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Congress asks Canada to reconsider ship ban that could cancel Alaska cruise season

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U.S. lawmakers are looking for a way to save the Alaska cruise season.

Canada banned cruise ships carrying 100 passengers or more from docking at its ports through February 2022 because of COVID-19, officials announced earlier this month.

That’s bad news for cruises to Alaska or New England, as U.S. law requires cruise ships flagged from foreign countries to make stops in foreign countries. Many of the cruise ships that typically operate in the U.S. are registered in countries like the Bahamas or Panama.

U.S. lawmakers are looking for a way to save the Alaska cruise season.

U.S. lawmakers are looking for a way to save the Alaska cruise season.
(Celebrity Cruises)

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A group of representatives from the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee sent a letter to Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., Kirsten Hillman, warning of “economic devastation” and asking for Canada to reconsider its ban.

“By closing Canadian ports to passenger vessels for another year, the livelihoods of tens of thousands of Americans and Canadians are at risk,” the lawmakers wrote.

Cruises play a major role in the Alaskan tourism industry. In 2020, the Cruise Lines International Association, a trade group, projected that 43 ships would bring 1.4 million passengers on 606 voyages to Alaska, before the pandemic spoiled travel plans.

U.S. law requires cruise ships flagged from foreign countries to make stops in foreign countries.

U.S. law requires cruise ships flagged from foreign countries to make stops in foreign countries.
(Courtesy Princess Cruises)

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To allow Alaska cruises to continue, the lawmakers suggested a compromise allowing ships to dock in Canada but not disembark passengers.

In a statement, the CLIA thanked the lawmakers for seeking “a path of resumption of cruises to Alaska” with the Canadian government.

“CLIA looks forward to working with the Canadian and U.S. authorities on a solution that addresses the public health needs of Americans and Canadians alike, while responsibly restarting a critical economic driver for the Pacific Northwest and Alaska,” the group said.

Cruises play a major role in the Alaskan tourism industry. (iStock)

Cruises play a major role in the Alaskan tourism industry. (iStock)

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Canada may not be the only route to a solution. Rep. Don Young, R-A.K., introduced the Alaska Recovery Act this week. The bill would provide a temporary workaround by considering roundtrip voyages between Washington state and Alaska to be foreign voyages for legal purposes.

“The COVID-19 pandemic devastated Alaska’s 2020 cruise season; we must not allow the same to happen to 2021’s season,” Young said in a written statement.

For now, cruises aren’t happening in U.S. waters anyway as cruise lines work to meet CDC requirements for coronavirus safety protocols.

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