Updated: Jul 5, 2021
By Kim DeSutter
Published April 29, 2021 in The Burg
Alaska! It’s a beautiful state with vibrant scenery, rich folklore, and the majestic Mt. McKinley. A favorite way to experience Alaska is to combine a land tour with a cruise, allowing travelers to experience the rugged frontier and also enjoy the beautiful glaciers and icebergs from the sea.
However, like last summer, the Alaskan Cruise season may be cancelled. Last year, all cruises were cancelled by the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) and currently all US ports remain closed to cruise ships. Cruising could resume by July if the CRUISE (Careful Resumption Under Improved Safety Enhancements) Act bill passes or the CDC changes its mandates. But even if the bill passes, the Alaskan cruise season may still not resume due to the Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA), a law signed by President Grover Cleveland in 1886 in an attempt to protect American jobs.
In the global cruise industry, all cruise ships have to be “flagged” or registered by a
country and they are subject to the laws of the country from which they are flagged. In order to be flagged in the USA, a ship has to be built in an American shipyard, staffed with mainly US crewmembers and subject to US minimum wages. The only large cruise vessel that has a USA registry is the Hawaii based Pride of America, and its construction was completed in Germany.
American Shipyards do not make large cruise ships so essentially all cruise ships have a foreign flag. The PVSA prevents foreign flagged ships from sailing between US ports exclusively. The penalty is over $700 per passenger. There are two exceptions: a ship can depart and return to the same US port as long as there is a stop in a foreign port, or a ship can depart a US port,
stop in a foreign port that is not in the Caribbean, and proceed to a different US port.
So, how does this apply to the Alaskan Cruise season? To fulfill the requirements of the
PVSA, Alaskan cruises must include a stop in a foreign port, which would be Canada. However, Canada has closed all its ports to passenger vessels until February of 2022. This effectively closes the Alaskan cruise season. A recent economic impact report stated that Alaska loses more than $3 billion each season the cruise industry is shut down. Currently, Alaska Rep. Don Young is supporting suing the CDC. He feels, along with Florida’s governor (who actually sued
the CDC) and many other cruise industry leaders, that this industry is being unfairly targeted by the CDC. The same restrictions have not been applied or prevented a return to business for travel industries like theme parks, hotels and airlines.
Even if cruising resumes from most US ports this summer, it will take an act of Congress
for a temporary suspension of the PVSA to allow cruising to return to Alaska. Until then, the only way to experience Alaska is through a land tour, on a small ship, or a combination of both.
Please email me with any travel topics or questions you would like covered in my column. My email is Kimberly.DeSutter@CruisePlanners.com. Please remember that Cruise Planners is a full service travel company who specializes in land vacations as well as cruises. I offer a special promotion if you mention The Burg, and if you want to experience Alaska this summer, I can help you achieve your dream! The facts in the article were correct at the time of submission.
Today’s travel laws and mandates change frequently.