Courtesy Travel Weekly By Johanna Jainchill Apr 29, 2021: Royal Caribbean Group CEO Richard Fain said today that the CDC’s latest guidance makes the prospect of an Alaska season more likely and that although the Alaska situation is “complex,” he thinks a solution is possible.
The CDC last night committed to a mid-July restart from the U.S., relaxing testing guidelines, speeding up the approval-to-sail process and saying that cruise lines can skip test sailings if 98% of crew and 95% of passengers are fully vaccinated.
The changes, Fain said, “encourages us that we now see a pathway to a healthy and achievable return to service, hopefully in time for an Alaskan season.”
However, during today’s first-quarter business update, Fain conceded that the Alaska situation is “a slightly complex one” because of Canada’s cruise ban and the Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1886 (PVSA), which requires foreign-flagged ships — which almost all large cruise vessels are — to stop in at least one foreign port when sailing between two U.S. destinations, such as Seattle and Alaska.
“So in order to restart the Alaska season we’d need either a waiver from the PVSA or Canada would have to allow at least technical stops,” Fain said. “And we’re working on both and others are working on both, but we can’t be certain where that will end up.
“I think given the momentum, there is reason for some hope,” he said, but given that it is a “sufficiently complex and confusing situation,” he would not put odds on it “one way or the other.”
Top-ranking members of the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure have asked Canada to allow ships to make technical calls at Canadian ports this summer, and the head of the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission encouraged the Biden administration to consider a limited exception to the PVSA.
“We’re obviously hopeful we’ll be able to solve the issue with Canada in one of these two ways,” Fain said.
Glacier Bay, Alaska, cruise ship passengers observing Johns Hopkin Glacier ©Dennis Cox/WorldViews