Cruise Lines Pull the Plug Even As Politician Tries to Save Alaska’s 2021 Season

People on cruise ship deck in front of a glacier in Alaska

The same day as an Alaska Congressman tabled legislation that would allow cruise lines to circumvent rules that require them to include Canada in Alaska itineraries, at least three cruise lines cancelled their Alaska 2021 sailings.

When Open Jaw first reported Ottawa’s decision that closed Canadian ports and waters to passenger vessels through 28FEB, 2022, the response from many cruise lines wasn’t a rush to cancel Alaska, Canada/New England and Great Lakes sailings as many expected.

Instead, cruise lines took a ‘wait and see’ approach. As recently as last week, Royal Caribbean Group (Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Silversea) said they would not cancel any Alaska and Canada/New England cruises – just yet.

Behind the scenes, we heard there were hopes that progress with vaccinations and containing the pandemic might persuade the Canadian government to relent on their year-long ban, allowing the industry to salvage at least the later portion of the season.

Others talked of bypassing Canada and cruising to Alaska anyway. The problem is: there’s a law against that.

America’s Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA) requires that non-American passenger vessels stop at a foreign port between domestic (American) stops. Almost all cruise ships – even those based in the U.S. – are foreign flagged. The original intent of the PVSA was to protect American maritime business. In effect, it requires cruises to Alaska to include a Canadian port in their itineraries.

That’s the legal requirement Alaska Congressman Don Young is hoping to bypass with his Alaska Tourism Recovery Act, which he introduced on Wednesday (24FEB).

It would “provide a temporary PVSA workaround by deeming roundtrip voyages between Alaska and Washington State as foreign voyages for the purposes of U.S. law” – only during the closure of Canadian ports and waters.

“The COVID-19 pandemic devastated Alaska’s 2020 cruise season; we must not allow the same to happen to 2021’s season,” the Alaskan politician said.

He acknowledged Canada’s cruise ban isn’t the only hurdle facing the Alaska cruise season. “Now it is incumbent upon the Biden Administration and the CDC to work quickly and collaboratively to implement a plan to safely resume cruising (in U.S. waters).”

However, the same day, three of Carnival Corp.’s cruise lines finally declared their 2021 Alaska seasons were dead in the water. HAL, Princess and Seabourn all cancelled 2021 sailings in Canadian Waters.

There may still be a glimmer of hope.

Princess and HAL announcements do include the comment that discussions are underway with Canadian and U.S. authorities to try to find a path forward to preserve a portion of the Alaska and Canada & New England 2021 cruise seasons.

And today in an op/ed in the National Post, Alaska governor Mike Dunleavy called on the Canadian government to collaborate with the state to find a way to open cruising this year.

There may still be a glimmer of hope. Princess and HAL announcements do include the comment that discussions are underway with Canadian and U.S. authorities to try to find a path forward to preserve a portion of the Alaska and Canada & New England 2021 cruise seasons.

Nonetheless, as of 24FEB, affected itineraries are as follows:

Holland America Line Cancels Canada/New England and Alaska Except for Round Trip Seattle

Holland America Line says it has extended its pause of cruise operations to now include all sailings that depart from or conclude in a Canadian port in 2021. This includes several Alaska, three Canada/New England and two Pacific Coastal cruises in summer and fall of this year. It also includes all Land+Sea Journeys.

At this time, Alaska cruises departing from mid-MAY and sailing roundtrip from Seattle, Washington, are not being cancelled.

Cruises impacted by this pause in operation are:

  • Alaska: Cruises through September 2021 to Alaska from all departure ports aboard Koningsdam, Nieuw Amsterdam, Noordam and Zuiderdam. This also includes any Land+Sea Journeys connected with canceled Alaska sailings.
  • Pacific Coastal: Two sailings in early October aboard Koningsdam and Oosterdam.
  • Canada/New England: Three cruises aboard Zaandam departing in September 2021.

All 2022 Alaska and Canada/New England cruises will operate as scheduled.

Princess Cancels Alaska Cruises; Keeps Land Tours

Princess Cruises has cancelled the following voyages:

  • Alaska seven-day Voyage of the Glaciers cruises, sailing between Vancouver, B.C. and Anchorage (Whittier)
  • Pacific Coastals that start or end in Vancouver, B.C.
  • Canadian Adventure sailing roundtrip from Southampton, UK

Princess says it will continue to operate the Kenai Princess Wilderness lodge along with McKinley Chalet Resort in Denali and Westmark Fairbanks Hotel this summer and is currently working on vacation land package details that will be announced shortly.

Seabourn Cancels Alaska but not New England Cruises

Seabourn is cancelling 19 voyages scheduled aboard Seabourn Odyssey in summer 2021 between Vancouver, Canada and Juneau, Alaska, including one Pacific Coast voyage at the end of the season.

Seabourn’s announcement did not mention Canada/New England cruises, suggesting they still hope to salvage at least part of the season on the East Coast.

Its smaller ships may be able to use tiny French territory St. Pierre et Miquelon instead of Canada as the required ‘foreign’ port on New England sailings; an option not available to larger ships.

In addition: Carnival Cruise Line Extends Pause From U.S. Through MAY 2021

Carnival Cruise Line has extended its pause in operations from U.S. ports through 31MAY, 2021, although it has not specifically announced any Alaska or Canada/New England cancellations yet.

As it has done throughout the pause, Carnival is providing guests on cancelled cruises the choice of a future cruise credit plus onboard credit package, or a full refund.

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