New CDC guidelines provide hope that portion of Alaska cruise season can be saved

Published: Apr. 2, 2021 at 9:32 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - It’s been almost two years since many major cruise ships arrived in Juneau and other ports around the state. There’s a chance they could return to Alaska this summer, thanks to new guidelines released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC issued the next phase of guidelines under its Framework for Conditional Sailing Order on Friday, which gets cruise ships closer to sailing again. The updates include making sure cruise lines have the necessary infrastructure in place to manage an outbreak of COVID-19 on their ships, and establishing a plan for crews and port personnel to be vaccinated.

“Those are real positive steps forward,” said Sarah Leonard, president and CEO of the Alaska Travel Industry Association.

The cruise ship season is still on hold due to the pandemic, but hope remains that Alaska can salvage some part of it.

“So many businesses are experiencing over 30 months of low, or no revenue,” Leonard said.

Time is running out to save the season. Cruise companies said earlier this year they would need about 60-90 days to get their ships ready to sail. That would not leave much of a season.

“Any visitation is going to be better than last year,” Leonard said.

Meanwhile, travel coaches owned by Holland America Cruises and its sister company, Princess Cruises, sit in their South Anchorage lot. They take ship passengers around the state, including the lines’ McKinley Chalet Resort near Denali. It will reopen to guests this summer after a year off due to the pandemic.

Alaska Airlines also wants to bring more people to the state. It’s offering passengers a discount of up to 21% on airfares.

“I think it’s going to be better than last year,” Leonard said.

Tourism-related businesses hope this season will include one of its biggest contributors.

The CDC says the next step for the cruise lines will include simulated voyages. Crews and port personnel will practice new COVID-19 procedures before sailing with passengers resumes. The CDC says that will only happen when it is safe to do so.

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