The first large cruise ship to dock in Alaska in over 20 months arrived in Ketchikan on Friday, when the Royal Caribbean Serenade of the Seas pulled into port. It was a test run.
The Centers for Disease Control had federal officials onboard, and after a day in Ketchikan the ship turned and returned to Seattle to complete what is known as a “simulated cruise.”
The 2020 cruise season in Alaska was a bust, due to restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Most of Southeast Alaska’s economy has suffered immense harm because of the lack of visitors. Prior to 2020, Alaska had over 1 million cruise passengers a season, dropping to zero passengers in 2020.
Still in effect are Canadian government restrictions, which required congressional action to overcome. On May 20, Congress approved a bill to waive the requirements of Alaska-destined cruise ships to make port calls in Canada, and President Joe Biden signed the waiver.
Politicians, such as Sen. Lisa Murkowski, and civic leaders were on hand to greet the ship in Ketchikan. The Serenade had only about 300 people onboard — all volunteer passengers — and was essentially operating to show the CDC that it had good Covid-19 protocols in place.
Royal Caribbean released health protocols for Serenade cruises on July 1, which include wearing face masks in the public areas of the ship, and social distancing rules onboard.
Among activities that were monitored by the CDC:
- embarkation and disembarkation procedures, including terminal check-in
- on board activities, including at dining and entertainment venues
- evacuation procedures
- transfer of symptomatic passengers or crew, or those who test positive for SARSCoV-2, from cabins to isolation rooms
- quarantine of all remaining passengers and non-essential crew
- other activities listed in CDC technical instructions and orders
Serenade is one of two Royal Caribbean cruise ships scheduled to sail to Alaska this year. Ovation of the Seas is scheduled to begin Aug. 13 for an abbreviated season.
Serenade will sail 7-night cruises, with stops in popular ports of call, including Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan and Icy Strait Point, Alaska, Endicott Arm fjord, and Dawes Glacier of Glacier Bay, but not Skagway.
Attending a formal event on the dock to welcome the ship were Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer, Mayor Bob Sivertson and Rodney Dial from the City and Borough of Ketchikan, and chamber of commerce representatives.