West Coast Cruises Could Begin Again In July

It looks like there may well be a bit of a Summer 2021 cruise season after all.

The CDC has revised its Conditional Sail Order to allow sailings from some U.S. ports by mid-July 2021, provided stringent COVID protocols are in place, including vaccination of crew and passengers.

According to Forbes magazine, “Per the CDC letter, cruise ships can proceed to open-water passenger sailings without test cruises as long as 98% of crew members and 95% of passengers are fully vaccinated. Instead of having to take a PCR lab test ahead of boarding, vaccinated passengers will be able to take a rapid antigen test upon embarkation.”

This is fabulous news for Florida and the Caribbean, and the timetable should give the industry a chance to get ready. But things remain a bit dodgy for Alaska and Washington State.

The resumption of Alaska cruises from Seattle hinges on Canada’s willingness to undo its ban on cruise ships with more than 100 people, which was extended this February until March 2022, or on the success of legislation in Congress to change an 1866 U.S. maritime law — the Passenger Vessel Act — requiring ships of non-U.S. registry to stop in a foreign port.

In the meantime, however, the latest communication from the CDC to the cruise companies says that cruise lines may enter into a “multi-port agreement” instead of a single port agreement, waiving the requirement of stopping at a Canadian port. There is some paperwork involved, though, as all port and local authorities must sign the agreement. Hopefully that can all come together by mid-July.

Missing a second cruise season entirely would be devastating to the Alaskan economy, the cruise ship industry and the economy of Puget Sound. Not to mention large parts of the Canadian economy — the Canadian ban affects ALL Canadian waters, and as the CBC reported, the effects “will be acutely felt in coastal communities, small towns, bigger centres, everywhere from Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, and especially British Columbia.”

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