Alaska officials are working 'to find a path forward' for cruises in its waters after Canada announced it was extending its ban on cruise ships until Feb. 28, 2022.
"Upon hearing the announcement, we immediately reached out to Canadian and American agencies to try to understand the rationale behind this decision—particularly the duration of the ban," Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Sen. Dan Sullivan, and Congressman Don Young in a joint statement. "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."
The ban prevents any ships carrying more than 100 passengers from docking in Canadian ports — which could paralyze Alaska's tourism industry.
Due to the Passenger Vessel Service Act, a law that's been in place for over 100 years, big foreign-flagged ships, like those operated by Royal Caribbean, are required to stop in Canada before making their way to Alaska. The law requires that these ships must call on a "distant foreign port" before returning to the U.S, Cruise Critic reported.
About 2 million people visit Alaska every year. Of those visitors, almost 1.2 million — or about 60% — arrive by cruise ship, according to the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).
In a recent statement, CLIA said that they "understand and support the government's focus on combatting COVID-19 in Canada" but "are surprised by the length of the extension of the prohibition of cruise."
UnCruise Adventures is one of the few cruise lines that will be able to bring passengers to Alaska this year, because it sails under the U.S. flag and does not need to visit foreign ports. It is the largest of four key operators who will be able to operate cruises this year, including Alaskan Dream Cruises, American Cruise Lines and Lindblad Expeditions, according to Cruise Industry News.
But the term "large" is relative. UnCruise operates a fleet of vessels that carry from 22 to 86 passengers each. Over the course of a typical season (which begins in April and lasts through September), UnCruise typically brings about 6,000 visitors to Alaska. That's about how many a Royal Caribbean cruise can bring to Alaska on one single voyage.
The land border between the U.S. and Canada remains closed at this time.
Cailey Rizzo is a contributing writer for Travel Leisure, currently based in Brooklyn. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, or at caileyrizzo.com.
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