Rep. Don Young looks for workaround on Canada cruise ship ban

a person stands in front of a giant cruise ship
A passenger stands on the dock in Juneau near the Ovation of the Seas cruise ship, May 19, 2019. (Ryan Cunningham/KTOO)

U.S. Rep. Don Young introduced legislation Wednesday to allow large cruise ships to return to Alaska this summer.

Earlier this month, Canada extended a prohibition on cruise tourism to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The decision effectively canceled Alaska’s cruise season because of the Passenger Vessel Services Act: the U.S. maritime law requires large, foreign-flagged cruise ships to stop in Canada when traveling between Washington and Alaska.

Young’s legislation, the Alaska Tourism Recovery Act, proposes a temporary workaround that would make roundtrip voyages between Alaska and Washington “foreign voyages” under U.S. law. It would apply only for the duration of Canada’s cruise prohibition.

In a press release, Young wrote the pandemic devastated Alaska’s cruise season last year, and his bill would provide relief and certainty to communities dependent on tourism.

The Passenger Vessel Services Act isn’t the only hurdle that cruise lines must face before returning to Alaska. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will require all ships to meet certain conditions and complete a mock sailing to test COVID-19 protocols before returning to service.

The CDC is also still recommending that people completely avoid cruise ship travel while the risk of getting COVID-19 is very high.