Canada extends cruise ban for one year, dealing a blow to Alaska season

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The Carnival Miracle cruising in Alaska.
The Carnival Miracle cruising in Alaska.

In a huge blow to the Alaska cruise season, the government of Canada extended its cruise ship ban for one year, until February 2022.

Canada's Minister of Transport, Omar Alghabra, announced an interim extension of the country's prohibition on cruise vessels carrying more than 100 people from operating in Canadian waters. The order also prohibits passenger vessels carrying more than 12 people from entering Arctic coastal waters.

CLIA-North West & Canada (CLIA-NWC) said it was "surprised by the length of the extension" of the temporary cruise prohibition, which had been scheduled to end Feb. 28.

"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, as CLIA members are doing in Europe and parts of Asia where cruising has resumed on a limited basis," said Charlie Ball, chairman of CLIA-NWC. "The pandemic is having a devastating impact on local businesses, and two years without cruising in Canada will have potentially irreversible consequences for families throughout the country."

The Alyeska resort in Alaska.
The Alyeska resort in Alaska. Photo Credit: HagePhoto

In June 2020, we examined the impact of the cruise-ship bans on tourism businesses in Alaska.

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Transport Canada, which said that cruise vessels in Canadian waters pose a risk to its healthcare systems, also advised Canadian citizens and permanent residents to avoid all travel on cruise ships outside Canada until further notice.

"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," Alghabra said in a statement. "This is the right and responsible thing to do."

Unless the U.S. gives cruise ships relief from the Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA), which mandates that foreign-flagged ships call on at least one foreign port on any U.S. itinerary, the ruling would effectively ends any hopes for large ship cruising in Alaska this summer. Large ships operating in Alaska come under the jurisdiction of both Canada and the U.S., and cruises either begin, end or call in Vancouver and Victoria as part of Alaska itineraries.

The Norwegian Joy alongside the Canada Place terminal in Vancouver in 2019.
The Norwegian Joy alongside the Canada Place terminal in Vancouver in 2019. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst

CLIA told Travel Weekly earlier this month that if Canada's restrictions were likely to remain in effect "for an indeterminate period, the cruise industry may consider asking for temporary relief from the PVSA."

The late summer Canada/New England season is also unlikely to operate unless by then the order is rescinded based on improving conditions.

According to CLIA-NWC, in 2019, the cruise industry generated a total of $4.25 billion in economic activity in Canada, a 33% increase from 2016, and supported 29,000 Canadian jobs paying $1.43 billion in wages.

"We stand ready to work with Canadian health and transportation officials to operationalize a path forward," Ball added.

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