FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla .– As the cruise returns, South Florida ports are hiring.
The Port of Palm Beach recently hosted a job fair seeking receptionists and porters, among other positions.
MORE: Florida Cruise Returns Amid Pandemic; Here’s what you need to know
Port Everglades terminals are still empty and crowded, but there are signs it won’t stay that way for long.
Celebrity and Disney ships are now docked in port, and Johnnie Dixon couldn’t be happier.
“We lost about 1.4 million hours of work,” Dixon said.
Dixon is the president of Local 1526 of the Union of Longshoremen in Fort Lauderdale, which represents baggage handlers.
On a normal day before the pandemic, Dixon would have nearly 500 people at the port to move baggage, equipment and supplies for the ships. All of these people are now eager to get back to work.
“[They are] extremely anxious. They called me every day, ”Dixon said. “During the shutdown, some of them called me crying to try to figure out how to pay their mortgages, pay their rent, keep food on the table, so it’s been 15 difficult months. “
MORE: Legal battles brew as cruise returns to Florida
It has also been a difficult 15 months for Andrew Garnett’s company, Special Needs Group, which supplies wheelchairs and scooters to ship passengers.
During the pandemic, he said his workforce had grown from 35 to seven.
“We had someone who works on the phone show up at the office last week on Friday saying, ‘I know things are starting. I want you to know that I am ready. Let me know, ”Garnett said.
He and others related to the cruise industry are now focused on getting back to work as ships begin to sail with limited capacity.
They are among the last workers to return to work, which the rest of the country has already done.
“As things start to normalize, we hope to increase quickly. I think November will probably be the time when that really increases,” Garnett said.
“I expect my members to work on cruise ships, but not in a setting that we are used to when ships are 100% occupied. It will be a slow process, but something is better than nothing,” Dixon said.
As the ships prepare to sail again, there is a new optimism for those who depend on the ships that they will return to see a steady paycheck. They just hope the passengers will return.