September 18, 2021

Alaska gets ready for 2021 cruises

Cruise lines are bringing travellers back to Alaska.

By Heidi Groover, The Seattle Times

Cruises from Seattle to Alaska are set to return this summer after federal lawmakers cleared the way for sailings that have been on hold since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

The move signals the return of a significant slice of downtown Seattle’s economy, where some waterfront businesses plan staffing around the cruise schedule. But significant questions remain about exact safety protocols the cruise lines will enforce.

Princess Cruises, Holland America Line and Carnival Cruise Line said Thursday they would resume cruising to Alaska for a partial season starting in  late July for passengers who have proof of vaccination. Ports for most lines include Juneau, Ketchikan, and either Sitka or Skagway. Princess and HAL will usually cruise to Glacier Bay while Celebrity will tour Endicott Arm to view the Dawes Glacier.

Princess Cruises will sail seven-day cruises from July 25 through Sept. 26. Sales will begin on May 21.

Holland America Line will resume seven-day cruises to depart on Saturdays from July 24 through Oct. 2.

Carnival will depart weekly from July 27 to Sept. 14. Most trips will be seven-day cruises, with one eight-day trip that has one additional stop.

Norwegian Cruise Line has also started selling tickets for August sailings from Seattle to Alaska, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

A spokesperson for Royal Caribbean Group, which includes Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises and Silversea, said the company would release more details soon, but “we couldn’t be more excited to sail in Alaska this summer.”

Proof of vaccination will be required, the companies said Thursday. Decisions about masks, social distancing and precise quarantine procedures are still to come.

Cruise ships became early emblems of the pandemic when outbreaks aboard ships last year stranded crews and passengers on board for weeks. This spring, the CDC has been working on guidelines to allow cruise ships to resume operations.

For Seattle-Alaska sailings, the Port of Seattle will craft agreements with the cruise companies outlining safety protocols, including arrangements in the event of an outbreak on board “so it’s not a burden on the local government and community resources,” said Stephanie Jones Stebbins, the Port of Seattle’s maritime director.

The resumption of sailing is made possible by the recent passage of the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act, which will temporarily allow cruise lines to bypass Canada.

Many large cruise lines run ships that are registered outside the United States, and because of that are typically required to stop at a foreign port when traveling between two U.S. ports. (Cruise critics say the companies register outside the country to avoid taxes, labor laws and environmental regulations.) With Canada closed to cruise ships, that rule stood in the way of Seattle-to-Alaska trips.

After passage in the U.S. Senate last week, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the fix Thursday. The news set off a string of cruise lines announcing their plans to resume sailing to Alaska.

About Anne Vipond

Anne Vipond is the author of several guidebooks to cruising destinations around the world. She draws on an extensive sailing background to impart her enthusiasm for cruise travel. From her home port of Vancouver, she travels by cruise ship to a wide range of destinations to keep her books current and useful for her cruise readers. Her cruising articles have been published in magazines and newspapers throughout North America and over seas.