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
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.
Gary Rinne, of tbnewswatch.com reports that Thunder Bay cruises will be blessed with a new option as Viking Cruises, sends their newest vessel, the Octantis to the Great Lakes in 2022. The Viking Expedition "Great Lakes Explorer" Cruise is an 8 Day Cruise between Milwaukee and Thunder Bay. Currently nearing completion in a European shipyard, the Octanis will make the trip from Milwaukee to Thunder Bay seven times in 2022.
Passengers on this 2022 Great Lakes cruise will arrive or depart by air, with a pre- and post- cruise hotel stay in Thunder Bay. The ship will be in port for about 48 hours on each visit.
Read the full story here.