One small cruise line cancels Alaska sailings, others hope to salvage some of the season

The Wilderness Adventurer, an UnCruise small ship, docked in Juneau on April 23, 2020. The cruise season has been gutted by travel restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Jennifer Pemberton / KTOO)

At least one small cruise company will not sail in Alaska this summer. 

American Cruise Lines announced Tuesday that it has canceled its season due to the spike in COVID-19 cases in other parts of the country. 

The company is one of a handful with ships that aren’t subject to federal and international restrictions on larger ships with 250 passengers or more. 

Norwegian Cruise Line was the last major cruise ship company with tentative plans to visit Alaska this season. But it ended the suspense on Monday by canceling its few remaining sailings.

Small cruise lines offered one potential way to salvage some business amid the pandemic, even though their passengers represent a very small portion of the 1.4 million passengers that would have visited this year.  

According to the most recent email update from Tourism Best Management Practices in Juneau, three other small cruise ships companies could still visit Southeast port communities. 

The email on Monday said that Sitka-based Alaskan Dream Cruises suspended sailings until the end of July and National Geographic hoped to resume sailings in mid-August. 

Dan Blanchard, owner of Juneau-based UnCruise Adventures, said in an email Wednesday the company plans to start sailing Aug. 1 until Sept. 5. Passengers will fly in and out of Juneau and the ships will not stop in any other communities. 

“All wilderness adventures with no contact with others outside the vessel,” Blanchard wrote in the email. He added that all trips will involve 40 guests at most. 

Visits from small cruise ships have been a subject of debate in recent weeks. The Ketchikan Assembly had voted to allow an American Cruise Lines ship to dock in July. This week, the Skagway Assembly asked the ship not to come.