The Empress of the Seas docked in Key West on Sunday, marking the first time a cruise ship has been to the Keys since Hurricane Irma struck Sept. 10.
The 878 passengers and 600 crew members were greeted by Key West Mayor Craig Cates once they arrived at Key West’s Pier B, one of three port facilities adjacent to the island city's historic downtown area.
"Being a tourist-based economy, we need our visitors to come to town, and that is our primary economy," Cates said in a media release. "They come here to see our beautiful resources, our beautiful town and architecture -- and the servers, the bartenders, the hostesses, everybody, depends on them.The people need to go back to work, and this is a huge part of our recovery."
While Hurricane Irma caused varying degrees of damag to the chain of islands, Key West and Key Largo reported the least damage.
With electricity and water restoration almost complete, Monroe County and tourism officials are set to discuss formal opening dates for visitors to return to the Keys on Monday.