It’s official: There will be no cruise ships coming into Nome in 2020 after recent federal and international travel regulations have made those Arctic trips impossible.
As of late June, there were three voyages of the National Geographic vessel Orion still holding out to stop in Nome during the coming months. But now, Nome’s Port Director, Joy Baker says no cruise ships will be docking here this year.
“For the first time since the early 90s we are without a cruise ship for the summer and it’s unfortunate because the city [of Nome] was hoping to see at least a few before the end of the year after all the COVID requirements were worked out,” she said.
2020 would have been a big year for cruising in Nome with fourteen ships originally scheduled to make port. But then the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention extended their international no-sail order until July 24. Most of the ships coming to Nome have to stop in Canada as part of their itinerary, but Canada has banned ships with more than 100 passengers until at least October 31.
Baker says that Nome’s local travel regulations have nothing to do with the canceled ships. She reiterated that it was, “completely out of our [Nome’s] hands.”
While most cruises around Alaska have long been canceled or postponed, Nomeites still had some hope for the local cruise season because it looks so different in Western Alaska than in other parts of the state.
The cruise ships coming to this region tend to be smaller, luxury, adventure cruises that stop in Nome either in August or September. That timeframe potentially allows tourists a glimpse at sea ice as they travel through the Northwest Passage or the Chukchi Sea.
Despite the disappearance of cruise traffic, Baker says other summer businesses in Nome have been booming.
“The cargo, gravel and fuel industry are moving along as if nothing has changed. We’ve been extremely busy with gravel. We’ve had a few more cargo vessels than normal and the fuel just started coming in. We’ve got more fuel coming next week,” she said.
Research vessels coming into Nome this summer have slowed and most of those have been canceled for the year, but Baker says there are some vessels that have made arrangements to continue working safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. Fishing seems to be slower Baker notes, but she suspected fishing vessels might return in greater numbers when the halibut fishery opens. Norton Sound Seafood Products is not buying Norton Sound Red King Crab this summer and that could be another reason there are fewer fishers on the water.
Baker is hopeful that cruises will resume their stops in Nome for the summer of 2021.