Key West residents voted to ban large cruise ships from docking — whenever cruises resume

  • On Election Day, Key West passed three referendums that prevent larger cruise ships from docking on the island.
  • Smaller, more upscale boats are still able to dock at Key West. 
  • Cruises have been heavily impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, and the first trial cruise to set sail is already reporting positive cases. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

When travel and cruising pick back up again, the residents of Key West want a smaller part in it.

The Points Guy reported that on Election Day, residents passed three referendums that will significantly restrict the types of cruises that can dock on the island.

Cruise ships with more than 1,300 passengers will no longer be able to dock on the island, the limit of visitors from ships is now 1,500 a day, and priority for docking will be given for those with the top health and environmental records, according to the Monroe County Board of Elections.

"The people of Key West are thrilled to finally have some common-sense restrictions in place after 30 years of unregulated cruising that has damaged our environment, hampered economic growth, and threatened public health," Arlo Haskell, treasurer for the Key West Committee for Safer Cleaner Ships, told USA Today.

The referendums go into effect immediately, USA Today reported, after speaking with Key West City Clerk Cheri Smith.

The committee was formed as a way to encourage residents to learn more about the cruise industry and how it affects life on the island. In "The Impacts of the Cruise Ship Industry on the Quality of Life in Key West," or the Murray report, while cruise ship passengers make up 50% of total visitors to the island, they only spend an average of $32, while other tourists spend closer to $550 when visiting, according to Lonely Planet.

The loss of Key West ports could mean an even harder recovery for the cruise industry, which didn't receive any stimulus money at the beginning of the pandemic, as most cruise lines are incorporated outside the US.

These measures will prevent even the smallest ships from larger cruise lines — such as Carnival, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Disney Cruise Line — from docking on the island, as reported by The Points Guy.

For now, it's still unclear as to when cruises will set sail again. While the CDC has lifted its no-sail order, the first test cruise has already reported positive cases.

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