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Cruise ships could permanently skip Canada on Alaska voyages under new bill

Sept. 17, 2021
4 min read
cruise ship sails in the water with snow-capped mountains in the background
Cruise ships could permanently skip Canada on Alaska voyages under new bill
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Cruise lines could opt to permanently skip Canada port calls on Alaska sailings if a new bill passes. The proposed legislation, to be put forth by Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), would grant Alaska itineraries a permanent exemption to the longstanding Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA), which requires that foreign-flagged ships call on at least one foreign port when sailing round-trip from the U.S.

In Alaska, 10% of jobs are tied to tourism. In 2019, the state saw more than 1.3 million cruise passengers, who helped to bring $2.2 billion in visitor spending. In 2020, that all stopped.

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Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas docked in Juneau, Alaska. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)

In March 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada closed its borders to most cruise ships. Initially, it was through July 1, 2020, and applied to ships carrying 500 passengers or more. As the severity of COVID-19 increased, the mandate was extended several times, ultimately through February 2022, applicable to passenger vessels carrying 100 people or more.

In May of this year, U.S. President Joe Biden signed the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act, which, in part, grants a temporary waiver to the 135-year-old PVSA through February 2022 by allowing round-trip sailings between the states of Washington and Alaska to be considered foreign itineraries. Canada's ban would otherwise have effectively canceled the entire 2021 Alaska cruise season by leaving ships without any way to satisfy the PVSA's foreign-port requirements.

Eventually, Canada's Ministry of Tourism pulled back, changing the ban's end date to Nov. 1, 2021, but it was too little and too late, as the Alaska cruise season ends in October.

Murkowski plans to introduce the bill next week, according to a press release. "While the PVSA is well-intentioned to protect American jobs and businesses, it had the unintended consequence of putting Alaskan businesses at the mercy of the Canadian government," she said. "We cannot let that happen again."

(Photo by Basic Elements Photography/Getty Images)

The PVSA largely exists to make sure that foreign-flagged vessels cannot compete with those built and flagged in the U.S. However, because the U.S. does not currently have shipyards with the capacity to build vessels as large as most modern-day cruise ships, Murkowski's proposal allows exemptions only for passenger vessels carrying 1,000 people or more. The waiver would end if U.S. shipyards begin constructing ships larger than that size.

"Bottom line, we need to reform the PVSA so that Alaskans' ability to engage in commerce isn't derailed by the government of another country," Murkowski said.

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If the bill passes, it could be bad news for Canada, which sees many cruise passengers in its Victoria and Vancouver ports under normal circumstances.

If passed, the bill -- which is more extreme than the Tribal Tourism Sovereignty Act put forth by Congressman Don Young (R-AK) over the summer -- would also allow travelers with criminal records to cruise to Alaska permanently on itineraries that don't call on Canadian ports.

Currently, most major cruise lines -- including the two most prominent players, Princess and Holland America, as well as Norwegian, Carnival and Celebrity -- have restarted sailings in the state. They are adhering to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations for passenger vaccination, mask-wearing, social distancing and testing.

Featured image by Getty Images
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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Best for the well-traveled foodie
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
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
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    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

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    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    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.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

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  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees