Thursday, February 18, 2021

Canada bans cruise ships until 2022

For many Americans who are ready to be on the move again, an Alaskan cruise seems like the ideal way to jump back into traveling—not too far away, beautiful scenery, and a destination that is still part of the United States. Cruise lines have been offering great deals, and ships have been filling up in recent months for the season that runs from May through September.

The Alaska cruise season is effectively cancelled for large cruise ships
that sail in Canadian waters.

But Canada has other ideas. Our northern neighbor is not being friendly to cruise ships and the many towns and cities in Alaska that depend on tourism for a large part of their economy.

On February 4, 2021, Transport Canada, the Canadian government’s transportation department, banned cruise vessels with more than 100 passengers from sailing in Canadian waters until February 28, 2022. A few small ships will still be allowed to sail.

So, just skip Canada and go straight to Alaska?

Scenes like this are not likely in summer 2021.

Well, there’s a maritime rule in effect called the Jones Act that requires foreign-flagged ships that sail in U.S. waters to stop in at least one foreign port when sailing between U. S. ports. That includes almost all of the larger lines that go to Alaska, so they typically include a port stop or embarkation point in Canada, such as Vancouver.

The ban affects more than Alaska vacation cruises. It also prohibits all adventure or pleasure craft and passenger vessels from entering Canada’s Arctic waters, thus eliminating itineraries of even smaller expedition vessels scheduled to go there in 2021.

What’s more, prohibiting ships from sailing in Canadian waters affects cruises along the east coast and Great Lakes as well as. The fall 2021 New England to Canada cruise season is effectively killed because of the long time frame set for the ban.

Many businesses in Alaska port towns
like Skagway are really feeling
economic effects of no tourists.
Transport Canada says cruise lines that don’t comply with the order could face penalties up to $25,000 per day, a jail term of up to 18 months, or both. This new regulation comes on top of Canada’s already strict requirement that arrivals from abroad must furnish three COVID test results—one taken prior to arrival, a second COVID test as they self-isolate in a hotel after arriving, and then a third test after quarantining at home.

What if you’ve booked one of these cruises already?

As of now, no cruise lines have officially cancelled their 2021 Alaska or New England cruises. Stakeholders in the tourist business are trying to have good-faith discussions with Transport Canada officials, but so far without success. Transport Canada does say that the ban could be rescinded if the pandemic improves sufficiently to allow the resumption of cruise activities. But it’s doubtful if that will happen in a timely manner to save summer and fall cruises.

If you already have a cruise booked that docks at a port on either the west or east coast of Canada, you may just have to wait to see if you’ll actually be able to travel as planned. Don’t be surprised if you’re left in limbo for a long time.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

No comments: