As the Alaska cruise season approaches, booked travelers are still waiting for confirmed guidelines about their voyages, and Carnival Cruise Line is continuing to work out details for Alaska sailings.
The difficulty in planning the 2022 Alaska season is due to COVID-19 restrictions in Canada, and details have not yet been released about what testing, vaccination, or other protocols the Canadian government will require.
Carnival Working to Clarify Alaska Itineraries
Many ports of call have begun relaxing restrictions and encouraging more travel, allowing cruise ships to resume itineraries with fewer port changes or cancelations. Canada, however, has yet to provide details on health and safety guidelines for visiting cruise ships as the Alaska season nears.
In a post to his Facebook page on February 23, Carnival Brand Ambassador John Heald said, “With the modifications to protocols the CDC announced last week, we are hopeful of getting more clarity specific to Alaska very soon. The issue at the moment is still about resolving Canadian government requirements.”
Canada’s ban on cruise ships came to an end in November 2021, which means cruise ships will be able to visit the country for the upcoming summer season. Without guidelines, however, it is unclear what protocols passengers must abide by in order to visit.
Carnival Cruise Line recently updated its health and safety protocols as the line opted in to the CDC voluntary program for cruise ships. For embarkations on or after March 1, 2022, fully vaccinated guests on Carnival ships departing from U.S. ports will no longer be required to wear masks, children under 5 will not be counted in the 95 percent vaccinated passengers requirement, and guests up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccinations will have a longer pre-cruise window to complete required testing.
What is unknown, however, is whether those guidelines – provided by the CDC – will align with Canada’s guidelines as ports reopen, as Canadian requirements have not yet been announced.
What If Canadian Restrictions Don’t Match?
If Canada introduces stricter requirements for travelers, it is possible that ports of call may need to be adjusted and Alaska cruise itineraries could change.
“If that cannot be worked out promptly, the industry will seek to have government regulations suspended like what took place last year, and our itineraries will bypass Canada altogether,” Heald said.
In the extreme, the entire Alaska cruise season could be lost, creating a devastating impact on the small Alaskan port communities that rely on the tourism income during the cruise season.
Congressional representatives from Alaska, including U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, along with Congressman Don Young, have already introduced legislation to extend the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act (ATRA), which permitted cruise ships to bypass Canada in 2021.
“Alaska’s economy and our communities should not be at the mercy of decisions made by the Canadian government and I will do whatever is needed to ensure Alaskans can prosper,” said Murkowski in a February 18 press statement.
“The introduction of this legislation provides another tool in our tool box in the event that it is needed. It also sends a message to the world that Alaska is ready and excited to welcome visitors to our state this upcoming season.”
“We value our Canadian neighbors and recognize that the economies of both countries benefit greatly from tourism. Canada is a sovereign nation, and they are free to govern themselves as they choose, but so shall Alaska and the United States,” said Young in the same press release.
It is also possible that Carnival Cruise Line, as well as other cruise lines that sail extensively in Alaska, may create different health and safety protocols that would apply only to Alaska sailings. Booked passengers will undoubtedly be contacted as soon as possible with updated requirements so they can plan appropriately for their sailings.
When Is the Alaska Cruise Season?
The typical Alaska cruise season – when the weather is suitable to welcome visitors and waterways are open to to permit smooth sailing – runs from May through September. Eager cruise travelers, however, often plan Alaska cruises years in advance, booking their favorite cruise ships, stateroom types, and itineraries to explore the Last Frontier.
For 2022, Carnival Cruise Line has three ships sailing Alaska itineraries – Carnival Spirit from Seattle, Carnival Splendor also from Seattle, and Carnival Miracle from San Francisco.
Carnival Spirit and Carnival Splendor are offering a variety of shorter 6-, 7-, and 8-day itineraries, while Carnival Miracle‘s sailings are longer 10-day voyages. Carnival Freedom had previously been scheduled for Alaska, but has been replaced by Carnival Spirit and Carnival Splendor due to multiple ship redeployments announced in recent weeks.