I was looking forward to finally taking an Alaska cruise in September of this year. I purposely booked it for late in the season, so I could be vaccinated against COVID-19 beforehand. Just yesterday, the Minister of Transport announced Canada was extending it’s prohibition against cruise ships in Canadian waters for another year (at least) to February 2022. This effectively cancelled all Alaska cruises scheduled for 2021, since foreign flagged vessels must call in a Canadian port if they will be transporting passengers between US ports – a requirement of the USA Jones Act.
I was looking forward to my 14-day Alaska cruise aboard Noordam. It provided me with a travel opportunity to plan for and focus on while I endured the severe travel restrictions currently in place. I normally travel a lot…have a look at my JoeTourist website to get a taste of my adventures over the years!
I’m not happy about (what I consider) this ill-advised decision by the government of Canada. I feel it was made in an arbitrary manner, and needlessly imposes severe penalties on an industry that is critical to our economic recovery from some massive business failures caused by the pandemic. I wrote a letter to the minister and my Member of Parliament:
Dear Honourable Omar Alghabra, Minister of Transport,
I am dismayed by your hard line position prohibiting all cruise ships in Canadian waters until at least February 2022. I live in Victoria, and appreciate that the cruise ship industry contributes greatly to our economy, supporting local travel and retail businesses. Cruise lines have a reputation of being responsible clients of our ports, so I feel they deserve more favourable consideration.
The cruise industry in B.C. is a multi-billion-dollar industry. According to the Port of Vancouver, the cruise industry is critical to the region’s economic recovery. “The Vancouver cruise industry is a key contributor to the local economy, stimulating $3.17 million in direct economic activity for each ship that calls at Canada Place, and $2.2 billion of total economic impact.”
I don’t dispute your assertion today that “This is the right and responsible thing to do.” My concern is the hard “no” message this order conveys to the cruise ship industry going forward. I expect more careful consideration of the consequences of such a long timeline for this prohibition. The USA’s CDC rescinded their “no sail order”, replacing it with a “Framework for Conditional Sailing”, which outlines conditions where cruise lines can resume limited operations under strict safety protocols. There is no such hope offered by Transport Canada with your order today, which I find very disappointing.
I appreciate and endorse the concept that the health and safety of our communities are still the top priority amid COVID-19, however we also need to work diligently to provide business with ways to survive during a public health-driven “lock down”. I don’t feel your prohibition was well thought out with a view to eventual recovery from the pandemic. I urge you and your colleagues in Health Canada to reconsider this long-term prohibition, and adopt the CDC’s approach to safe resumption of cruise ship sailings through our waters and in our ports.
Very truly yours,
Alaska lashes out after Canada extends cruise ban to 2022 – National Post, Feb 9, 2021