We're all ready for life to get back to normal - especially those of us whose livelihoods are driven by tourism. Captain, crew, cooks and travel agents are all looking forward to getting back to work. Not to mention, the millions of avid cruisers looking to get back out on the water.
Even with all of this enthusiasm, we all want to return to cruising safely. So it is appropriate to take the time to debate what that means. Some cruise lines are already leading the way and declaring that 100% of guests and crew will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before they sail. We've already reported previously that Victory Cruise Lines has taken an industry-leading stance by making this declaration early.
It is encouraging to see other cruise lines following their lead. Crystal Cruises has announced a similar requirement that all guests have the vaccine before sailing. Interim President and CEO Jack Anderson said, "“We know that peace of mind is the greatest luxury; and the vaccine requirement is simply the best way to ensure the safest possible Crystal Experience for all on board. This sentiment is underscored by conversations with our guests and travel partners and a recent Cruise Critic survey of cruisers that revealed that more than 80 percent of respondents would cruise if a vaccine were required.”
Crystal will continue to test all crew before sailing, and as soon as vaccine distribution allows, will ensure that all crew are vaccinated as well. We applaud Crystal in their efforts to create safety and peace of mind for potential cruiers.
Source: Crystal Cruises Media
Since Transport Canada's announcement that they would ban cruise ships with a capacity over 100 for one more year, the industry has been scrambling to find a way to salvage a 2021 Great Lakes cruising season. Some approaches advocate sailing with less than 100 on-board, but with the number counting both guests and crew, this may not be economically viable for carriers.
Louis E. Sola, a commissioner at the Federal Maritime Commission has made a public statement endorsing a temporary suspension of the Jones Act. This is the Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA) which requires a stop in non-USA ports for foreign-flagged vessels. Sola says, "I encourage both the Biden administration and Congress to quickly review this issue and consider a limited exception to the PVSA while simultaneously engaging the Canadian government on the diplomatic front to address this particular problem."
The Transport Canada order, combined with the Jones Act effectively shuts down cruising for 2021. But with an exception to the PVSA, passenger vessels could operate a U.S.-only cruise itinerary with a full complement on-board.
Source: Federal Maritime Commission
Our cruise line partners have spent much of the past year updating their health and safety procedures to maximize guest safety while on-board. Several new innovations have come out of this process, including pre-boarding screening, capacity controls and social distancing, careful cleaning of public spaces, and fresh-air ventilation systems.
The biggest development came from Victory Cruise Lines, who has announced that they will require COVID-19 vaccinations for 100% of guests and crew, once sailing begins again. This will help ensure that everyone aboard is as safe as possible, but also allows us to make a commitment to the communities we visit that our presence there does not represent an elevated risk.
Even with the confidence of having a fully-vaccinated ship, Victory has gone the extra step of mandating mask usage. Their SAFECRUISE™ protocol specifies that, "Masks will be required in all venues and in situations where recommended social distancing is not possible, including entertainment venues, elevators, shoreside terminals and shore excursion motorcoaches." Since the CDC has left open the possibility that even vaccinated people could carry virus in their nasal passages, the mask requirement helps ensure that we are not a risk to others.
We appreciate the lengths our Great Lakes cruise partners are going to, in order to ensure the health and safety of everyone associated with Great Lakes cruising.
Transport Canada, the agency responsible for regulating cruising in Canadian waters, has announced a year-long ban on commercial cruising in all Canadian waters. This ban is intended to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. It effectively shuts down cruising to Alaska, the Canadian Maritimes, and potentially the Great Lakes region.
When contacted for comment, Stephen Burnett, Exec. Director of the Great Lakes Cruise Association said, “We totally respect the Canadian Government’s decision to suspend cruise operations in Canada for ships carrying in excess of 100 persons (including crew and guests). However we are deeply concerned for our cruise partners who have expressed an interest in developing voyages which will visit US ports and remain in US water for the remainder of the 2021 season”. Vessels owned by these firms will have been laid up for 24 months and crew members totally out of work”
Similarly, Cruise Lines International Association- North West & Canada (CLIA-NWC), says they are "surprised by the length of the extension of the Government of Canada’s ‘No-Sail Order’." You can read the entire statement here.
According to the Canadian government announcement, "There is no national ban for smaller cruise ships certified to carry 100 or fewer people. They must follow provincial, territorial, local and regional health authority protocols for timelines and processes around their operations." This caveat may be the key to allowing continued cruising on the Great Lakes, as operators could choose to sail with fewer than 100 people.
We will post updates here as we learn more.