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Restart of big-ship cruising in Alaska is one step closer as Biden signs tourism bill

May 24, 2021
4 min read
Restart of big-ship cruising in Alaska is one step closer as Biden signs tourism bill
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With the flick of a pen on Monday, President Joe Biden made it much more likely that big-ship cruising will resume in Alaska before the summer is over.

The president late Monday signed legislation passed by Congress in recent days that temporarily allows foreign-flagged cruise ships such as those operated by Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Line to sail to Alaska this summer without stopping in Canada.

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The legislation, called the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act, is necessary for the lines to restart cruises to Alaska because Canada currently is closed to cruise ships.

"Tourism is vital to the state of Alaska — and this law will help revitalize the industry and support Alaskans by allowing large cruise ships to return to the state this summer," Biden said late Monday in a tweet announcing his signing of the bill into law.

The legislation specifically grants a temporary waiver to the 135-year-old Passenger Vessel Services Act, which forbids foreign-flagged passenger ships from sailing between U.S. ports without making a stop at a foreign port such as those in Canada.

While Alaska draws a few small, U.S.-flagged cruise vessels each year, the vast majority of vacationers who visit the state in a typical year by cruise ship come on a foreign-flagged vessel. All big cruise ships that typically operate in Alaska are foreign-flagged ships.

Alaska's congressional delegation has fought hard for the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act in recent weeks as a way to help boost the Alaskan economy. Alaskan businesses have been hit hard over the past year by the COVID-19-related shutdown of cruising in the state. Cruise ships account for around 60% of all visitors to Alaska in a typical year.

Biden's signing of the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act on Monday doesn't guarantee that there will be big-ship cruising in Alaska this summer. Cruise lines still need to win approval to sail in Alaska from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The agency has been blocking cruise ships from sailing in U.S. waters for more than a year, citing worries about the spread of COVID-19 on ships.

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So far, the CDC has not given any cruise line approval to restart operations in Alaska. Still, cruise lines are optimistic that they will be getting such approval in the coming weeks.

The optimism has prompted several major lines including Holland America, Princess Cruises and Carnival in recent days to announced definitive restart dates for Alaska cruises.

Holland America, Princess and Carnival on Thursday said they would restart sailings to Alaska out of Seattle on July 24, July 25 and July 27, respectively.

Royal Caribbean and sister line Celebrity Cruises on Friday said they would restart Alaska cruises on July 19 and July 23, respectively.

And Norwegian on Monday set Aug. 7 as its restart date for Alaska cruises.

Even if the lines are successful in restarting on those dates, it'll be a very truncated Alaska cruise season. The Alaska cruise season is a short one, typically lasting only from May to early September.

All of the lines already have canceled wide swaths of their 2021 Alaska departures.

Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:

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.

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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
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10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
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    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

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Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023