SAN FRANCISCO - Fleet Week in San Francisco is officially underway. Navy ships are arriving into the bay getting ready for visitors.
The guided missile destroyer Shoup was the first to make it into the bay on Sunday. Fleet Week this year is a big deal since it's the only Fleet Week nationwide of 2021.
The Shoup was the first of four Navy ships to make it to the shores of San Francisco to kick off this year's in-person festivities. The event had to go virtual last year due to COVID.
U.S. Navy Lt. Joe Pfaff says the Navy had to protect the public and keep the ships ready to serve.
"Once we have a, what we referred to as a COVID bubble formed, that we did maintain that readiness and maintain that preparedness so we could actually do our operations," said Lt. Joe Pfaff from the US Navy. "So, virtual was the really the only way we could go last year."
This year the in-person tours can resume, visitors will be required to wear masks while on board. Fleet week in San Francisco is the only in-person Fleet Week nationwide this year, and sailors and marines say they're happy to be here in the city by the Bay.
"Being the only Fleet Week for the last two years, um… a lot of excitement," said Lt. Pfaff. "We're happy to be out here again. Happy to bring our Navy to you, and it's just going to make this Fleet Week in 2021 that much more special."
The ships are expected to be a major draw. In years past Fleet Week has attracted more than a million visitors to the city.
Aquarium of the Bay CEO George Jacob says that's good news for attractions along San Francisco's waterfront.
"The regional tourism, regional traffic has actually shot up and our numbers are better than 2019 numbers from the same time, which is really surprising and encouraging," said Jacob. "Events like Fleet Week definitely bring in more energy and we'd like to harness that energy and do it safely."
In fact, the Aquarium is already selling tickets for a Fleet Week watch party, including access to their balcony. "Hopefully we'll have great weather like we did last weekend and you're going to see the Blue Angels shoot right by, from what I understand when they're flying upside down you can actually see them in the cockpit," said Philip Keeling from the Aquarium of the Bay.
Visitors to San Francisco say they're already watching some of the preparations. "It's been great," said Tabitha Heins. "There are so many people out here too. It's good to see."
Visitors say traffic was already a challenge on a Monday without the air show. The best call the experts say, take public transit.
"Yeah, it's not too bad with BART," said Dave Fordahl. "Traffic it pretty hectic out here, but BART makes it manageable."
Ship tours begin Wednesday, the air shows get underway Friday through Sunday.
For more information: https://fleetweeksf.org/