The Emerald Princess is one of two Princess Cruises ships slated to visit Yorktown over the next two summers. Some locals say it's way too large for their town. Photo: Princess Cruises

Locals Start Petition to Block Princess Cruise Line Visits to Yorktown

Princess Cruises is planning cruise stops in Yorktown, Virginia next summer, promising a tourism boost—but not everyone is happy about it. Bay Bulletin reported on the announcement back in February by the Canival-owned cruise line.

Now, a large grassroots citizen group called “Preserve Yorktown” is voicing opposition to Princess Cruises starting a two-year pilot historical cruise program in Virginia waters that includes visiting Yorktown.

At a planned forum in August at the American Revolution Museum in Yorktown, Princess Cruises officials detailed the program that would start in 2024 and attempted to address some of the concerns of local residents.

The cruise line’s proposal was introduced to some members of the York County Board of Supervisors in December 2022. Robert Hodson of Preserve Yorktown said that residents of Yorktown were only recently notified of the plan which he says presents transparency concerns and loss of faith in local government.

This graphic posted in the petition by Preserve Yorktown shows the group’s representation of the scale of Princess cruise ship compared to Yorktown landmarks.

Over 5,200 people have signed a petition opposing the cruise line coming to Yorktown. Hodson, A NASA engineer and resident of Yorktown, said his group fears that the cruise line could detrimentally impact the environment, interfere with historic shipwrecks at the bottom of York River and Chesapeake Bay and that large numbers of visitors to the small village could change the small-town culture of Yorktown.

Hodson and others fear that York County officials were “wined and dined” and sold on the economic advantages without considering all of the negative elements that come with a large cruise line company bringing a 204-foot vessel more than twice as tall as the Coleman (York River) Bridge and 2,200 visitors plus an 895-member crew into the small village.

Princess Cruises would stop in Yorktown for its rich historical experiences as part of a pilot program. Photo: Larry Chowning

At the forum in August, President of Princess Cruises, John Padgett said that the cruise line plans to visit Yorktown three times in 2024 and five times in 2025. The visits will be part of a new history-based tour package catering to guests that want to travel via ship to visit locations of historical significance.

The ship’s passenger capacity is 2,200 and about a third of the passengers stay onboard the ship at a given port. One third get off the ship and stay around the port town and a third get off and travel to nearby excursions, he said.

During three one-day visits in 2024, the ship will anchor well offshore to accommodate its 26-foot draft. Ninety passengers at a time will be shuttled to the publicly owned Yorktown waterfront, where buses will take them on excursions, said Padgett.

After the forum, York County District 4 supervisor Stephen Roane said in a “Princess Cruise Line Update” to his constituents, “Regardless of the possible benefits, the board and county staff will need to diligently ensure the cruise line’s visits are overall a positive experience for York County…That our marine environment doesn’t suffer, our unique culture and character isn’t disturbed and that the economic benefits outweigh the costs.”

Roane promised, “If at the end of this pilot program we find that the visits are not advantageous to York County then we will need to ask Princess Cruises to consider other ports. However, I am very optimistic that we can make this work to our benefit and I am excited to see what can come from this opportunity.”

Hodson, however, is not so sure. “This type of thing is New York and Miami scale—not Yorktown scale!” he said.

-Larry Chowning