Canada shuts down big ship cruising

CLIA, Alaska respond to surprise cruise ban extension until March 2023

Canada Place, Vancouver | Credit: Pascal Bernardon/Unsplash

Cruise lines have been left scratching their head and scurrying to devise new itineraries after the Government of Canada kiboshed cruise ships carrying 100+ passengers in all Canadian waters until March 2022.

The decision also impacts the schedules of luxury cruise lines deploying vessels to Alaska and the Inside Passage, which navigate through Canadian waters, primarily from Vancouver, to access the region.

Multiple cruise lines have already started making alternative arrangements – see below.

In layman’s terms, the ban will see the Alaska cruise market shrink from 71,000 berths to approximately 1,100, according to data from the 2021 Cruise Industry News Annual Report.

Cruise ships at Canada Place, Vancouver including Norwegian Bliss, Canada Place, Burrard Inlet, Vancouver | Credit: Vancouver Fraser Port Authority; William Jans Photography

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Transport Canada made the startling ruling in response to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic. The country had already put in place the temporary ban on cruise ships until the end of February 2021.

Canadians and permanent residents are also recommended to avoid all travel on cruise ships outside the country “until further notice”.

“Should the COVID-19 pandemic sufficiently improve to allow the resumption of these activities, the Minister of Transport has the ability to rescind the Interim Orders,” the authority said.

Alaska says decision is “unacceptable”

The Alaska Congressional Delegation slammed Transport Canada’s decision.

The delegation comprised of three US Senators said the move 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…We are exploring all potential avenues, including changing existing laws, to ensure the cruise industry in Alaska resumes operations as soon as it is safe. We will fight to find a path forward.”

Juneau, Alaska | credit: Sandra Seitamaa/Unsplash

CLIA-NWC baffled

Cruise Lines International Association – North West & Canada was also left stunned by the length of Canada’s new ‘No-Sail Order’.

“While we understand and support the government’s focus on combatting COVID-19 in Canada, we are surprised by the length of the extension of the prohibition of cruise,” said Charlie Ball, Chair of CLIA-NWC.

“We hope to have an opportunity to revisit this timeline and demonstrate our ability to address COVID-19 in a cruise setting with science-backed measures, as CLIA members are doing in Europe and parts of Asia where cruising has resumed on a limited basis.”

Crystal Serenity docked at Canada Place | Credit: Vancouver Fraser Port Authority; William Jans Photography

Cruise line response

NCLH’s Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Oceania Cruises is yet to cancel any sailings in Canadian waters.

A spokesperson for Regent and Oceania told LATTE, “We are currently studying the Order and its implications and have not cancelled our cruises that visit Canadian ports.

“We are currently exploring several initiatives that may allow such cruises to continue, especially for the important Alaska season. Given the fluidity of the current environment, we will also continue to work with the Canadian government to amend their current suspension.

 “We are working through all available options as quickly as possible and as a result we have not cancelled our 2021 cruises that visit Canadian ports. We will continue to keep all travel partners and guests updated as the situation progresses,” the spokesperson added.

Seabourn has effective immediately, temporarily ceased selling all 2021 Alaska/British Columbia cruises and on Pacific Coastal voyage which visits Canadian ports.

“Given the unexpected length of the order, it will take us some time to assess whether there are any options to preserve a portion of the 2021 Alaska season,” Seabourn said.

Crystal admits it was caught off-guard by the Canadian Government’s ban which will impact Crystal Serenity‘s scheduled sailings in autumn.

“We were surprised by the length of the extension of the Government of Canada’s ‘No-Sail Order,’ and as a result our itinerary team is now working on creating exciting alternative voyages,” Crystal said.

Viking has removed from sale all 10 of its 11-day cruises operating between Vancouver and Seward in 2021.

Quebec City, Credit: OTQ

Small-ship operators unphased

Not all cruise lines have been affected, with UnCruise Adventures saying it will maintain its schedule from May, offering 7-14 night itineraries across six vessels through to September.

“UnCruise Adventures has the ability to operate due to its small boat nature, providing small groups and a small environmental footprint. It does not require port stops and is foregoing visits to small cultural communities during its 2021 sailing season,” the US-flagged small boat operator said.

American Cruise Lines, Alaskan Dream Cruises and Lindblad Expeditions also say they intend to operate in Alaska, the latter of which plans to offer sailings on the 100-passenger National Geographic Venture and National Geographic Quest and the 62-passenger National Geographic Sea Lion.

One-ship cruise operator Adventure Canada has, however, has cancelled its entire 2021 sailing season.

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