After a catastrophic no-sail season, cruise lines were buoyant about forthcoming operations in Alaska, the world’s fifth-most popular cruise destination. One in 10 Alaskans work in tourism-related industries, with passenger ships accounting for more than 1 million annual visitors. The desire to sail the waters of America’s last frontier has been pent up for many months by the pandemic, and the 49th state, along with cruise lines worldwide, was eager to see a vigorous return of coastal cruising this year, followed by full recovery in 2022.
Despite a mother lode of potential passengers and an impressive array of new health and safety protocols, the persistence of COVID-19 and related regulations promised a slow relaunch of Alaskan sailings. Cunard Line and Windstar Cruises both scratched Alaska schedules for 2021, and most cruise lines scaled back operations and put offearly spring sailings. Then on February 5, 2021, the Transport Canada minister extended its order banning cruise ships carrying more than 100 passengers from its waters until February of next year.
Affected cruise lines suspended the sale of 2021 itineraries but did not immediately cancel their sailings, expressing the hope that progress in the fight against COVID, temporary changes to U.S. maritime regulations and/ or diplomatic measures might lead to the order being rescinded early, allowing them to salvage at least a portion of this season.
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