Princess Cruises’ Diamond Princess ship officially returned to service Sunday, welcoming passengers for the first time since the pandemic shut down the cruise industry.
The vessel left from its new homeport in San Diego on a week-long cruise with stops in Loreto, La Paz, and Cabo San Lucas in Mexico, a spokesperson told USA TODAY by email. The ship was previously based in Japan.
“Homeporting Diamond Princess in a destination as remarkable as San Diego and now giving our west coast fans four convenient to drive California departure points to enjoy the “Original Love Boat” is an outstanding combination,” Princess president John Padgett, said in a news release.
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The ship will sail a mix of itineraries with stops along the coast of California, the Mexican Riviera and Hawaii, ranging between five and 16 days, through February 2023. Diamond Princess will also sail a round-trip 20-day Central America cruise from San Diego, departing Nov. 27, according to the release.
Diamond Princess’ return to service was previously delayed. In August, the cruise line canceled 11 sailings scheduled to take place on the ship from Sept. to Nov. due to staffing issues.
Diamond Princess saw early COVID-19 outbreak
Diamond Princess saw a large COVID outbreak in early 2020, and was quarantined in Yokohama, Japan. The outbreak resulted in more than a dozen deaths and over 700 cases, and became the subject of multiple documentaries.
One of those films, “Hell of a Cruise,” released on Peacock in September, highlighted the panic of the pandemic’s early days, centering on Diamond Princess and other impacted ships.
“We were fascinated because the Diamond Princess was the first superspreader event outside of China that we had any type of knowledge of,” director and executive producer Nick Quested told USA TODAY at the time of the release. “And, you know, it’s interesting, the doctors that went on the boat said, ‘We knew everything we needed to know about COVID at the end of the Diamond Princess.’ “
The vessel’s return comes as major cruise lines, including Princess, have dropped their remaining vaccination and testing requirements for many voyages.