President Biden Has Signed Bill H.R. 1318 Allowing Alaska Cruises To Sail From Seattle – Now What?

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As I wrote a few days ago Congress has passed H.R. 1318, the Alaska Tourism Recovery Act which was signed into law by President Biden last night, paving the way for Alaska cruises to restart this summer.

This legislation includes a waiver allowing foreign flagged cruise vessels to operate between U.S. ports only that has so far been prohibited under the Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA).

As a result of the PVSA as well as the Jones Act Alaska-bound cruises have always either stopped or originated at a Canadian port on the West Coast, usually Vancouver or Victoria.

Since Canada closed their borders and ports in spring last year which already destroyed the 2020 Alaska cruise season (plus the CDC No Sail Order) they have already doubled down on this cruise ban and closed all ports to cruise ships until at least February 2022 (plus a possible extension).

Subsequently H.R. 1318 was introduced (see my article from last weekend) which was signed by President Biden a few hours ago:

You can access details of H.R. 13818 on the website of the U.S. congress outlining details and timeline.

In my opinion this action was overdue and legislation should have been introduced a long time ago. Although the CDC has held the cruise industry hostage just like Canada has at least it would turned up the pressure to get reasonable guidelines on the way.

Even though I’m mainly a Celebrity cruiser I frequently read their parent companies Royal Caribbean Blog where they also talked about this new legislation post signing and effectively becoming law.

The Alaska Tourism Restoration Act essentially provides a way to circumvent the Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA) restrictions for cruise ships transporting passengers between the State of Washington and the State of Alaska.

Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and NCL have all announced cruise restart plans for Alaska this summer, with Serenade of the Seas leading the pack with cruises beginning in July 2021.

Serenade of the Seas will begin sailing on July 19, 2021, and Ovation of the Seas will begin sailing on August 13, 2021.

Both ships will sail 7-night roundtrip cruises from Seattle, Washington, and sailings are available now to book.

Unless something changes, these Alaska cruises in summer 2021 could be the first Royal Caribbean cruises to sail from the United States since March 2020.

Cruise ships will still need approval to sail from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) due to the Framework for Conditional Sail Order, which remains in effect until November 2021.

Despite the major cruise lines announcing sailings to Alaska this summer, there has not been any announcement or confirmation the CDC will allow ships to sail.

In Carnival’s announcement, they mentioned deciding to offer cruises again, “based on recent guidance from the CDC and close collaboration with Alaskan officials.”

NCL said its plans were contingent on obtaining a Conditional Sailing Certificate, which it expected to be granted “in the coming days”.

Royal Caribbean made no mention of its negotiations with the CDC during its announcement.

The CDC now has to get to work and give the cruise lines their certificates following plenty of effort by the cruise industry to develop health and safety protocols.

Cruise lines generally only accept passengers who have received their Covid-19 vaccine either in the U.S. or abroad while all of the staff has been vaccinated as well. That in addition to on-board health protocol such as using masks and sanitizing is as good as it gets. Let adults live their lives again!

Here is an example of the pricing Celebrity Cruises is offering on the Celebrity Summit 7 Day Dawes Glacier Cruise ex Seattle of which they have 9 cruises scheduled so far:

This is the pricing for a Veranda Cabin:

The taxes and fees have ballooned from ~ $200 to $428 now that this is a wholly domestic itinerary which is a pretty significant increase. Not much however considering the total expense of the cruise.

The first itinerary is scheduled for July 23rd and the last one for September 17th. I’d probably select an itinerary in August if I was to make a selection now. I also noticed that Celebrity doesn’t sell any interior cabins which makes for the rather high entry prices (the prices displayed are for a single cabin).

Before purchasing any cruise I’d make sure that the cruise lines have received they sailing certificate and you already got he vaccine certification. It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself properly with the protocol the cruise lines establish on board. It would be a very miserable vacation if there is something extremely annoying in these rules that you can’t live with.

Conclusion

This legislation has now become law and cruise lines can legally start operating between Alaska and the state of Washington without stopping in Canada. These cruises have now been scheduled and can be purchased from the cruise lines. This effort could salvage half of the summer season although both supply and demand will be lower than in previous years as less and smaller ships will be sailing and most international travelers are missing. Add to that the requirement of all passengers to be vaccinated.

Cruises will be more expensive this year when they eventually go ahead. The above example is just a taste but it’s largely because the entry (interior) cabins aren’t available, likely as a precaution that if they need to lock people in their cabins due to an outbreak on board this is more doable in a cabin that has at least a window. Otherwise the passengers would likely go insane and cause trouble.

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