Alaska 2021 Cruise Season on Ice - Cruise Lines Statements and Reaction from Alaska Congressional Delegation

Feb 05, 2021

The new Interim orders announced by the Canadian Minister of Transport, the Honorable Omar Alghabra, banning cruise ships in Canadian waters until February 28, 2022 has put Alaska cruise season on ice. The big reason why the latest Canadian ban on cruise ship impacts Alaska season is that there is no getting to Alaska without stops being made in Canada. The Jones Act requires foreign-flagged cruise ships to stop at a foreign port between U.S. ports, which in this case the only option is Canada. 

“As Canadians continue to do their part to reduce the spread of COVID-19, our government continues to work hard to ensure Canada’s transportation system remains safe. Temporary prohibitions to cruise vessels and pleasure craft are essential to continue to protect the most vulnerable among our communities and avoid overwhelming our health care systems. This is the right and responsible thing to do," said Canada Minister of Transport, Omar Alghabra.

This announcement came as a surprise and disappointment to Alaska businesses who were eagerly waiting to start the cruise season after the cancelation of the last year’s cruises. Alaska Congressional delegation led by Senator Lisa Murkowski released a statement, which read, in part:

"Canada’s announcement to ban all cruise ships carrying 100 people or more traveling through Canadian waters, without so much as a courtesy conversation with the Alaska Delegation, is not only unexpected—it is unacceptable—and was certainly not a decision made with any consideration for Alaskans or our economy. We expect more from our Canadian allies.”

“We are exploring all potential avenues, including changing existing laws, to ensure the cruise industry in Alaska resumes operations as soon as it is safe. We will fight to find a path forward.” said the Delegation.

The effect of these bans will prevent Alaska sailings out of the port of Seattle which will affect the local economy. Each of those vessels support about 5,500 jobs locally, said Port of Seattle spokesman Peter McGraw.

“Each homeported vessel brings in over $4 million to the regional economy, $14.5 million in statewide taxes, and generates nearly one-billion dollars in business activity over the whole season.”

“We also hear from port cities in Alaska that losing another year of revenue could be cataclysmic. We urge our federal leaders to consider relief for all communities impacted by the declines in travel and tourism. These opportunities matter as we seek an equitable economic recovery.” said McGraw.

Today several cruise lines released statements commenting on Canada’s extended ban on cruise ships.

In a press release, Princess Cruises said: “We are disappointed to learn about Canada’s decision to extend the interim order that prohibits cruise ships from sailing in its waters and calling on Canadian ports through February 2022 (one year from now). This extension, if not amended as pandemic conditions improve, would require us to cancel our Alaska (West Coast) and Canada / New England (East Coast) cruise vacation seasons this year. Given the unexpected length of the order, it will take us some time to assess whether there are any options to preserve a portion of the 2021 Alaska season. We will be consulting authorities in both the US and Canada before we take any additional action.”

Holland America Line said, “if not amended as pandemic conditions improve, or through actions by U.S. authorities, would require us to cancel our Alaska (West Coast) and Canada/New England (East Coast) cruise vacation seasons this year.”

Seatrade Cruise News released a statement by Royal Caribbean Group which reads “’We understand and appreciate the Canadian government’s focus on combatting COVID-19. The health and safety of our guests, crew and communities we visit is our top priority. Royal Caribbean Group is ready to work with health and transportation officials on a path forward to address the impact on multiple sectors of the Canadian economy. We will be reaching out to our guests and travel partners with more information on future plans.”

Norwegian Cruise Line, is currently studying the ban and its implications. “We are currently exploring several initiatives that may allow such cruises to continue, especially for the important Alaska season. Given the fluidity of the current environment, we will also continue to work with the Canadian government to amend their current suspension.”