It has been a disappointing 24 hours for the cruise industry. Although the CRUISE act from US senators Dan Sullivan, Rick Scott, and Marco Rubio had always been a longshot, the fact it met resistance is a sign that not everyone is as eager to restart the cruise industry as soon as possible.
Passionate pleas from the senators in the US Senate did not convince everyone on the floor the CRUISE act was necessary. However, the impact for the state of Alaska, in particular, will be significant if some form of restart is not achieved soon. It could very well spell the definitive end for cruises from Alaska in 2021.
In the meantime, the CDC remains quiet on all the happenings from the last couple of weeks, despite two lawsuits, several letters from cruise line CEOs, and an attempt to put new legislation to allow cruises to happen through. Prompting Senator Dan Sullivan to say that the CDC is ‘dragging its feet.’
Sullivan Supports Lawsuit Against CDC
Although the CRUISE act did not pass the senator floor, Senator Dan Sullivan remains in a fighting spirit. The senator voiced his support for the lawsuit against the CDC that Governor Mike Dunleavy joined in cooperation with Florida.
Sullivan made clear he is tired of the CDC inactivity when it comes to providing a timeline for cruises to resume, saying the inactivity will make a 2021 Alaska cruise season all but impossible:
“Enough is enough. I fully support Governor Dunleavy’s decision to sue the CDC given the agency’s many months of mixed messages, foot dragging and unresponsiveness. If not immediately addressed, the CDC’s inaction will needlessly cancel the 2021 Alaska cruise season, leaving the tens of thousands of Alaskans who rely on cruise passenger spending without any revenue until May 2022.”
Alaska is in a unique position when it comes to cruising. It is one of the states with a large portion of the population already vaccinated, while the local government is even offering tourists to be vaccinated while on vacation in Alaska.
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Nonetheless, as with all things cruise, the CDC has been notoriously quiet. According to Senator Sullivan, the CDC needs help from a federal judge on making decisions:
The CDC has had every opportunity to work collaboratively with the cruise lines and Alaska port communities to issue timely guidance for safely resuming operations—a process that has been afforded to every other transportation and hospitality sector. If the CDC can’t agree to do its job and publish guidance for the safe resumption of cruise travel, then we’ll have a federal judge help them.”
A Lawsuit Will Not Be Enough For Alaska
While the lawsuit could potentially bring cruising a step closer if successful for Florida, it might not be enough for Alaska. Canada still has a ban on cruises through February 2022; Something that will prevent large cruise ships from sailing to Alaska even if the CDC allows cruises to proceed.
Governor Mike Dunleavy has signed a bill urging the US Congress to exempt cruise ships from the Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA). Now it is required of all foreign-registered ships, which are the majority of newer large cruise ships, that they visit another country’s port in between sailing to and from US ports.
Vancouver and Victoria are usually the ports in Canada that Alaska cruises stop at. Still, the Canadian government has prohibited large cruise ships from entering Canadian waters through February 2022, a move that virtually prevents Alaska’s 2021 season except for the smallest passenger vessels.
Cruises to Alaska face several seemingly insurmountable hurdles that will need to be taken before the cruise lines can start thinking of sailing the fjords in Alaska again. It seems then that, despite the pressure from Governors and Senators, for the many people depending on the cruise industry in Alaska, it will come too late.