White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday that the Biden Administration is working with Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski and state officials to engage Canada, in an attempt to salvage the summer Alaska cruise ship season.
“We have been working with Sen. Murkowski and Alaska officials on engaging Canada and finding ways to assist the cruise ships. That is a process that is ongoing,” Psaki said during a press briefing with reporters.
Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy, meanwhile, sent an economic report Thursday to the White House that details losses to Alaska businesses and the impact on the state economy from cruise ship cancellations in 2020 and 2021.
The report attributes a “$3 billion gross state product loss” each year the cruise season does not take place.
At Friday’s press briefing in Washington, D.C., Psaki said that she did not have details of the discussions.
But she added: “It is something we are fully aware of, that we are working with your senators on, to help address. We certainly recognize the importance of the cruise ship industry on the Alaskan economy.”
A cruise ship ban by Canada, coupled with CDC restrictions, is blocking the return of Alaska cruise ship voyages in 2021.
Canada has banned cruise ship stops at its ports through February 2022 over COVID-19 concerns. Cruise ships with Alaska voyages have canceled trips as a result.
At issue is the Passenger Vessel Services Act, which requires foreign-flagged vessels sailing to and from U.S. ports to stop at a foreign port in between. Most big-ship cruise vessels are registered in foreign countries.
Royal Caribbean and Disney Cruise Line canceled cruises for the 2021 Alaska summer season but are preparing for 2022 sailings.
Carnival’s Holland America Line and Princess Cruises have paused Alaska voyages through June.
In addition, the CDC has a “conditional sail order” in place, effectively keeping cruise ships in North America docked. The conditional sail order established phased-in requirements for cruise lines before they can sail again.
Some cruise lines plan to resume voyages before the CDC lifts its ban by moving their home ports outside the U.S., including in Bimini and Nassau, which are islands in the Bahamas.
Crystal Cruises just reported its largest ever single-day bookings in 30 years for a seven-day Bahamas trip, aboard a 980-passenger ship. All guests will need to show proof of vaccinations.
“Crystal Serenity is the first ship to homeport in The Bahamas and features the highest guest space ratios of any ship cruising the Americas in 2021,” the cruise line reports on its website, in describing the 2021 voyages. “Our new Crystal Clean+ protocols ensure your comfort and safety.”
A recent poll by Cruise Critic showed that more than 80 percent of readers surveyed support a mandate for cruise ship passengers and staff to be fully vaccinated, with some readers stating they would not otherwise sail.
Contact political reporter Linda F. Hersey at 459-7575 or follow her at twitter.com/FDNMpolitics.