But the ban extension is also going to hit Alaska and even Seattle, Washington, hard through a combination of geographical proximity and US maritime rules.
What Canada is doing — and why
Big ship cruises to romantic Quebec City on the St. Lawrence River will have to wait for now.
The government said “passenger vessels carrying more than 12 people are still prohibited from entering Arctic coastal waters. … Pleasure craft used by local Arctic residents will not be affected by these measures.”
But the bigger vacation impact will be for folks who enjoy the big cruise ship experience. Cruise ships that ferry more than 100 passengers will still be prohibited from operating in Canadian waters.
It’s notable that there’s no ban on “smaller cruise ships certified to carry 100 or fewer people.”
“As Canadians continue to do their part to reduce the spread of Covid-19, our government continues to work hard to ensure Canada’s transportation system remains safe,” Alghabra said in the government’s statement. “Temporary prohibitions to cruise vessels and pleasure craft are essential to continue to protect the most vulnerable among our communities.”
If the pandemic situation “sufficiently improves,” Alghabra could rescind orders earlier than February 2022.
How this affects US tourism
Because of geographical proximity, Alaska and Seattle are inexorably tied to their international neighbor. Routes featuring ports such as Seattle, Victoria (Canada), Sitka, Juneau and Glacier Bay have been very popular for decades.
But it’s not just geography that will hurt the US cruise industry. It’s the way maritime law works that gives the ban its sting for America, too.
For instance, Carnival has most of its ships registered in Panama. And while Holland America’s headquarters are in Seattle, its ships carry the flag of the Netherlands.
So unless it is US-registered, a cruise ship that departs from Seattle for a trip to Alaska must first call at a Canadian port. Except for now, it can’t.
Stunning Glacier Bay, Alaska, will be out of reach for many tourists unless Canada is able to rescind an extension of its cruise ship ban.
“As the state with the most extensive shared border with Canada, the Alaska delegation has worked in good-faith to seek compromise over border crossing restrictions due to Covid-19, keeping in mind the health and safety of Alaskans and Canadians,” the statement read.
“Canada’s announcement to ban all cruise sailings carrying 100 people or more traveling through Canadian waters, without so much as a courtesy conversation with the Alaska delegation, is not only unexpected — it is unacceptable — and was certainly not a decision made with any consideration for Alaskans or our economy. We expect more from our Canadian allies.”
They said they will pursue “all potential avenues, including changing existing laws, to ensure the cruise industry in Alaska resumes operations as soon as it is safe.”
The news has been a blow in Alaska tourism circles.
“The extension of the ‘no-sail’ order in Canadian waters is likely to have large, negative implications for Alaska visitation in the coming summer,” Saupe said in a written statement. She said cruises make up about 40% to 50% of overnight leisure visits to Alaska’s largest city in the summer.
The Canadian announcement has a direct effect on Seattle’s tourist economy.
“Each homeported vessel brings in over $4 million to the regional economy, $14.5 million in statewide taxes, and generates nearly one-billion dollars in business activity over the whole season,” Port of Seattle spokesman Peter McGraw said in statement.
“We also hear from port cities in Alaska that losing another year of revenue could be cataclysmic. We urge our federal leaders to consider relief for all communities impacted by the declines in travel and tourism.”
Looking ahead to 2022
Meanwhile, cruise lines do seem to be optimistic for 2022 even if 2021 turns out to be a bust.
Top photo: Pedestrians walk through an empty cruise ship port in Juneau, Alaska. Photo credit: Meg Roussos/Bloomberg/Getty Images