Most cruising enthusiasts have been chomping at the bit for cruises to be given the green light to start sailing again, hopefully sometime in 2021. Unfortunately, for those who enjoy cruises to Alaska, they’re going to have to wait until at least the 2022 season, and it has nothing to do with cruise lines.
This time the blame is on Canada.
Canada had originally banned cruise ships from sailing out of Canadian waters in May, 2020. Here are the details from when that happened. They’ve quietly extended that ban, over and over, ever since. Now the country has taken the step of extending its cruise ship ban for an entire year – through February 2022. This, in turn, has effective killed off any chance of people from the United States cruising to Alaska in 2021.
Omar Alghabra, the Canadian Minister of Transport, said, “Temporary prohibitions to cruise vessels and pleasure craft are essential to continue to protect the most vulnerable among our communities and avoid overwhelming our health care systems. This is the right and responsible thing to do,” the minister said.
From reading between the lines, this appears to be a direct response to the U.S. still leading the world in COVID cases (over 25% of the world’s total numbers) and (nearly 20% of the world’s) deaths. Just as U.S. citizens are not allowed to enter Canada by land or air, Canada wants to ensure that we, with a much higher chance of having COVID, don’t spread it to their citizens when arriving in Vancouver. However, the announcement to extend the ban for an entire year came as a surprise to many, including the Cruise Lines International Association.
“While we understand and support the government’s focus on combating COVID-19 in Canada, we are surprised by the length of the extension of the prohibition of cruise,” said Charlie Ball, Chair of CLIA-North West & Canada.
“We hope to have an opportunity to revisit this timeline and demonstrate our ability to address COVID-19 in a cruise setting with science-backed measures,” Ball continued. “Two years without cruising in Canada will have potentially irreversible consequences for families throughout the country. We stand ready to work with Canadian health and transportation officials to operationalize a path forward.”
Virtually all large cruise companies (except this one!) are registered outside the United States (it’s significantly cheaper for cruise companies if they do that. It’s also why cruise lines have not received any U.S. government bailout money since COVID started – because they’re not U.S.-based companies). However, there are laws that affect where these ships can and can’t sail. From the U.S. Customs & Border Protection:
The Passenger Vessel Services Act, (PVSA), 46 U.S.C. § 55103 (b), places…restrictions on the coastwise movement of people. This act prohibits commercial vessels such as cruise ships from allowing passengers to board at one U.S. port and debark at another U.S. port.
That’s why so many Alaskan cruises port in Vancouver – it fulfills the need for a foreign stop.
CLIA has suggested that if they can’t “operationalize a path forward” with Canada, the cruise industry may consider asking the U.S. government for temporary relief from the PVSA. That, in turn, would allow large cruise ships to leave port in, say, the Pacific northwest of the United States and go straight to Alaska, with no stops on non-U.S. shores.
Regardless of what happens, smaller cruise ships, such as the UnCruise (we wrote about them last year) will still be able to sail through Canada, same as usual, since their ships have less than 100 passengers. However, larger ships such as Royal Caribbean, Holland America, etc., may not have that opportunity for the second year in a row.
Feature Photo: Royal Caribbean
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary