Another major cruise line unveils plans to restart in Alaska

Jun 1, 2021

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Make that seven major cruise lines that have announced plans to restart Alaska sailings this summer.

Luxury line Silversea on Tuesday said it would resume cruises to The Last Frontier out of Seattle on July 29 with a single ship, the 596-passenger Silver Muse.

The vessel will operate 10- and 11-night, round-trip voyages to the Southeastern Alaskan towns of Ketchikan, Juneau, Wrangell, Skagway and Sitka through the fall.

Silversea is joining Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, Holland America, Princess Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line and Carnival Cruise Line in announcing a return to Alaska in either late July or early August.

Silversea’s announcement comes just eight days after President Joe Biden signed legislation that temporarily allows foreign-flagged cruise ships such as those operated by Silversea to sail to Alaska this summer without stopping in Canada.

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

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.

Tuesday’s announcement is more welcome news for tourist towns in Southeastern Alaska such as Juneau and Skagway, which haven’t been visited by a major cruise ship since the summer of 2019. The towns rely on cruise ships to deliver more than 90% of their visitors in a normal year.

Still, the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act doesn’t guarantee that a cruise line can operate in Alaska this summer. Cruise lines operating all but the smallest ships also 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. 

A spokesperson for Silversea told TPG that the line had gotten CDC approval for Silver Muse to operate in Alaska. That’s significant, as several of the other lines that have announced plans to restart sailings in Alaska still don’t have CDC approval.

Silversea said the new Alaska sailings only would be open to passengers who are fully vaccinated for COVID-19. Passengers will have to show proof they have received a final dose of an approved COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days prior to a cruise starting.

The sailings are not yet available for booking. They’ll be added to the Silversea website starting on June 7, the line said.

Silversea on Tuesday also announced it would begin cruises around Iceland on July 30. The trips will take place on the 382-passenger Silver Shadow.

Silversea had previously announced plans to restart operations in the Eastern Mediterranean in June with one ship sailing out of Piraeus, Greece. Silversea also is restarting sailings in the Galápagos in June.

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Featured image courtesy of Silversea.

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