"Since April 1, 2022, Canada has updated its policy on travel, now allowing visitors who are vaccinated and carrying proof of it to enter the country."
A fixture of the Great Lakes cruise industry, Canada announced that it will begin charting a new way forward for its pandemic-era travel. This comes after years of travel restrictions that have protected citizens, but posed a challenge to all forms of travel to Canada and the businesses that benefit from it. For most as of late, a negative COVID test or quarantine was required for entry.
Since April 1, 2022, Canada has updated its policy on travel, now allowing visitors who are vaccinated and carrying proof of it to enter the country. While not requiring a negative test might seem like a simple change to some, this re-opens cruise lines to the prospects of cruising to and from Canada.
With virtually every cruise line requiring full vaccination, travelers will once again be able to visit the lovely cities and towns of Canada with ease. The country draws millions of visitors each year across all its Great Lakes cruises destinations, from the incredibly diverse metropolis of Toronto all the way to the naturally beautiful Thunder Bay on the Lake Superior North Shore.
Check out our current Great Lakes cruise itineraries to book your next visit to Canada.
At the end of March 2022, the US cruise industry saw CDC travel health warnings for COVID dropped. This comes after nearly two years of hard work, all beginning with the cancellation of countless 2020 cruises worldwide.
From that point, Great Lakes cruise lines and oceanic cruise lines alike have labored tirelessly to create the safest possible environments aboard their ships. Socially distanced spaces, all-new and always-updating cleaning protocols, and vaccine mandates have allowed our favorite cruise lines to continue doing what they do best.
An Acknowledgement of Hard Work
On each and every one of our Great Lakes cruises, continuously evolving protocols that ensure guest safety allow you focus on the adventure, the history, and the magnificence of the lakes themselves. In addition, the same also goes for our St. Lawrence Seaway and New England voyages.
2022 Cruises Almost Filled as a Result
With the removal of the CDC's travel health warning and the continued popularity of close-to-home vacations, our cruises have filled up fast, and are almost completely booked for 2022. Next year, North American cruising is only expected to pick up speed; we're already beginning to see spots fill up! To learn more about our 2023 Great Lakes cruises and other offerings, Engage our Experts today.
This past Tuesday, February 15, 2022, the US' Center for Disease Control announced a change to its current Travel Health Notice. Based on a series of events, from general COVID cases dropping to cruise lines establishing an extensive private network of preventative protocols, the CDC lowered its risk warning from "Very High" to "High."
Changing to just a High warning level puts cruising at the same level of risk as visiting countries that have weathered the pandemic decently well, due to high vaccination rates and other factors. Countries like South Africa and Indonesia ranked similarly on the list, all unrecommended for those not vaccinated, but safe for those that are. For comparison, cruising now ranks as safer than visiting popular European countries like France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, who still maintain a Very High warning according to the CDC.
This new change follows months of hard work by cruise lines to establish next-level safety procedures for travelers. While the recent CDC guidelines for cruise ships have now become voluntary, you'll find safety requirements are still standard across all Great Lakes cruise lines. On board sanitation procedures, vaccination requirements, and other safety precautions now accompany vast networks of on-call doctors and medical professional testing.
It's no wonder then that cruising has been lowered to just a High warning level. The industry has invested lots into making this one of the most well thought-out means of travel in our modern era, ensuring that the immersive experiences, cultural adventures, and delicious cuisine offered by cruising aren't lost on travelers. We look forward to keeping you updated as our small ship cruise industry continues to evolve.
Updates to the CDC's Conditional Sail Order
In recent news, the United States' Center for Disease Control (CDC) has announced a change to its existing Conditional Sail Order. Mandatory for all cruise lines visiting US ports, the Conditional Sail Order required each ship to adhere to strict guidelines regarding safety and sanitation. The CSO reached its expiration on January 15, 2022, transitioning to a voluntary measure. Despite the Conditional Sail Order no longer being mandatory for ships visiting the US, the CDC plans to continue to offer recommendations for cruise lines that wish to remain compliant.
Fortunately for our Great Lakes cruise lines, the previously required CSO functioned as the very baseline for established safety protocols. Already using much smaller ships than cruise lines Carnival and Norwegian, cruises on the Great Lakes keep travelers safe with less exposure to COVID. This is in part due to fewer travelers, even more limited capacity, and robust safety measures. In addition, most Great Lakes cruises come to port in Canada at some point, where they still have to meet practical guidelines for pandemic safety.
Cruise Lines Begin to Require Booster Vaccines
As of late, we've seen Great Lakes cruise lines' COVID vaccine mandates updated to combat the newest Omicron variant. All of the current cruise lines sailing in North America require travelers to be vaccinated, but several are taking steps to prevent the latest variant's spread by requiring booster shots as well.
With these additional and existing safety protocols, our cruise lines are continuing to make small ship cruises on the Great Lakes one of the safest ways to travel.
Here are our current cruise lines requiring a COVID booster:
Transport Canada Minister Omar Alghabra announced that the health restrictions which prevented cruise ships from visiting Canadian waters would be lifted November 1, 2021. Minister Alghabra said "We will welcome cruise ships - an important part of our tourism sector - back in Canadian waters for the 2022 season."
The original ban was set to expire in February 2022, so the difference between a November re-opening and next February is negligible, given that prime sailing for Alaska cruises and Great Lakes cruises generally runs from May through September. Most cruise lines have already canceled the remainder of the 2021 season and have focused their efforts on preparing for the 2022 season.
The Jones Act is an American law that requires foreign flagged vessels to make a call at a foreign port before visiting another American port. This, combined with Canada's cruise ban effectively shut down all cruising in the Great Lakes and Alaska. The US Congress passed a law granting a temporary exemption to the Jones Act, allowing Alaska cruises to sail directly from the lower 48 states to Alaska without a foreign port call. The first revenue cruise departed Port Seattle on July 19, 2021, effectively restarting the Alaska cruise season.
After all Alaska and Great Lakes cruising was shut down until February, 2022 by Transport Canada's no-sail order, the cruise industry worked hard to find a way to save the 2021 summer cruising season. CLIA, the Cruise Lines International Association, swung into action with publicity and lobbying to educate our elected representatives on the economic impact of the no-sail order.
At issue, was the 1886 Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA). The PVSA, requires foreign-flagged ships (like large cruise ships) to stop in at least one foreign port when sailing between two U.S. destinations. This is why Great Lakes cruises alternate between U.S. and Canadian ports. It also requires Alaskan cruises to make a technical stop in Canada on the way to Alaska.
Alaska senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan introduced the The Alaska Tourism Restoration Act. It provides a reprieve from the PVSA requirements, but only for ships traveling between Washington state and Alaksa. Murkowski commented, "Senate passage of my legislation sends a strong signal that we will not stand idly by, withering on the vine, until another country catches up to our level of readiness.... This shows that the health and restoration of our economy cannot be held up by Canada, especially since Alaska has led with vaccinations in the country and our communities are ready to welcome visitors back."
Now, the bill must be passed by the House of Representatives in order to become law. Alaska U.S. Congressman Don Young introduced companion legislation in the House. CLIA congratulated Murkowski and Sullivan "for all their efforts to help save the Alaska cruise season. CLIA and its members hope to return this summer and help support Alaskan communities by bringing people back to work."
Unfortunately, the law does not grant a reprieve for the Great Lake Cruise industry, so the fate of the 2021 season continues to be at risk.
Source: Travel Weekly
Windstar Cruises announced a new requirement that all guests be vaccinated against COVID-19 prior to sailing. Upon arrival at the cruise terminal, guests will need to provide proof of a full vaccine treatment (if it is a two-shot vaccine, the second shot must be completed 14 days before boarding.)
Windstar Cruises offers small-ship and yacht cruises at over 150 ports around the world. Their 2022 Great Lakes Cruise offering includes an 11-day Montreal-Boston itinerary, sailing in September and October 2022.
The cruise line is offering their "Beyond Ordinary Care" program, representing a multi-million dollar investment in HEPA filters, UV-C germicidal irradiation, and other upgrades to provide a healthy environment. They are currently not sailing, but are offering 2022 and 2023 voyages for sale.
Source: Windstar Website
Virgin Voyages is the latest cruise line to announce that all crew and guests must be vaccinated against COVID-19 before sailing. Tom McAlpin, Virgin Voyages' CEO, said "The is a step towards the safe return to sailing and is the right decision for Virgin Voyages. We're really encouraged by the latest rollout plans in the May time frame from the new administration, and we know the future is about vaccinations. Our business makes us uniquely set up to do this with testing and vaccine travel requirements."
In addition, on March 17th, P&O Cruises has announced a vaccine requirement for guests as well. This applies to their newly launched cruises solely for UK residents. While most cruise lines require that guests' vaccine regimen be completed 14 days before departure, to allow plenty of time for immunity to kick in, P&O is allowing guests to sail within 7 days of their vaccination. P&O said that the decision was made due to the "advanced progress of the UK vaccination program and strong expressed preference on the part of our guests."
For Great Lake Cruising only one cruise line has announced a requirement that all guests be vaccinated. Pearl Seas, Viking Expeditions and Ponant have said they will have comprehensive testing, but Victory Cruise Lines announced they would require 100% of crew and guests to be vaccinated before sailing.
Source: Business Insider
With the worldwide drop in travel due to COVID-19, many of our guests have been at home for more than a year now. In fact, it has been exactly a year since the European Union closed its borders to outside travelers. At the time of this writing, the new surge in cases and hospitalizations in Europe don't bode well for a strong European travel season in the Summer of 2021. Also, Transport Canada has closed the door on any cruise ship activity anywhere along the Canadian border, including Great Lakes Cruises until February, 2022.
This combination of factors means that most people will have gone through two full summer travel seasons without any long-haul trips or cruises. While this has been a disaster for the travel industry, it also represents a huge pent-up demand for travel once the world opens up again.
Consider what happened this month when cruise lines opened up their 2022 and 2023. Most major cruise lines - including Norwegian, Crystal Cruises, Oceania and Regent Seven Seas - reported the biggest booking days in the history of their company. Airlines are reporting strong sales and are planning to bring 100% of their fleet back into service for the summer of 2022. Even the iconic San Fermin festival in Spain says that the Running of the Bulls 2022 will be the most in-demand year ever for this European summer fiesta.
If you're in the market to travel in 2022, we think it will be an exciting way to get out and celebrate the re-opening of the world. We also believe it will be a challenging year, due to all the competition for a scarce number of cabins, hotel rooms, flights, etc. We encourage you to book as early as possible to get one step ahead of the crowds.
U.S. Representative Peter DeFazio (D-Ore) and Representative Sam Graves (R-Mo) have sent a letter to Candian ambassador to the U.S., Kirsten Hillman addressing Transport Canada's decision to ban all cruise ships carrying over 100 people until February, 2022.
The two top-ranking members of the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure sent the letter to underscore the economic importance of cruising to both Canada and the USA. While the pandemic devastated cruising in 2020, cruise lines have hoped for a successful, and safe return to cruising in 2021. The Canadian order effectively shut down cruising on the Great Lakes until 2022.
Their letter stated, "As public servants, we must focus on protecting the public health and safety of citizens, while at the same time providing opportunities for economic recovery," the letter says, adding that prepandemic, the cruise industry generated $2.85 billion in direct economic spending and supported more than 53,000 jobs in the regions impacted by Canada's cruise ban (Alaska, Washington state, the Great Lakes and New England) and nearly $1.5 billion in spending and 30,000 Canadian jobs.
Source: Travel Weekly