The Island Princess will makes its stops in Norfolk instead of Yorktown this summer, after some residents opposed the large ship coming to its smaller port town. Photo: ThelmLou/cruisecritic.com

Princess Cruises Pulls Out of Planned Yorktown Stops Amid Controversy

A two-year pilot program to bring Princess cruise ships to Yorktown, Virginia has been called off after a group of residents assembled to fight the plan. They argued that, while tourism is generally a good thing, the scale of the cruise ships was just too large for the quaint Yorktown waterfront.

Instead of launching a historical cruise pilot program calling on Yorktown this summer, Carnival-owned Princess Cruise Line will move its planned stops to Norfolk. Large cruise ships already come and go from downtown Norfolk’s Half Moone Cruise Terminal, located adjacent to the Nauticus marine science center and the floating battleship museum, the USS Wisconsin

Princess confirmed the change to Chesapeake Bay Magazine, saying in a statement, “To ensure our guests experience legendary Virginian hospitality as they explore the region’s significant historical contributions to American history, Princess is confirming Norfolk on the published itinerary for Island Princess and its three new calls to the Commonwealth this summer.” No Princess cruises are currently scheduled for Yorktown in future years, either.

Back in September 2023 we reported on mounting opposition to the plan from a grassroots organization called Preserve Yorktown, who started a petition to keep large cruise ships out of the historic waterfront town.

Signs like these were posted around the Yorktown waterfront, sending a clear message. Photo: Preserve Yorktown

In its change.org petition, the group says it welcomes tourism opportunities. “Tourism has always been a part of Yorktown and smaller, appropriately-sized, cruise ships visit Yorktown regularly – it is the scale of these massive ships that is inappropriate.”

They go on to point out that even the smallest Princess ships would dwarf the town’s waterfront, at twice the height of the Coleman Bridge. The group also raised questions about potential pollution from emissions and contaminated waste.

The York County government says Princess notified county officials of its move to Norfolk with the same explanation we received: that the company wanted to ensure its guests “experience legendary Virginian hospitality”.

In response, Interim County Administrator Mark Bellamy said, “York County works year round to welcome visitors who wish to experience our part in the nation’s history as well as our fine dining, shops, events, and hospitality… We hope the collaboration between Norfolk and Princess Cruises is a mutually successful one and also that the ship passengers have wonderful vacations where they make lifelong memories of their travels to Virginia.”

While Preserve Yorktown is happy about the change in direction, the group is continuing its petition drive. In a statement, they say, “We continue to stand against the mega-cruise industry. The cruise industry continues to expand in Virginia and we have not yet received assurances that they will not try again.”