Sailings to start in July
Surprise! Alaska cruises will be sailing this summer! Thanks to a federal law (H.R. 1318) signed into law by President Biden, the cruise lines will be able to sail to Alaska between US ports without the need to stop in Canada. Last year Canada closed its ports to cruise vessels in response to the international Covid-19 pandemic. This effectively prohibited the sailing of Alaska cruises because of an obscure law (the Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1886) that prohibits cruises lines from sailing between US ports without stopping, starting, or ending in a Canadian port.
Cruise lines offering Alaska cruises
Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Norwegian, Princess, and Holland America have all announced 7-day cruises starting in July. All the cruises are subject to the lines obtaining a “Conditional Sailing Certificate” from the CDC, but it is expected that the CDC will issue these in the coming days.
Full Covid-19 vaccinations required
All cruise lines will require that all passengers and crew be fully vaccinated. Exact procedures regarding masks and social distancing are still being evaluated.
What is the Passenger Vessel Services Act
The Act is a protectionist piece of legislation. It prohibits foreign vessels from directly transporting passengers between US ports unless they stop at a foreign port. This is why all Alaskan cruises include a stop, start, or end at a Canadian port. As long as there is a stop in a foreign country, like Canada, ships can visit multiple US ports as long as guests are not allowed permanently disembark – the can sightsee in a port, but the must return to the ship.
Virtually all cruise ships are foreign built, registered/flagged, and crewed. Most cruise ships are flagged/registered in Panama, Liberia, Malta, the Netherlands, or the Bahamas so they are subject to this Act. By registering in foreign countries, the cruise lines are not subject to US labor laws nor the US requirement that US registered ships be built in the US. So it is all about money.
The Act passed this week, amends the Passenger Vessel Services Act by creating a temporary waiver until Canada opens its ports to US cruise ships.