Canada Extends Ban on Cruise Ships Through February 2022
The Government of Canada has extended its ban for all cruise vessels carrying over 100 passengers through February 28, 2022. This new mandate continues to prohibit adventure-seeking pleasure craft from entering Arctic waters. Passenger vessels carrying more than 12 people will also still be prohibited from entering Arctic coastal waters, including Nunatsiavut, Nunavik, and the Labrador Coast.
“The Government of Canada continues to monitor the evolving COVID-19 pandemic and the impact it is having on the marine and tourism sectors. Keeping Canadians and transportation workers safe and healthy are top priorities for Transport Canada. Today, the Minister of Transport, the Honourable Omar Alghabra, announced two new Interim Orders, which prohibit pleasure craft in Canadian Arctic waters and cruise vessels in all Canadian waters until February 28, 2022,” said a statement released by the Government of Canada, Transport Canada.
With these new measures in place, the Government of Canada says that public health authorities will be able to focus on the vaccine rollout and new COVID-19 variants.
The temporary measures for pleasure craft and cruise ships were scheduled to end on February 28, 2021. There is no national ban from the Canadian Government for smaller cruise ships certified to carry 100 or fewer people. These particular ships must follow provincial, territorial, local and regional health authority protocols for timelines and processes around their operations.
In the event that the COVID-19 pandemic improves, Canada’s Minister of Transport has the ability to rescind these Interim Orders and allow for the resumption of all cruise activities. If the order stays in place through February 2022, it will end the full 2021 cruise season to Canada affecting sailings out of U.S. ports including Alaska and New England. Alaska sailings roundtrip from the US (such as Seattle or San Francisco) could still be operated if the cruise lines choose to pay the penalty under the Jones Act. Additionally, the Jones Act could be repealed or a temporary waiver granted for the 2021 cruise season.
Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) has released the following statement regarding Canada's new order, "We understand and appreciate the government’s focus on combatting COVID-19 in Canada. At the same time, we are surprised by the length of the extension of the Order. We hope to have the opportunity to revisit this timeline and demonstrate our ability to address COVID-19 in a cruise setting with science-backed measures, as CLIA members are doing in Europe and parts of Asia where cruising has resumed on a limited basis. The pandemic is having a devastating impact on local businesses, and two years without cruising in Canada will have potentially irreversible consequences for families throughout the country. We stand ready to work with Canadian health and transportation officials to operationalize a path forward."
Cruise Lines have issued the following statements regarding Canada's decision to ban ships through February 2022:
Princess Cruises: We are disappointed to learn about Canada’s decision to extend the interim order that prohibits cruise ships from sailing in its waters and calling on Canadian ports through February 2022 (one year from now). This extension, if not amended as pandemic conditions improve, would require us to cancel our Alaska (West Coast) and Canada / New England (East Coast) cruise vacation seasons this year. Given the unexpected length of the order, it will take us some time to assess whether there are any options to preserve a portion of the 2021 Alaska season. We will be consulting authorities in both the US and Canada before we take any additional action. Our highest responsibility and top priorities include operational and environmental compliance, protecting the environment, and the health, safety and well-being of our guests, the communities we visit, and our crew and shoreside employees.
Despite the potential impact to our Alaska sailings, we are committed to operating one of our two Denali lodges, the Westmark Fairbanks Hotel and Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge this summer to support land vacations in Alaska’s magnificent interior. We will continue to maintain a focus on what we can do to support our fellow Alaska businesses, the thousands of people who rely on the tourism industry, and the regions in which we operate. While this is beyond our control, we remain committed to operating any portion of our Alaska season and we are hopeful that positive progress relative to the pandemic accelerates to the point that the Canadian Transport Minister will rescind the interim order and allow cruise vacations to resume in 2021.
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (Norwegian Cruises, Oceania Cruises, and Regent Seven Seas): We are currently studying the Order and its implications and have not canceled our cruises that visit Canadian ports. We are currently exploring several initiatives that may allow such cruises to continue, especially for the important Alaska season. Given the fluidity of the current environment, we will also continue to work with the Canadian government to amend their current suspension. We are working through all available options as quickly as possible and as a result we have not canceled our 2021 cruises that visit Canadian ports. We will continue to keep all travel partners and guests updated as the situation progresses.
Royal Caribbean Group (Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises): We understand and appreciate the Canadian government’s focus on combatting COVID-19. The health and safety of our guests, crew and communities we visit is our top priority. Royal Caribbean Group is ready to work with health and transportation officials on a path forward to address the impact on multiple sectors of the Canadian economy. We will be reaching out to our guests and travel partners with more information on future plans.