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First Royal Caribbean cruise ship to sail to Alaska in two years departs today

In:
19Jul2021

Another milestone in the cruise industry's recovery has been reached today, with the official restart of cruises to Alaska.

Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas is scheduled to depart Seattle on July 19.

After more than a year with cruising on pause, Serenade will sail from Pier 91 in Seattle  – a change from its previously scheduled homeport in Vancouver. 

The significance of this first sailing is as large for the cruise industry as it is for the people of Alaska.

Just like cruises to the Caribbean, cruises to Alaska have been shutdown since 2020. 

Without cruise tourists to Alaska since late 2019, the economic impact has been massive.

Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy (R-AK) has incurred a $3.3 billion loss in tourist dollars over that timeframe.

For Royal Caribbean, this is another ship back in service and another ship that has received approval from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) to sail again.

Each of Royal Caribbean's cruise ships must perform a test cruise, where various health protocols and social distancing rules are tested out to demonstrate the ship can be operated safely.

Serenade of the Seas conducted her 4-night test cruise back on July 7 with 300 fully vaccinated passengers onboard.

The week-long itinerary features a lineup of ports of call, including Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan and Icy Strait Point, Alaska, as well as Endicott Arm fjord and Dawes Glacier.

For Alaska sailings departing from Seattle, Washington before August 1, all Royal Caribbean guests age 16 and older must present proof of Covid-19 vaccination, with the final dose of their vaccine administered at least 14 days before sailing.

After August 1, that requirement drops to 12 years old.

Guests under the age of this requirement don’t need to be vaccinated and will receive a Covid-19 test at the terminal before boarding.

First cruise ship returns to Alaska in two years while on test cruise

In:
10Jul2021

Alaska celebrated the return of the first big cruise ship on Friday with the arrival of a Royal Caribbean cruise ship on a simulated voyage.

Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas pulled into Ketchikan to a warm welcome of state and local dignitaries.

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, Alaska Lieutenant Governor Kevin Meyer, and City of Ketchikan Mayor Bob Sivertsen joined members from the cruise industry to celebrate Serenade of the Seas being the first large cruise ship to return to Alaska following the suspension of cruise operations due to the pandemic.

While Serenade is there on a test cruise, she represents the return of cruise ship passengers that the Alaskan economy so heavily relies on.

Since cruise operations from U.S. ports were suspended in March 2020, it is estimated that more than 300,000 American jobs have been impacted or lost, with a corresponding loss of over $39 billion in economic activity. 

Nearly 70 percent of the industry’s economic contributions in Alaska benefited local small businesses in 2019 — the highest percentage of any state in the country.

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski spearheaded the effort this year to find a solution for ships to sail from the United States to Alaska this year at a time when Canada had shut its borders to cruise ship traffic.

"I’ve been committed to help bring tourism back for the 2021 season and keep Alaskans afloat through the hardships created by the pandemic," Murkowski said during a press conference at the cruise ship pier.

"I want to thank the other members of the delegation for working with me to get my legislation, the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act, across the finish line. This legislation made it possible to begin to bring cruise ships back to Alaska – so that our communities can have a productive tourist season."

Royal Caribbean was equally happy to be able to return to Alaska as well. Russell Benford, Vice President, Government Relations, Americas, Royal Caribbean Group spoke about the significance of Serenade of the Seas sailing to Alaska, "Proud, resourceful Alaskan communities, which have endured almost two seasons without cruising, will once again welcome cruise visitors to this magnificent destination and I’m sure Alaskan business owners look forward to reigniting the tourism economy and providing for their families."

According to Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), Nine large cruise ships are currently scheduled to operate in Alaska this year, with 78 sailings to take place through Oct. 21, 2021. 

Royal Caribbean has cruises planned to Alaska on two ships, Serenade of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas.

Assuming she passes her test cruise, Serenade of the Seas is scheduled to begin cruises next week.  Ovation of the Seas' first sailing to Alaska is August 13, although it is not yet known when her test cruise will be.

President Biden signs new bill into law to allow cruise ships to sail to Alaska in 2021

In:
Category: 
24May2021

As expected, President Joe Biden signed a new bill into law that will allow cruise ships to sail to Alaska this year.

Late on Monday, President Joe Biden signed H.R. 1318, the "Alaska Tourism Restoration Act".

The Alaska Tourism Restoration Act  passed the House of Representatives in a vote last Thursday, and is awaiting the President's signature to become a law.

Now that it is law, cruise ships will be able to sail from State of Washington to Alaska without needing to stop in Canada.

Ms. Psaki said in a press conference on Monday, "This law will allow large cruise ships to visit Alaska this year, a critical step toward returning to normal in a state where one in 10 jobs is in the tourism industry."

Canada banned cruise ships from its waters due to the global health crisis, so if cruise ship travel in the United States were able to occur, cruises to Alaska would not have been legally possible unless this bill becomes law.

The Alaska Tourism Restoration Act essentially provides a way to circumvent the Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA) restrictions for cruise ships transporting passengers between the State of Washington and the State of Alaska.

The bill was introduced by Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) in February 2021 as a way for cruise ships to be able to sail to Alaska in 2021.

Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and NCL have all announced cruise restart plans for Alaska this summer, with Serenade of the Seas leading the pack with cruises beginning in July 2021.

Serenade of the Seas will begin sailing on July 19, 2021, and Ovation of the Seas will begin sailing on August 13, 2021.

Both ships will sail 7-night roundtrip cruises from Seattle, Washington, and sailings are available now to book.

Unless something changes, these Alaska cruises in summer 2021 could be the first Royal Caribbean cruises to sail from the United States since March 2020.

Cruise ships will still need approval to sail from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) due to the Framework for Conditional Sail Order, which remains in effect until November 2021.

Despite the major cruise lines announcing sailings to Alaska this summer, there has not been any announcement or confirmation the CDC will allow ships to sail.

In Carnival's announcement, they mentioned deciding to offer cruises again, "based on recent guidance from the CDC and close collaboration with Alaskan officials."

NCL said its plans were contingent on obtaining a Conditional Sailing Certificate, which it expected to be granted "in the coming days".

Royal Caribbean made no mention of its negotiations with the CDC during its announcement.

Norwegian Cruise Line expects to get approval to sail from the CDC "in the coming days"

In:
24May2021

Norwegian Cruise Line announced it will sail to Alaska this summer, and even went as far as saying  it expects to get approval very soon.

Following up on Carnival and Royal Caribbean's similar announcements, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. (NCLH) announced on Monday it would deploy Norwegian Bliss to Seattle and offer cruises to Alaska beginning August 7, 2021.

NCL's restart plan are contingent on obtaining a Conditional Sailing Certificate from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

NCL says it expects to be granted that approval, "in the coming days".

Cruises to Alaska on the Bliss will require all guests and crew required to be fully vaccinated, along with the implementation of the Company’s robust, multi-layered SailSAFE health and safety program.

The cruise line's abilities to sail to Alaska is a result of Congress passing the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act, which provides a temporary exemption to the Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA) restrictions for cruise ships transporting passengers between the State of Washington and the State of Alaska.

NCLH says it expects to phase-in more cruise ships across its three brands.

NCLH President and CEO Frank Del Rio was excited to share todays news, "We are thrilled to reach the next milestone in our Great Cruise Comeback with the expected resumption of cruising in the U.S. starting in Alaska, one of our guests’ most popular destinations."

"This is a moment we have all been waiting for and it would not have been possible without the strong support of the Alaska congressional delegation who worked tirelessly to pass legislation that temporarily waives certain requirements of the Passenger Vessel Services Act."

NCL's announcement comes just days after Royal Caribbean revealed it has also applied to the CDC for permission to start test cruises.

On Friday, Royal Caribbean submitted a plan to the CDC for approval to begin test cruises.

It is not clear which ship was included in that proposal to the CDC, but Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley said it was the "first of several" applications they plan to send to the CDC.

What is NCL's SailSAFE?

Norwegian Cruise Line has internalized the recommendations of the Healthy Sail Panel into what it calls SailSAFE.

These are the multi-layered science-leaning approach to operating cruises safely in the face of Covid-19.

Here are the basics of what it entails:

  • All guests and crew must be fully vaccinated, at least 2 weeks prior to embarkation, in order to board.
  • All guests will be required to take a COVID-19 antigen test, administered and paid for by the cruise line, prior to boarding and receive a negative result.
  • Staggered embarkation process
  • Limited guest capacity on ships
  • Contactless food and beverage service will be provided across all ships with service staff stationed ship-wide, including all restaurants and lounges, and shared use items will be removed where possible.
  • Guests are free to explore ports of call on their own, according to protocols in each specific port, and can purchase shore excursions as they wish.

Masks are not mentioned in their protocols, other than in certain settings during shore excursions where they would be needed in order to comply with local requirements.

Royal Caribbean will restart cruises in Alaska in summer 2021

In:
Category: 
21May2021

Royal Caribbean announced it will restart cruises this summer to Alaska.

A day after Congress passed new legislation to send to the President to get around Canada's cruise ban, Royal Caribbean Group confirmed plans to restart cruises to Alaska beginning in July 2021.

Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises ships will sail from Seattle to destinations in Alaska, such as Juneau, Sitka, Skagway, Ketchikan and Icy Strait Point, Alaska, as well as the imposing Endicott Arm & Dawes Glacier. 

UPDATE: Royal Caribbean will base two ships from Seattle, with Serenade of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas.

Serenade of the Seas will begin sailing on July 19, 2021, and Ovation of the Seas will begin sailing on August 13, 2021.

Serenade of the Seas will sail 7-night cruises beginning in July, with stops in popular ports of call, including Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan and Icy Strait Point, Alaska, as well as the jaw-dropping Endicott Arm fjord and Dawes Glacier.

Booked guests confirmed on Serenade of the Seas’ redeployed Vancouver itineraries departing July 18 – September 19, 2021 will be automatically moved to the new Seattle itinerary departing one day later than their original sail date and within the same stateroom accommodations.

Ovation of the Seas will also sail from Seattle, beginning in Auigust, and offer sailings to Glacier National Park, the Inside Passage, Juneau and Skagway, Alaska.

Read moreComparing the Royal Caribbean ships sailing in Alaska 2021

Royal Caribbean's announcement comes on the heels of the U.S. House of Representatives passed a Bill to allow cruise ships to sail to Alaska without stopping in Canada.

The bill is waiting to be signed by President Joe Biden, but it is expected he will sign it into law.

Canada banned cruise ships from its waters due to the global health crisis, which made cruises sailing from the United States illegal under U.S. cabotage law.

A temporary waiver is part of the new bill, known as the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act, that will grant cruise lines permission to skip a stop in Canada.

Royal Caribbean Group chairman and CEO thanked Alaska's congressional delegation for its hard work in making this possible, "We are so pleased that Congress unanimously voted to pass legislation enabling cruise ships to sail to Alaska this season."

"We are thrilled Alaskans will be able to welcome cruise visitors this year knowing how important the tourism industry is to the economy and the communities we visit. It’s been a tough year for everyone, but people clearly have pent-up demand to cruise again, and we can’t wait to get back to what we do best, delivering world class vacations to our guests. Our immense gratitude goes to Senators Murkowski and Sullivan and Congressman Young along with Governor Dunleavey, and the Alaska State Legislature for making this reality happen."

"Few words can express just how excited we are to start delivering memorable vacations in the U.S. once again, starting with a destination as rich in culture and natural beauty as Alaska," said Vicki Freed, senior vice president, Sales and Trade Support & Service, Royal Caribbean International

Royal Caribbean will become the second cruise line to confirm cruises to Alaska this summer, following Carnival Corporation's announcement yesterday.

The other major part of Royal Caribbean's announcement is Royal Caribbean has changed its requirements for the minimum age to be vaccinated for guests sailing this summer to be as low as 12 years old.

For cruises departing before August 1, 2021, all guests 16 years and older must be fully vaccinated. Those underage will receive a test prior to sailing. 

As of August 1, 2021, guests 12 years and older must be fully vaccinated.

Read more6 mistakes & 3 things we did right on our Royal Caribbean cruise to Alaska

Lowering the minimum age guests must be vaccinated to 16 was a policy change sister brand Celebrity Cruises announced this week for its summer cruises.

Unless something changes, these Alaska cruises in summer 2021 could be the first Royal Caribbean cruises to sail from the United States since March 2020.

Read moreWhat should I pack for a cruise to Alaska?

Cancelled cruises

As a result of the announcement, Royal Caribbean cancelled some other Alaska sailings.

  • Radiance of the Seas: July 2 - September 24, 2021
  • Serenade of the Seas July 4 & 11, 2021
  • Ovation of the Seas July 2 - August 6, 2021

Those that were booked on the sailings can transfer to an upcoming Alaska sailing onboard Serenade of the Seas departing July 19 – September 19, 2021 or Ovation of the Seas sailing August 13 –  September 10, 2021. Your rate will be protected at the rate paid or prevailing fares, whichever is lower.

Lift & Shift: Select a qualifying Alaska cruise in 2022 on the same ship, sail date and stateroom category, while protecting their original cruise fare and promotion. This option expires on May 28, 2021.

125% Future Cruise Credit: 125% Future Cruise Credit (FCC) which is based on the total cruise  fare paid per guest and will be automatically issued on or before June 25, 2021. Taxes and fees, as well as any pre-purchased amenities or onboard packages, will  be automatically refunded to the original form of payment within 45 days from the cancelation date.

Refund: Full refund if requested on or before June 30, 2021.

Canada will meet with Alaska Senators to discuss cruise ships skipping Canada

In:
Category: 
21May2021

The United States Congress passed a new bill that will make it possible for cruise ships to sail to Alaska without stopping in Canada, and that has Canadian officials concerned.

On Thursday, the House of Representative passed the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act, which provides a waiver for cruise ships in 2021 to not have to stop in Canada in order to offer cruises to Alaska.

Canada banned cruise ship travel until February 2022 due to the global health crisis, and until now, cruise ships would not have been able to sail to Alaska since U.S. cabotage law requires a stop in a foreign port.

After the bill passed, premier of British Columbia John Horgan said he has plans to meet with Alaska's delegation to talk about the issue.

Premier Horgan told Victoria News the meeting would take place "in the coming weeks", "We share a common desire with the people of Alaska to see a safe return to the cruise ship industry."

"The tourism sector is eager to welcome visitors back when it’s safe to do so."

Two ports in British Columbia heavily rely on tourism from cruise ships. Vancouver is a traditional homeport for many cruise ships, and Victoria is a stop-over port.

B.C. Liberal MLA Mike de Jong is concerned this workaround for 2021 could become permanent.

The CEO of the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority said he tried to warn Canadian politicians about what the negative effect this bill would have if cruise ships could skip Canadian ports, "I must admit it’s been frustrating, we’ve been sounding the alarm for the past few months," Ian Robertson said.

"You always worry about a temporary measure becoming permanent," Robertson said.

The new bill is waiting to be signed into law by President Joe Biden before it can become a law. One of the bill's sponsors, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), posted on Twitter that it is "on the way to be signed into law by the President."

Senator Murkowski added that she is proud of the hard work that went into getting the bill passed, "The Alaska Delegation worked with stakeholders and industry leaders across the state to brainstorm all our options. We were in coordination with the Alaska State Legislature who backed our efforts through a resolution of support."

Senator Dan Sullivan was happy with the bill's result, after encountering no compromise from Canada during earlier negotiations, "We’ve put forward a number of very reasonable suggestions to try to accommodate what we are hoping will be a fighting chance for our tourism season, for our small businesses so decimated by this pandemic to our colleagues in Canada."

"This is not the co-operative spirit that has defined the Alaska-Canadian relationship for decades. Quite frankly, we’ve been disappointed by it."

Hours after the bill passed the House, Carnival Corporation announced three of its brands will offer cruises to Alaska in 2021.

Princess Cruises, Holland America Line and Carnival Cruise Lines will all offer week-long sailings from Seattle for vaccinated passengers.

On top of that, Norwegian Cruise Line put sailings back on sale for Norwegian Bliss from Seattle.

Royal Caribbean has not announced any new sailings yet, or added new sailings to its website for booking.

Carnival Corporation announces it will sail to Alaska in 2021

In:
20May2021

Hours after new legislation has opened the door for cruises to Alaska, Carnival Corporation announced plans to offer cruises there this summer.

Carnival Corporation announced three of its brands, Carnival Cruise Line, Princess Cruises and Holland America Line, will offer cruises to Alaska this year.

The new sailings will begin in July, and depart from Seattle, Washington.

The announcement was made a few hours after the U.S. House of Representatives passed a Bill to allow cruise ships to sail to Alaska without stopping in Canada.

Carnival said each of the lines has received guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as coordinated with Alaskan officials in order to sail again.

It is not clear what this guidance is exactly since the Conditional Sail Order is still in effect, but the line issued a statement that it seemingly has the go-ahead to make these cruises happen.

These Alaska cruises are available for guests who have received their final dose of an approved COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days prior to the beginning of the cruise and have proof of vaccination. Crew vaccinations will be in accordance with CDC guidelines.

Princess Cruises will resume operations in Alaska starting July 25 through September 26, with seven-day cruises onboard Majestic Princess, a MedallionClass ship.

Its cruises will visit signature ports, glaciers and attractions in Alaska including Glacier Bay National Park, Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan.

Holland America Line will resume its cruise operations to Alaska with seven-day itineraries aboard Nieuw Amsterdam, calling at Juneau, Icy Strait Point, Sitka and Ketchikan, with scenic cruising in Alaska's iconic locales, including Glacier Bay and Stephens Passage.

The first cruise for the brand is scheduled to depart July 24, with 11 Saturday departures that will operate through October 2.

Carnival Cruise Line has already opened Alaska sailings departing from Seattle beginning July 27, with weekly departures through September 14 aboard Carnival Miracle. There are seven 7-day cruises featuring calls in Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan, as well as scenic cruising in Tracy Arm Fjord.

The September 14 departure is an 8-day cruise with an additional stop in Icy Strait Point.

Carnival Corporation also said plans for these itineraries to fulfill obligations under the Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA) are expected to be approved. Princess Cruises, Holland America Line and Carnival Cruise Line are each continuing the return-to-cruising preparation already underway.

Each of the lines will announce more details in the coming weeks.

More U.S. sailings to come

Carnival Cruise Line is also working to finalize its plans to operate Carnival Horizon from Miami, and Carnival Vista and Carnival Breeze from Galveston in July.

Itineraries along with specific details about protocols are expected to be finalized and announced next week.

U.S. House of Representatives passes Bill to allow cruise ships to sail to Alaska without stopping in Canada

In:
Category: 
20May2021

Another major hurdle to cruises being able to sail to Alaska this year has been overcome.

The Alaska Tourism Restoration Act (H.R. 1318) passed the House of Representatives in a vote on Thursday, and will now to go President Joe Biden to be signed into law.

This bill will allow cruise ships in 2021 to sail from State of Washington to Alaska without needing to stop in Canada.

Canada banned cruise ships from its waters due to the global health crisis, so if cruise ship travel in the United States were able to occur, cruises to Alaska would not have been legally possible unless this bill becomes law.

The bill was introduced by Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) in February 2021 as a way for cruise ships to be able to sail to Alaska in 2021.

The bill passing is a major show of support for Alaska, which desperately needs cruise ship traffic for its local economy.

Speaking on the House of Representatives floor, Rep. Don Young (R-AK) celebrated the bill's passing as a major buoy for Alaskans, "We lost billions of dollars last year because of Covid in the tourist industry, and this bill that we just passed by this House unanimously will give us an opportunity to recover that, not the money, but the ability to take and serve the people of America and the tourist industry in and southeast Alaska and the rest of the state of Alaska."

"And I sincerely thank all of you for being part of an effort to solve a problem for state."

The Alaska Tourism Restoration Act would essentially provide a way to circumvent the Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA) restrictions for cruise ships transporting passengers between the State of Washington and the State of Alaska.

Canada has banned cruise ships for at least a year, which means it prohibits cruise ships from navigating, mooring, anchoring or berthing in Canadian waters until February 28, 2022 or until the Canadian Government lifts the prohibition. 

If President Biden signs the bill into law, it would allow cruise ships to visit Alaska in 2021, but the cruise industry still needs the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to rollback its own ban of cruise ships from the United States.

If the bill were to become law, it would apply to any sailing that begins on or before February 28, 2022.

The bill only applies to cruise ships sailing from the Pacific Northwest in 2021, and does not apply to ships sailing from New England and would not be in effect for the 2022 season.

In anticipation of the bill passing, Norwegian Cruise Line began selling Alaska cruises again for August, September, and October.

The NCL sailings will sail roundtrip from Seattle to Ketchikan.

Royal Caribbean's website does not yet show cruises available to book for Alaska 2021.

Celebrity Cruises President & CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo took to Twitter to celebrate the news, "One more signature and then Alaska, here we come!"

Bill to allow cruise ships to sail to Alaska without stopping in Canada passes U.S. Senate

In:
Category: 
13May2021

A possible solution to Canada's cruise ship ban is one step closer.

The United States Senate unanimously passed a bill that allow foreign flagged cruise ships to sail to Alaska without having to stop in Canada.

The Alaska Tourism Recovery Act (H.R. 1318) passed the Senate in a vote on Thursday, and will now to go to the U.S House of Representatives for a vote.

The bill was introduced by Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) in February 2021 as a way for cruise ships to be able to sail to Alaska in 2021.

The Alaska Tourism Recovery Act is meant to alleviate the Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA) restrictions for cruise ships transporting passengers between the State of Washington and the State of Alaska.

Canada has banned cruise ships for at least a year, which means it prohibits cruise ships from navigating, mooring, anchoring or berthing in Canadian waters until February 28, 2022 or until the Canadian Government lifts the prohibition. 

Senator Murkowski celebrated the victory on Twitter, calling it a "huge victory".

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) also celebrated the important step, citing the important economic impact cruise ships have for Alaska.

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley was pleased with the bill passing as well, saying on Facebook, "one step at a time"

If the bill were to become law, it would apply to any sailing that begins on or before February 28, 2022.

Of course, even if the bill passes, Alaska cruises would still need to be permitted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which has its own ban on cruise ships in place.

If you think perhaps this bill may be all for naught, Royal Caribbean does not think so.

Just a few weeks ago, Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain said there is still a chance for cruises to sail to Alaska this year.

On April 30, Mr. Fain said Royal Caribbean and "others" are working on resolving the issue with the CDC and Canada, "we're working on both and others are working on both, but we can't be certain where that will end up."

"I think given the momentum, there's reason for some hope, but that's a sufficiently complex and confusing situation that I don't think we're going to put odds on it one way or the other."

"But as to Alaska specifically, while we're optimistic and we're working to make that happen, there are these other factors."

"We do think that will be in time for the Alaskan season. And we're obviously hopeful that we'll be able to solve the issue with Canada in either one of these two ways."

Thus far, Royal Caribbean has not canceled its 2021 Alaska or New England cruises (except for Quantum of the Seas, which is staying in Singapore).

Instead, the cruise line is placing these sailings on hold while it hopes legal action, such as this bill, will provide a means for ships to sail this year.

In the meantime, guests booked on 2021 Alaska cruises have the option to leave their bookings as-is, or cancel them.

Royal Caribbean Group CEO on 2021 Alaska cruises: "reason for some hope"

In:
30Apr2021

Is the Alaska cruise season not totally dead for 2021?

During Royal Caribbean Group's first quarter earnings call on Thursday, Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain was asked about the prospect of return to Alaska for this year, and while "slightly complex", he did not rule it out.

The Alaska cruise season faces two hurdles: the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ban on cruise ships, as well as Canada's own ban on cruise ships from its waters.

Mr. Fain said even if the CDC relents on its ban, they would need would need a waiver from the Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA), or Canada would have to allow at least technical stops.

The Passenger Vessel Service Act (PVSA) of 1886 requires foreign flagged cruise ships to call on a foreign port if sailing a closed-loop cruise form the United States.

This means, cruise ships cannot sail from Seattle and only visit Alaska ports.  It must make a stop outside the country, and Canada is the only place between Seattle and Alaska for that.

The justification for both the PVSA is to protect the U.S. Merchant Marine (the licensed (officers) and documented (trades) personnel on the ships) and to protect U.S. shipyards that both build and repair the ships.

Mr. Fain said during the earnings call that Royal Caribbean and "others" are working on resolving the issue with the CDC and Canada, "we're working on both and others are working on both, but we can't be certain where that will end up."

"I think given the momentum, there's reason for some hope, but that's a sufficiently complex and confusing situation that I don't think we're going to put odds on it one way or the other."

"But as to Alaska specifically, while we're optimistic and we're working to make that happen, there are these other factors."

"We do think that will be in time for the Alaskan season. And we're obviously hopeful that we'll be able to solve the issue with Canada in either one of these two ways."

U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, both R-Alaska, introduced a bill in late February 2021 that proposes alleviate the Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA) restrictions for cruise ships transporting passengers between the State of Washington and the State of Alaska.

The Alaska Tourism Recovery Act (H.R.1318) was introduced in the House on February 24, 2021 and was referred to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation the next day.

When the bill was introduced, Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley posted on social media in support of the bill, "If passed, this would represent a step in the right direction for the Alaskan communities that depend on the tourism industry."

"If you support the bill, please reach out to your representatives to make your voice heard!"

So far, that bill has not moved past that point.

Besides Royal Caribbean's lost cruise revenue, the state of Alaska is facing dire consequences for a second cancelled cruise season in a row.

Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy (R-AK) said over the course of the lost 2020 and 2021 cruise seasons, Alaska will have a $3.3 billion loss in Alaska, "that's in a state with about a fifty six billion dollar GDP, so it's going to be significant."

"We're going to lose millions of dollars in local revenue for our communities, especially along the coast. Unemployment rates will remain stubbornly high when we can actually lower them through this process."

Meanwhile, Royal Caribbean's Alaska cruises are not cancelled yet.

Royal Caribbean did remove bookable Canada-related cruises from its website, but existing bookings are still on hold.

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