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Will Celebrity Cruise Alaska in 2021? Celebrity Cruise Vlog: Celebrity Cruise Blog

Many people are awaiting for cruising to resume; unfortunately no one knows for sure when cruising will resume. Recently the Canadian government made a decision that may doom the 2021 Alaska cruise season or at the very least will complicate it restarting.

Check out my recent article When will cruising restart? to gain insight to when cruising may return. I also wrote an article on what cruising may look like which includes what Covid restrictions may look like on board cruises when cruising returns.

Recently Celebrity Cruise Line issued the following message to Travel Agents.

“The Government of Canada has recently announced continued port closures for all cruise ships through February 28, 2022. In order to comply with these closures Celebrity Cruises has placed all sailings with an embarkation or port of call in Canada, on hold. Currently, we are working to determine if it may be possible to operate these sailings without a call to a foreign port. However, until a decision has been rendered in this matter, these sailings will remain closed, but your client’s reservation will continue to be valid.

We apologize for the inconvenience this causes as we value your client’s vacation time and want to ensure they have the best experience possible on a Celebrity cruise. At this time, we would like to offer your clients the opportunity to keep their reservation until a final determination on the status of their sailing can be made or be re-accommodated on another Celebrity Cruises vacation in 2022. Your clients will also have the option to receive a 125% Future Cruise Credit (FCC) or a 100% Refund. If your client chooses to keep their reservation their final payment date will be extended by 45 days.’

So you might be wondering why does Celebrity have to determine if they can cruise without a foreign port? Let’s examine why foreign ports are required.

Why are foreign ports needed?

A federal law from the1880’s called the Passenger Vessel Service Act (PVSA) was created to protect American shipping companies. This law requires a foreign port for vessels that make stops in the US with a ship flying a foreign flag. Most Cruise Ships operating in the US are registered in a foreign country. All of Celebrity Cruise Line’s ships are registered in Malta with the exception of Celebrity Xpedition, Celebrity Flora & Celebrity Xploration which are registered in Ecuador and sail the Galapagos.

Why can’t we have a cruise to nowhere?

It was only a few years ago and there were cruises to nowhere; however the law was changed in 2016 by The United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) viewed this as a loophole to US immigration law “"Under the INA, a D-1 visa holder is eligible to serve as a crew member on a vessel only if the crew member 'intends to land in the United States temporarily and solely in the pursuit of his calling as a crewman and to depart from the United States with the vessel.'" Since the ship never technically docked at an international port they viewed cruises to nowhere as violating immigration law.

So could Alaskan Cruises happen before February 2022?

Cruise lines and CLIA Cruise Line International Association are looking into options to still sail to Alaska before the expiration of Canada’s Cruise Ship Ban. The cruise lines and CLIA are not alone. Alaska Travel Industry Association, Senators and representatives from the state of Alaska are onboard with getting a waiver for the Passenger Vessel Service Act. Let’s look at those options.

  1. Getting a PVSA waiver. However this will not be easy as this has never been granted to a cruise line. Andrew Cremata, the mayor of Skagway looked into a waiver back in April 2020 and he learned it wouldn’t be quick or easy. He went on to say "that there wasn't going to be anywhere near the support to do that.""That hasn't changed, I'm sure," he said. "The PVSA has always been the elephant in the room and something you don't talk about because there doesn't seem to be a workaround." In order to get a waiver you will need to prove that granting the waiver is in support of national defense according to Charlie Papavizas, chair of the maritime practice for Winston & Strawn.

  2. Have the PVSA law amended by the US government. This would take congress and the president to sign this into law.

  3. Allow a technical stop in Canada, this would be Canada would only allow the ship to dock, but no one would go on or off.

All three of these workarounds seem like an uphill battle; I hope Alaska cruising and all cruising could begin before February 2022, but only time will tell.

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