Royal Caribbean in Alaska
Royal Caribbean in Alaska

Alaska sailing season in jeopardy after Canada extends cruise ban

The Canadian government overnight has banned ships for entering its waters for the rest of the year, which is a massive blow for the Alaska cruise season.

The ban will remain until February 22, 2022 which is an extension of the existing orders that are currently in place.

It applies to ships carrying 100 or more people.

By law, foreign flagged vessels are unable to cruise in American waters without stopping at least once per voyage at a foreign port. This has meant that lines like Royal Caribbean, Princess and Holland America, some of Alaska’s biggest cruise players, will have no ships running for two seasons running.

Carnival Corporation, said in a statement that if the extension is not amended as the pandemic conditions improve, they will have to cancel their Alaska and Canada/New England seasons.

“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,” the company said in a statement.

“In addition, we recognize our importance to the economic health of many Alaskan communities and will continue to pursue any option which might permit safe operation of any portion of the season.”

The company will continue to operate its wilderness lodges in Denali, Fairbanks and Kenai to encourage local tourism.

Royal Caribbean Group told Seatrade Cruise News, “’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, which is another big player in Alaska said they are currently studying the order and its implications.

“We are currently exploring several initiatives that may allow such cruises to continue, especially for the important Alaska season,” the company said.

“Given the fluidity of the current environment, we will also continue to work with the Canadian government to amend their current suspension.”

But it’s not bad news for all lines. Smaller cruise operators like UnCruise Adventures, Lindblad Expeditions and American Cruise Lines will still be able to operate in Alaska.

“While this is painful news for our industry as a whole, we understand safety is the top priority for all of us and Canada is working hard to keep its citizens safe,” said UnCruise Adventures CEO Captain Dan Blanchard.

“Our industry has taken many hits, and as a small business, we continue to take proactive steps towards safe travel. Our vessels operate below 100 passengers and crew, exempting us from the new cruise ship ban, and we have launched firm sailing dates to return to Alaska in just a few months. Small is big these days, but small is who we are, and it is who we’ve been since 1996. This is an opportunity to help educate people about small boat adventure travel options.”