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The 2 leaders in Alaska cruising just gave up on sailing there until at least July

March 16, 2021
4 min read
Princess ship in Glacier Bay
The 2 leaders in Alaska cruising just gave up on sailing there until at least July
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The two leaders in the Alaska cruise market just gave up on the idea of sailing there through at least July.

Princess Cruises and Holland America, which together traditionally operate more ships in Alaska than most other major lines combined, on Tuesday canceled all their remaining Alaska departures for May and June.

Both lines already had canceled sailings to Alaska out of Vancouver, B.C., for May and June as well as later months of the year. But until Tuesday, they still had a large number of sailings to Alaska out of Seattle in May and June on their schedules.

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Another significant cruise operator in Alaska, Norwegian Cruise Line, as well as its smaller sister brands Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, also canceled sailings to the state through the end of June on Tuesday as part of a broader worldwide pause to operations.

Taken together, the announcements wiped away a significant number of all the remaining cruises that major lines had planned for Alaska in 2021.

The Alaska cruise season is a short one, typically lasting just from May through early September. With the new cancellations, Princess and Holland America have now canceled well over half of all their sailings to Alaska scheduled for 2021.

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A Princess Cruises ship in Alaska. (Photo courtesy of Princess Cruises)

Both lines now only have Alaska sailings from one port, Seattle, on their schedules for just over two months of this year (July, August and the early part of September).

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Even those trips may not operate due to a recently extended Canadian cruise ship ban.

While Canada's extended cruise ship ban only applies to Canadian ports, it's effectively a ban on cruises to Alaska, too, as Canadian stops are integral to many Alaska itineraries.

Related: Canada cruise ban 'devastating' for Alaska tourism

Princess, Holland America and many other lines that operate in Alaska use foreign-flagged cruise ships that legally cannot cruise between U.S. ports without visiting at least one foreign port. In the case of Alaska cruises, the only nearby foreign ports are in Canada.

Both Princess and Holland America are trying to negotiate a way to continue Alaska sailings this summer despite the law, which was enacted in 1886 and is known as the Passenger Vessel Services Act. The law was designed to give America’s maritime industry a monopoly on travel between U.S. ports.

Several smaller cruise lines, including Seabourn and Cunard already have canceled all their Alaska sailings for 2021.

Not all cruising in Alaska is in jeopardy because of Canada's extended cruise ship ban.

There are quite a few small U.S.-flagged vessels, such as those operated by small-ship cruise operators UnCruise Adventures, Alaskan Dream Cruises, Lindblad Expeditions, and American Cruise Lines, that still will be able to operate in Alaska this summer.

Still, because of their small size (many hold fewer than 100 people), the U.S.-flagged ships only account for a very small percentage of the capacity for Alaska cruises in a typical year.

All cruise lines around the world halted departures in March of last year as the coronavirus outbreak grew and many have yet to restart operations anywhere in the world. Princess, Holland America and Norwegian are among the major lines that haven’t operated a single departure since March 2020.

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Featured image by Princess Cruises ships sail into Glacier Bay weekly during the summer. (Photo courtesy Princess Cruises)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.