The cruise ship industry has been arguably the hardest hit industry in Alaska. 2020 saw no cruise ships dock at state ports, and 2021 is shaping up to see limited options.
One business based out of Seattle, Un-Cruise, will bring ships through the Inside Passage with passenger numbers of less than 100 people. They hope to have six ships sailing into the Alaska market, bringing some 6000 passengers to coastal communities like Juneau.
Due to the pandemic, Un-Cruise already had to reshuffle when a scheduled stop in Ketchikan was skipped due to a spike in the town of Covid-19 cases.
I’ve traveled the Inside Passage once, although not on a cruise. It is a remarkable experience, and one I thoroughly enjoyed. Personally, I can see the smaller cruise ships as being far more enjoyable for this experience than the large ones.
The Passenger Service Vessels Act states that no foreign ship can carry passengers only between U.S. ports. Since the fleet of large cruise ships are foreign owned, a cruise ship from Seattle will stop at a Canadian port before getting to Alaska. With the pandemic, Canada has closed its ports to the large cruise ships, leaving Alaska high and dry. This situation left an opening for the smaller companies like Un-Cruise.
The United States Senate voted last week to temporarily bypass the act for the remainder of the 2021 season. That bill now goes to the U.S. House. If passed, it would allow some large cruise ships to return to Alaska ports this summer.
For an industry that really plans things out long in advance, I’m not sure how much of a boost this will be for Alaska’s coastal communities, although I imagine they are grateful for anything they can get at this point. There will be a scramble for employees and inventory if/when the bill passes. At any rate, it appears that some large cruise ships will be seen at Alaska ports in the second half of July.
Photos credit: Un-Cruise Adventures