The US House of Representatives passed a bill that would allow cruise ships to sail to Alaska, bypassing Canadian ports. The congressional action exempts large Alaska-bound cruise ships that depart from Seattle for points north from the U.S. Passenger Vessel Services Act. Canada is currently closed to cruise traffic through February 2022.
HR 1318, the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act, gets around the Canadian prohibition on passenger vessels traveling through Canadian waters. Large cruise ships sailing to Alaska would not have been able to do so because the PVSA requires a stop in a foreign country. The return of large cruise ships to Alaska is critical to provide economic opportunity for communities who rely on tourism. The bill heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
The bill was spearheaded by Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, and Congressman Don Young.
“They counted us out, but the Alaska Delegation should never been underestimated,” Young wrote. “Today truly is a great day for the State of Alaska and our communities in Southeast. Alaska’s tourism economy depends on the summer cruise season. Today’s passage of the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act brings urgently needed good news to our mom and pop small businesses. This bill solves one-half of the puzzle for the resumption of the 2021 Alaska cruise season, and now it is the CDC’s turn to act decisively and promulgate the guidance the industry needs to set sail for Alaska.”
Gov. Mike Dunleavy thanked the Alaska congressional delegation: “Following a year of obstacles, Alaskan families, small businesses, and tourism communities are eager to welcome visitors by cruise ship this summer,” said Governor Dunleavy. “Thanks to the tireless work of our state team, local leaders, businesses, and our Congressional Delegation, the industry can resume sailings, halting a $3 billion hit to Alaska’s economy. Alaska’s well-coordinated COVID-19 response and vaccination efforts ensure this tourism season will be safe for both Alaskans and visitors alike.”
Whether there is time for this season is another matter. The cross-Gulf trip to Seward may not be back this year, because people buy those in advance. But travelers buy the Southeast cruises on shorter notice.
“Betting on that signature, Norwegian Cruise Line has already begin selling sailings on the Norwegian Bliss, roundtrip to Alaska from Seattle, beginning in August. Other cruises lines have also indicated a desire to get back to Alaska as soon as possible, which will also likely mean August,” according to Cruise Critic.