The US cruise industry is moving quickly to resume sailings with a flurry of announcements that some cruises to Alaska will resume in mid-Summer from Seattle, without any port stops in Canada.
One of the first US cruises will be the Celebrity Edge, leaving Fort Lauderdale on June 26 for the Caribbean at reduced capacity. All crew will be vaccinated, and most passengers will have to be. Initially, U.S. guests 16 and older are required to be fully vaccinated; that age drops to 12 as of Aug. 1. Passengers 18 and older from the UK must be vaccinated.
Based on recent guidance from the CDC and close collaboration with Alaskan officials, Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, Carnival and others plan to resume guest cruise operations for a partial season in Alaska this summer. The news follows the temporary waiver of the Passenger Vessel Services Act, allowing cruising to Alaska without mandatory ports of call in Canada. (Read more about complicated cabotage laws here.)
Alaska Cruising Is Popular Choice
Alaska has long been a hugely popular cruise destination. According to the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the number of cruise visitors to Alaska exceeded 1.3 million in 2019 aboard 37 ships.
Amy Hurley of Boston recalls cruising in Alaska with three generations of her family. Outside of Ketchikan, she had a jaw-dropping moment – the kind you dream about. “We saw four whales spiraling down to create a whirlpool to get food and jump up with their mouths open,” said Hurley, 50, a hospital fundraiser. “It’s rare, and we saw them do it four times. That was pretty amazing. Cruising is a great way to see Alaska.”
COVID Safety Protocols in Place for Alaska
The good news is that several major brands will have at least one ship sailing round-trip, likely tarting in late July. These Alaska cruises, for the most part, are available for guests who have received their final dose of an approved COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days prior to the beginning of the cruise and have proof of vaccination. (Crew vaccinations will be in accordance with CDC guidelines.)
If you plan to travel to Alaska with children under 12 years who are not yet able to be vaccinated, consider the very popular Holland American and Princess land tours. These land-only tours, previously sold as add-ons to cruises to showcase more of Alaska’s interior, are wonderful options for exploring America’s last frontier.
Alternatively, some of the cruise lines will allow younger children to sail with proof of a negative COVID-19 test result prior to embarkation.
Major Cruise Lines Alaska Sailings
Late July sees Carnival Cruise Line starting weekly departures from Seattle on July 27. Their seven- and eight-say cruises continue until Sept. 14.
Princess Cruises will resume operations in Alaska starting July 25 through Sept. 26, with seven-day cruises onboard Majestic Princess, a Medallion Class ship. Its cruises will visit signature ports, glaciers and attractions in Alaska including Glacier Bay National Park, Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan.
Holland America Line will resume its cruise operations to Alaska with seven-day itineraries aboard Nieuw Amsterdam, calling at Juneau, Icy Strait Point, Sitka and Ketchikan, with scenic cruising in Alaska’s iconic locales, including Glacier Bay and Stephens Passage. The first cruise for the brand is scheduled to depart July 24, with 11 Saturday departures that will operate through Oct. 2.
Royal Caribbean International will have two ships in Alaska this summer, Serenade of the Seas beginning July 19 and Ovation of the Seas on Aug. 13. Sister cruise line, Celebrity Cruises, will have one ship, the 2,000-passenger Celebrity Summit plying Glacier Bay. Each of the lines’ week-long itineraries will cover the 49th state’s major waterfront landmarks and natural attractions.
Norwegian Cruise Line also will return to Alaska with 11 week-long voyages from Seattle beginning Aug.7 on the Norwegian Bliss sailing through Oct. 16. Guests will benefit from the second cruise pier in Icy Strait Point, a collaboration with Alaska Native-owned Huna Totem Corporation that initially was scheduled to open last summer. There will be additional shore excursions, including the world’s largest ZipRider zip line and the most accessible coastal brown bear viewing platforms in southeast Alaska. Norwegian will also sail theBreakaway, Encore, Escape, Pearl, Jewel, Sun, Spirit and Norwegian’s Pride of America to explore Hawaii, the Caribbean, Panama Canal, Asia and much more.
Small Ship Cruise Lines in Alaska
The complex legal and public health issues that stalled the major cruise lines left smaller companies with vessels carrying fewer than 250 people unaffected. Check your travel agent or search online for availability on lines such as Lindblad Expeditions, Ponant, Uncruises and others.
Stay tuned to our special Family Cruise Guide for the latest cruise ship news.