Alaska joins Florida in federal lawsuit over pandemic cruise ship rules

The bow of a white cruise ship
The Norwegian Pearl tied up at Skagway’s Broadway dock in July 2017. Two more cruise ships are moored at the railroad dock in the background. (Emily Files/KHNS)

Alaska will join Florida in a federal lawsuit challenging current cruise ship regulations in the U.S. The lawsuit says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is overstepping its authority with the Conditional Sailing Order, which imposes strict COVID-19 safety precautions on the cruise industry.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s office released a statement and video Tuesday afternoon, urging the agency to withdraw or amend its order so the cruise industry can operate in Alaska this season. The governor said he is fighting for Alaska families and small businesses.

In non-pandemic years, most tourists arrive in Alaska on a cruise ship. The cruise industry is responsible for more than $1.2 billion in direct spending and more than 20,000 jobs, according to a Federal Maritime Commission report.

The governor’s office said the Conditional Sailing Order doesn’t make sense in Alaska, where vaccination rates are high and COVID-19 hospitalizations are low compared to the rest of the nation.

Even if the CDC were to drop its requirements, there’s another major obstacle to cruising in Alaska this season: Canada’s waters are closed to large vessels through early next year, and large foreign cruise ships are required to stop in Canada on their way to Alaska. Alaska’s federal delegation is pushing for exemption.

The announcement comes just days before the cruise season typically begins in Alaska.

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