Alaska 2021 Cruise Season Is Officially Cancelled (Again) As Canada Bans Cruise Ships For One Year

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Yesterday evening the government of Canada has announced a comprehensive cruise ban for one full year until February 28, 2022 to the effect that all Alaska as well as some Hawaiian and Transpacific cruises for the 2021 season are no longer possible to operate.

Pretty much all major cruise lines serving these routes will soon have to start informing their customers about cancellations and rebooking/refund procedures.

Canada has taken this very same approach as early as beginning March 2020 after the first serious problems involving cruises developed, especially the situation with the Diamond Princess in Japan.

The federal government has always said that it would leave the decision about port restrictions up to the provincial governments and signs didn’t look good for cruises when the Premier of British Columbia Mr. Horgan presented some slides with policies at a press conference. As a BC resident myself I can say that our government has gone completely bonkers but at least I don’t have to deal with it right now while being here in Asia.

Now the decision is out that there won’t be any cruises this entire year either, until February 28, 2022 which means that all Alaska and Hawaiian cruises that were scheduled from/via Vancouver and Victoria as well the East Coast are no longer on the schedule.

You can access the announcement from Transport Canada here.

The Government of Canada continues to monitor the evolving COVID-19 pandemic and the impact it is having on the marine and tourism sectors. Keeping Canadians and transportation workers safe and healthy are top priorities for Transport Canada.

Today, the Minister of Transport, the Honourable Omar Alghabra, announced two new Interim Orders, which prohibit pleasure craft in Canadian Arctic waters and cruise vessels in all Canadian waters until February 28, 2022. This means:

  • Adventure-seeking pleasure craft are still prohibited from entering Arctic waters.
  • Passenger vessels carrying more than 12 people are still prohibited from entering Arctic coastal waters, including Nunatsiavut, Nunavik, and the Labrador Coast.
  • Cruise vessels carrying more than 100 people are still prohibited from operating in Canadian waters.

Pleasure craft used by local Arctic residents will not be affected by these measures.

With these prohibitions in place, public health authorities will be able to continue focusing on the most pressing issues, including the vaccine rollout and new COVID-19 variants.

To limit the spread of COVID-19, the Government of Canada continues to advise Canadian citizens and permanent residents to avoid all travel on cruise ships outside Canada until further notice.

Essential passenger vessels, such as ferries and water taxis, should continue to follow local public health guidance and protocols, and follow mitigation measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and prevent future outbreaks. These could include: reducing the number of passengers, ensuring physical distancing, the wearing of masks, and enhanced cleaning and hygiene measures.

Cruise vessels in Canadian waters pose a risk to our health care systems. The Government of Canada will continue to evaluate the situation and make changes as necessary to ensure the health and safety of all Canadians. Should the COVID-19 pandemic sufficiently improve to allow the resumption of these activities, the Minister of Transport has the ability to rescind the Interim Orders.

“As Canadians continue to do their part to reduce the spread of COVID-19, our government continues to work hard to ensure Canada’s transportation system remains safe. 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 Honourable Omar Alghabra
Minister of Transport

If I was to describe this entire hogwash with one work I’d probably choose “Nuts”!

The Canadian federal government has gone completely insane, just surpassed from the BC one where the Premier recently tried to ban Canadians from other provinces from visiting British Columbia.

But let’s stick to cruising.

Core issue here are two provisions of U.S. law: The Passenger Vessel Services Act as well as the Jones Act which require ships to make a stop at a foreign port in regards to service and passenger dis/embarkation which is why Vancouver and Victoria have always been mandatory stops and gateways for cruises up to Alaska as well as to Hawaii.

The background of these provision is first and foremost taxation. Congress could choose to waive the Jones Act to make this issue go away and at least allow cruise lines to sail from U.S. west coast ports up to Alaska. It’s not clear if the new administration and Congress would be supportive of such action.

The announcement is just hours old and I haven’t heard from Celebrity Cruises yet where I have an Alaska cruise booked as every year.

Last time Celebrity reacted very timely and immediately informed customers about these cancellations as well as advised of prompt refunds concerning these cruises and additional services booked.

I’m fine with pushing my booking into 2022 but it’ll be yet another hassle.

You can follow announcements and updates of the following cruise lines:

Some of these cruise lines are more specific than others as far as their operation schedule and cancellation policies go.

If you have large purchases for onboard packages such as excursions or f&b maybe it’s a good time to cancel those in the electronic cruise planner for a prompt refund before your cruise gets officially cancelled and you can’t access them anymore.

Conclusion

As things progressed I increasingly lost confidence that these Alaska Cruises would be going forward in 2021. Not only because of the authorities but also considering the efforts of the cruise lines to repatriate their staff back home. Many of the ships are currently on minimum crew somewhere in the Caribbean or in various dry docks to undergo maintenance which is probably a prudent decision especially for ships that already had renovation and maintenance work scheduled.

I had already very few hopes that there will be the one or other Alaska cruise operating this year but for now I plan to move mine into Spring/Summer of 2022 and hope for the best that a year from now we can all enjoy cruising to Alaska again.

Meanwhile I keep looking for other options around the globe such as in Southern Europe to maybe hop on another cruise before that.

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