Cruise ships to be allowed to sail to Alaska without a stop in Canada?

   March 25, 2021 ,   Cruise Industry

When Canada announced its ban on cruises through February 2022, it looked like a fatal blow to the summer 2021 Alaskan season, which fuels a USD 1,2-billion industry for the state.

However, on a Zoom call with reporters on March 22 to promote Alaska’s tourism industry, Governor Mike Dunleavy said that he remained “hopeful” a solution could be reached that would allow large ships to come to the state this year. The first possible path toward this is a legislative one.

Dunleavy said they were going to need to know soon if bills introduced in Congress by an Alaskan delegation were going to move forward. If passed, the legislation will allow cruise ships to sail to Alaska without a required stop in Canada, as U.S. law normally requires.

At issue is the PVSA (Passenger Vessel Services Act), which prohibits non-USA-flagged vessels from embarking and disembarking passengers at 2 different United States' ports without stopping at a foreign port in between. Most large-ship cruise companies register their vessels in foreign countries/flag-states. Most Alaska-deployed cruise ships depart from Seattle WA and spend a day in Victoria BC or Vancouver BC to satisfy the requirement.

Alaska's Governor said that should the introduced legislation be successful, “we can go directly from Seattle to, let's say, Ketchikan and not have to stop in Canada.” 

If lawmakers can't find a workaround for the PVSA or, rather, even if they can, a COVID vaccination mandate for travelers will likely be part of the solution.

A number of companies, including RCI-Royal Caribbean International and DCL-Disney, have already canceled Alaska 2021 summer voyages. Princess and HAL-Holland America canceled Alaskan cruises through June but not from July 2021 onward.

Small-ship cruise companies operating vessels with crew+passenger capacity under 250 are not subject to the CDC's conditional sail order.