U.S. Cruise Ships One Step Closer to Returning to Alaska

Now, cruise lines are just waiting on CDC approval.

Alaska summer cruises are one step closer to reality after President Joe Biden signed the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act into law on Monday, allowing ships to bypass Canada as they travel to the state.

"Today, I signed the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act into law," Biden tweeted Monday evening. "Tourism is vital to the state of Alaska — and this law will help revitalize the industry and support Alaskans by allowing large cruise ships to return to the state this summer."

The new law, which nullified a century-old law that required large foreign-flagged ships to first stop in Canada, will allow cruises to eventually sail from the mainland U.S. directly to Alaska. The law became a priority after Canada extended its ban on cruise ships until at least next year.

The bill was first introduced in March by Alaska Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, and passed by the Senate on May 13 before being passed by the House on May 20.

Alaska cruise
Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images

"For over a year and a half many Alaskan communities who rely solely on tourism have been completely cut off from business due to COVID-19 restrictions. The Alaska Delegation has worked for months to try to find opportunities to provide a safe path forward for Alaskans—to help salvage what is left of the 2021 tourism season," Murkowski said in a statement on Monday. "Together, with the support of so many Alaskans, there is now a light at the end of a long, dark tunnel."

In anticipation of the law being signed, several cruise lines announced plans to sail from ports like Seattle directly to Alaska this summer, including Princess Cruises, Holland America, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Royal Caribbean.

While cruise lines are preparing to sail to The Last Frontier as soon as July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not yet approved the restart of cruises in the United States. The agency, which has said it hopes to resume sailings by mid-July, will require cruise lines to complete test sailings unless 98% of crew and 95% of passengers are fully vaccinated.

Those test sailings will likely start soon. Royal Caribbean, for example, submitted its initial plans for test sailings to the CDC for approval on Friday.

Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.

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