The House has passed the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act that will allow cruise ships to sail to Alaska. It was sent to President Biden’s desk and signed into law Monday night.
Cruise lines must still meet the guidelines set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) but this is a huge step for Alaska tourism. Without this bill, Alaskan tourism would be almost nonexistent for a second straight year which would be detrimental to a number of small businesses.
The bill was introduced by Alaska Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan and would allow cruise ships to sail from Seattle, Washington to Alaska in 2021 only. For 2021, these ships could bypass a stop in Canada which is currently required through the Passenger Vessel Services Act.
The Passenger Vessel Services Act requires all foreign-flagged ships to stop in a foreign country when traveling between U.S. ports. This outdated law was a protective measure passed 135 years ago that was introduced in order to shield U.S. ports and shipbuilders against foreign competition.
This new law will allow those foreign-flagged ships from such cruise lines as Disney, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian to salvage their 2021 summer cruise itineraries to Alaska and bypass Canada which announced earlier this year that no ships would be allowed to dock there in 2021.
Said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki Monday, “This law will allow large cruise ships to visit Alaska this year, a critical step toward returning to normal in a state where one in 10 jobs is in the tourism industry.”
There are a few small U.S. flagged cruise vessels each year but the major cruise ships are all foreign flagged. This makes up the majority of Alaska’s summer tourism in many major ports. In fact, cruise ships account for around 60% of all visitors to Alaska each year.
The CDC has yet to approve of any cruise lines sailing in Alaska but with this new law that is likely to happen in coming weeks.
With this renewed promise a number of major cruise lines have announced they will restart their Alaska cruise itineraries for this year.
Princess Cruise Line, Holland America and Carnival have announced they will restart sailings to Alaska out of Seattle at the end of July.
Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises have announced they will restart Alaska cruises on July 19 and July 23.
And Norwegian will restart Alaska itineraries on August 7.
This will result in an abbreviated cruise season to Alaska as these ships will miss out on 3 months of sailing. The season typically only runs May to September. That gives only about 2 months of sailing. But that’s better than nothin.
Stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.