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US Senate Passes Bill That Could Allow Alaska Cruising



In an attempt to salvage an Alaska cruise season, the U.S. Senate passed legislation that would allow cruise ships to operate in Alaska without visiting foreign ports in Canada.

The Alaska Tourism Restoration Act (ATRA) was sponsored by U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan. A companion bill, introduced by U.S. Rep. Don Young of Alaska, would need to be passed in the House before it would go to President Biden for his signature.

The Alaska cruise season has fallen victim to the no-sail order by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) but also Canada’s ban on large cruise ships until Feb. 28, 2022. The Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1886 (PVSA) requires that cruise ships sailing to Alaska visit a foreign port, which usually is Vancouver or Victoria in Canada. So even if the CDC does give the green light to cruising this year, Alaska cruises would still be hampered by Canada’s ban. A PVSA waiver would remove that foreign port requirement and allow ships to sail to Alaska in U.S. waters.

“The Alaska delegation has been working every angle to help find a path forward for struggling Alaskans who rely on the tourism industry. Senate passage of my legislation sends a strong signal that we will not stand idly by, withering on the vine, until another country catches up to our level of readiness,” Murkowski said.

“This shows that the health and restoration of our economy cannot be held up by Canada, especially since Alaska has led with vaccinations in the country and our communities are ready to welcome visitors back.”

“Congressman Don Young, the dean of the House and a great advocate for Alaska, will be working with his colleagues to quickly get the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act through the House,” Sullivan said. “And, we’re continuing to work around the clock with CDC leaders to finally issue workable guidance that allows the cruise lines and coastal communities to safely welcome visitors again. Given the CDC’s much-awaited loosening of mask guidelines for vaccinated Americans, I am hopeful we will see progress on this front as well.”

The American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) welcomed passage of the bill.

“ASTA welcomes Senate passage of the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act and commends Senators Murkowski, Sullivan and others for their dogged efforts to salvage part of the 2021 Alaska cruise season. Since February, ASTA has advocated for this legislation and to otherwise mitigate the impact of the Canadian government’s decision to close its ports through 2022,” said Eben Peck, ASTA’s executive vice president-advocacy. “We call on the House of Representatives to pass the bill without delay, a message that will be conveyed along with other priorities at the more than 170 Congressional meetings taking place next week as part of ASTA Legislative Day 2021. Whether legislative, regulatory or diplomatic, we will continue to push for a solution to this impasse. With the vaccination rollout well underway and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention working with cruise lines to resume cruising from U.S. ports, there is promise for the 2021 cruise season. Government and industry must work together, find a solution and keep that promise.”

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