By Elaine Williams

Of the Tribune

A vessel in the American Cruise Lines’ fleet docked at the Port of Lewiston over the weekend, marking a resumption of an important part of the hospitality industry in the area.

Overnight passenger cruise boats brought $4 million and 19,000 passengers to the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley in 2019, but COVID-19 prevented any from coming to the region last year.

The vessels follow routes on the Columbia and Snake rivers, stopping in places such as Portland, Ore., and Astoria.

Typically the boats stay at the Port of Clarkston, but American Cruise Lines used the Port of Lewiston because of a state of Washington ban.

That restriction is expected to be lifted this week when the state of Washington will begin permitting boats if all passengers and crew members are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, said Port of Clarkston Manager Wanda Keefer.

“It feels like we’re getting much closer to normal right now,” she said.

The Port of Clarkston hasn’t yet received exact dates for this year, Keefer said, but she expects American Cruise Lines will shift back to Clarkston soon and be joined by American Queen Steamboat Co. later in the season, as well as others.

Like Keefer, Lewiston Port Manager David Doeringsfeld believes that cruise boats will only use the facility he oversees for a short time.

Just one more cruise boat docking is on the schedule at this time for the Port of Lewiston, another American Cruise Lines vessel that is anticipated to arrive today and leave midday Wednesday, Doeringsfeld said.

“We’re filling in a temporary role, while the restrictions don’t allow docking at the Port of Clarkston,” he said. “The cruise boat industry contributes substantially to the (L-C Valley) economy.”

Williams may be contacted at ewilliam@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2261.