Cruises from United States ports came one step closer to restarting this summer when the House approved a measure on Thursday that will temporarily allow large cruise ships to sail to Alaska and bypass a legal requirement to stop at Canadian ports, which have banned cruise ships until 2022 because of the pandemic.
Most major cruise lines had canceled their summer Alaska voyages because most of the ships are foreign-owned and under maritime law they are required to visit at least one foreign port when traveling between states. Cruises between Washington and Alaska typically stop in Canada. Canada’s ban had effectively killed the Alaskan summer cruise season, which provides many of the state’s tourism dollars.
The scenic port town of Skagway, set along a popular cruise route in southeast Alaska, usually sees close to 1.3 million tourists over the course of the summer, with $160 million flowing into its economy from the cruise industry each year.
The Alaska Tourism Restoration Act, which the House passed Thursday, was passed by the Senate last week and still needs to be signed into law by President Biden. It will allow cruise ships to sail directly to Alaska without having to visit Canada.
The development comes as a relief to the United States cruise industry, which has been grounded for over a year and is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to restart sailings by mid-July.
The C.D.C. has gradually eased restrictions for vaccinated passengers in its Conditional Sailing Order, which outlines the steps that cruise companies are required to follow to restart operations in U.S. waters. Last week the agency issued updated guidance saying that cruise lines are not required to test fully vaccinated passengers for Covid-19 before they embark on a ship or when they return to port.
Norwegian Cruise Line resumed ticket sales for voyages to Alaska after the bill passed the Senate last week and on Thursday, Princess Cruises, Holland America Line and Carnival Cruise Line announced plans to resume Alaska cruises from July for fully vaccinated guests.
“We are excited to once again serve our guests from the U.S., and we express our deep gratitude to all national, state and local officials who have worked collaboratively with us, the C.D.C. and our entire industry to make this possible,” Arnold Donald, the chief executive officer of Carnival Corporation said in a statement on Thursday.