There is no doubt that Canada’s travel industry has been shaken to its core by yesterday’s (Feb. 4) announcement by the Canadian government that it was extending the ban on pleasure craft and cruise vessels in Canadian waters through to Feb. 28, 2022.
The cruise ban extension completes a trifecta of bad and worse news for the industry and arrives hard on the heels of the introduction of PCR test requirements for all arriving passengers and the late January announcement that Canada’s four major carriers were suspending flights to the Caribbean and Mexico until the end of April.
It didn’t take long for the industry to respond following the announcement, with CLIA-NWC, Holland America Line and the Royal Caribbean Group reacting to Canada’s extension of its ban on cruising.
Surprised By The Length
The Cruise Lines International Association- North West & Canada (CLIA-NWC) said that it was surprised by the length of the Canadian government’s extension of the ‘No-Sail Order.’
Charlie Ball, chair of CLIA-NWC, said that: “While we understand and support the government’s focus on combatting COVID-19 in Canada, we are surprised by the length of the extension of the prohibition of cruise.”
Ball continued: “We hope to have an opportunity to revisit this timeline and demonstrate our ability to address COVID-19 in a cruise setting with science-backed measures, as CLIA members are doing in Europe and parts of Asia where cruising has resumed on a limited basis.”
As the voice of the cruise industry in Canada, CLIA-NWC noted that the pandemic is having a devastating impact on local businesses, and two years without cruising in Canada will have potentially irreversible consequences for families throughout the country.
It noted in its statement that in 2019, the cruise industry generated a total of $4.25 billion in economic activity in Canada, a 33% increase from 2016. Further, 29,000 Canadian jobs paying $1.43 billion in wages were generated in 2019—a 26% increase in employment and 43% increase in wages since 2016.
Said Ball: “We stand ready to work with Canadian health and transportation officials to operationalize a path forward.”
HAL Assessing Its Options
Holland America Line issued a strong response stating: “We are disappointed to learn about Canada’s decision to extend the interim order that prohibits cruise ships from sailing in its waters and calling on Canadian ports through February 2022 (one year from now).”
In its statement, provided to Press Today, the Seattle-based cruise line said that: “This extension, if not amended as pandemic conditions improve, would require us to cancel our Alaska (West Coast) and Canada/New England (East Coast) cruise vacation seasons this year. Given the unexpected length of the order, it will take us some time to assess whether there are any options to preserve a portion of the 2021 Alaska season.”
Holland America said that: “We will be consulting authorities in both the US and Canada before we take any additional action. Our highest responsibility and top priorities include operational and environmental compliance, protecting the environment, and the health, safety and well-being of our guests, the communities we visit, and our crew and shoreside employees.”
The company pointed out that: “The cruise industry has demonstrated its commitment to health and safety through the development of extensive protocols in consultation with a panel of world-class medical experts, which will be implemented when we resume service. In addition, we recognize our importance to the economic health of many Alaskan communities and will continue to pursue any option which might permit safe operation of any portion of the season.”
However, it added that: “Despite the potential impact to our Alaska sailings, we are committed to operating one of our two Denali lodges, the Westmark Fairbanks Hotel and Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge this summer to support land vacations in Alaska’s magnificent interior. We will continue to maintain a focus on what we can do to support our fellow Alaska businesses, the thousands of people who rely on the tourism industry, and the regions in which we operate.”
And the cruise company concluded: “While this is beyond our control, we remain committed to operating any portion of our Alaska season and we are hopeful that positive progress relative to the pandemic accelerates to the point that the Canadian Transport Minister will rescind the interim order and allow cruise vacations to resume in 2021.”
Royal Caribbean Reaching Out To Advisors
Press Today was also provided a statement from the Royal Caribbean Group – which operates cruise brands that include Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Silversea – in which the company said: “We understand and appreciate the Canadian government’s focus on combatting COVID-19. The health and safety of our guests, crew and communities we visit is our top priority.”
It continued: “Royal Caribbean Group is ready to work with health and transportation officials on a path forward to address the impact on multiple sectors of the Canadian economy.”
And the company concluded its statement noting that it “will be reaching out to our guests and travel partners with more information.”
What’s It All About
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra made the announcement, issuing two, new interim orders prohibiting pleasure craft in Canadian Arctic waters and cruise vessels in all Canadian waters until the end of February next year.
The new orders mean that:
- Adventure-seeking pleasure craft are still prohibited from entering Arctic waters.
- Passenger vessels carrying more than 12 people are still prohibited from entering Arctic coastal waters, including Nunatsiavut, Nunavik, and the Labrador Coast.
- Cruise vessels carrying 100 or more people are still prohibited from operating in Canadian waters.
Pleasure craft used by local Arctic residents will not be affected by these measures.
With these prohibitions in place, public health authorities will be able to continue focusing on the most pressing issues, including the vaccine rollout and new COVID-19 variants.
Minister Alghabra said that: “As Canadians continue to do their part to reduce the spread of COVID-19, our government continues to work hard to ensure Canada’s transportation system remains safe.”
He continued: “Temporary prohibitions to cruise vessels and pleasure craft are essential to continue to protect the most vulnerable among our communities and avoid overwhelming our health care systems. This is the right and responsible thing to do.”
And to limit the spread of COVID-19, the Canadian government continues to advise Canadian citizens and permanent residents to avoid all travel on cruise ships outside Canada until further notice.
Essential passenger vessels, such as ferries and water taxis, should continue to follow local public health guidance and protocols, and follow mitigation measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and prevent future outbreaks.
These could include: reducing the number of passengers, ensuring physical distancing, the wearing of masks, and enhanced cleaning and hygiene measures.
Cruise vessels in Canadian waters pose a risk to our health care systems.
The Canadian government continues to evaluate the situation and make changes as necessary to ensure the health and safety of all Canadians. Should the COVID-19 pandemic sufficiently improve to allow the resumption of these activities, the Minister of Transport has the ability to rescind the Interim Orders.