson said.?

“There’s a nice economic impact to the city, not just us.”?

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