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Cruise lines have officially started to cancel Alaska sailings

Feb. 24, 2021
5 min read
Princess ship in Glacier Bay
Cruise lines have officially started to cancel Alaska sailings
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The Alaska cruise cancellations have begun.

The two biggest cruise lines operating in Alaska, Princess Cruises and Holland America, on Wednesday canceled all of their 2021 Alaska sailings that begin or end in Vancouver, British Columbia.

A third, smaller line -- Seabourn -- canceled all its Alaska sailings for the year.

All three of the lines, which are owned by the same parent company, said they were acting in the wake of Canada's announcement earlier this month that it would ban cruise ships from its waters until 2022 due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

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The cancellations will affect tens of thousands of vacationers on dozens of sailings.

"We share in our guests’ disappointment over these canceled voyages especially as we have been preparing our ships for our return to service,” Princess Cruises president Jan Swartz said in a statement accompanying the announcement. “We understand how much of Alaska is dependent on the cruise economy. We are going to do all we can to help our business partners and the communities of Alaska.”

Princess and Holland America on Wednesday also canceled all 2021 voyages along the Pacific Coast of the United States that begin or end in Vancouver.

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Princess Cruises and its sister line, Holland America, dominate the market for cruises to Alaska. (Photo courtesy Princess Cruises)

Princess also canceled a 2021 sailing to Canada that was scheduled to begin and end in Southampton, England. Holland America also canceled three New England and Canada sailings.

For now, Princess and Holland America are not canceling 2021 sailings to Alaska that are roundtrip out of Seattle, even though the trips also include stops at Canadian ports that, by law, cannot be dropped from the itineraries.

Princess and Holland America operate foreign-flagged cruise ships that legally cannot cruise between U.S. ports without visiting at least one foreign port.

Related: Cruise lines begin removing Alaska departures from their schedules

Both of the lines suggested they were trying to negotiate a way to continue such sailings 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.

"Princess is engaged with various United States and Canadian government officials to try to preserve a portion of the Alaska and Canada [and] New England 2021 cruise seasons," Princess said in a statement announcing Wednesday's cancellations.

Princess also pledged to keep three resorts and hotels that it owns in Alaska -- the Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge on the Kenai Peninsula; the McKinley Chalet Resort at Denali National Park; and the Westmark Fairbanks Hotel -- open for the year.

The cruise line traditionally packages stays at the properties with the cruises it operates to and from Vancouver. Without those cruises running, occupancy at the properties will, in theory, drop sharply this year. But Princess on Wednesday said it's developing land-tour packages for the coming summer season in Alaska that would include stays at the properties without an associated cruise.

Related: Canada cruise ban 'devastating' for Alaska

A spokesperson for Princess Cruises told TPG the line had canceled 51 sailings to Alaska in all.

A spokesperson for Holland America did not immediately respond to a question about the number of Alaska cruises it had canceled. But in a statement, the line said the cancellations included all voyages to Alaska on four ships: Koningsdam, Nieuw Amsterdam, Noordam and Zuiderdam.

The cancellations at Seabourn affected 19 sailings.

Princess, Holland America and Seabourn are all owned by Carnival Corp. -- the world's largest cruise company.

Also canceling more sailings on Wednesday was a fourth Carnival Corp.-owned brand, Carnival Cruise Line, as well as Windstar Cruises and Disney Cruise Line.

Carnival said it was extending its pause to operations from all U.S. ports through the end of May. Until Wednesday, it only had canceled sailings through the end of April.

Windstar extended its pause to operations by a month to early June. Four of Windstar's six ships now are scheduled to return to service between June 10 and June 19, with two more scheduled to restart operations in July.

Disney Cruise Line canceled all sailings until early June and sailings on one ship, Disney Magic, through Aug. 18. Disney Magic had been scheduled to spend the summer in Europe.

The lines are just the latest to cancel more cruises in recent days. Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises last week pushed out their return to service by a month, until at least the end of May.

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. Carnival, Norwegian, Princess, Holland America and Celebrity Cruises and Holland America are among the major lines that haven’t operated a single departure since March.

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Featured image by Princess Cruises ships sail into Glacier Bay weekly during the summer. (Photo courtesy Princess Cruises)
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