NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A familiar sight is returning to the Elizabeth River this year as cruise ships make their way to Hampton Roads after a pause in operations due to the pandemic.

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Norwegian Cruise Lines’ ship, the 1,000-foot-long Norwegian Getaway, docked at Nauticus Sunday afternoon and embarked for the Bahamas Sunday evening.

Nauticus Development & Marketing Director Rehn West says this return has been a long time coming.

“When the pandemic hit, cruises came to a halt,” she said. “This is huge for the city. We’re so excited to see cruise operations moving again and we’re just excited to welcome the passengers to our great city.”

The Getaway has limited capacity and the cruise liner has implemented a vaccine requirement for all passengers, a sign that a full return to normalcy isn’t on the immediate horizon on the high seas.

“This ship that we’ll see soon dock here in Norfolk traditionally would have 4,000 passengers, but they’re limiting their guest counts so we will see about 2,000 passengers come through Norfolk today,” she said.

This may be the first ship to come this season, but they’re expecting many more ships to come during the 2022 cruise season, something West says could seriously help the local economy.

“We’re estimating it’s 20 to 25 plus cruise ships,” she said. “That’s a huge economic driver for the city and they say on average, each cruise passenger will spend $125 in the city and throughout Hampton Roads.”

Nauticus also anticipates welcoming more than 150,000 total passengers and 62,000 crew members in 2022.

As passengers took some time to enjoy the Mermaid City before embarking on their main trip to the Bahamas, West says they’re excited to just welcome people back.

“Having to close last year for the pandemic and then slowly reopen, this is kind of the last piece to the puzzle to welcome everyone to our campus,” she said.

Watch a timelapse of the ship arriving in Norfolk in the player above.

Make sure to check with your cruise liner about their COVID-19 guidelines before boarding.