On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously approved the bill that would allow cruise ships to sail Alaska itineraries this summer.
H.R. 1318, which was sponsored by Alaska House Rep. Don Young and Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, passed by a voice vote without opposition on Thursday. It has now passed both chambers and could be signed by President Joe Biden as soon as later today.
The bill, which can be found in full here, would allow Alaska-bound cruise ships to bypass restrictions that were preventing ships from sailing out of the U.S. ports, including ports in Washington State, through Canada to Alaska.
It exempts large cruise ships from the Passenger Vessel Services Act, which requires cruise ships to either start their itineraries in Canada or stop in a Canadian during them. That means that Transport Canada’s ban on cruise ship travel into 2022 would not prevent Alaska sailings from going forward. The exemption would then end in February 2022.
Young, in a message celebrating the bill’s passing, said “they counted us out, but the Alaska Delegation should NEVER be underestimated” and called Thursday “a big day for Alaska.”
According to CLIA, the Alaska cruise season is responsible for 23,000 jobs and $1.2 billion in wages.
While the bill is good news for the U.S. cruise industry and the Alaska season, the sailings will not go ahead until the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) allows cruise ships to sail out of U.S. ports by sometime this summer, which has been the plan.
The CDC is still sticking to the conditions it has laid out in its Conditional Sail Order (CSO), which is preventing the industry from restarting in the U.S. Both Florida and Alaska are currently in legal battles with the CDC to get that order lifted.
The latest update from the cruise lines came from Carnival Cruise Line president Christine Duffy earlier this week.
During an interview on "NBC Nightly News" on Monday night with Lester Holt, Duffy spoke about the ongoing process with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Duffy told Holt that after some time not speaking to the CDC, the world’s largest cruise company has again reengaged with the CDC in hopes of getting sailings started.
In a statement reacting to the news, ASTA called the bill's passing "a big step in the right direction."
"ASTA welcomes unanimous House passage of the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act and commends Congressman Young and Senators Murkowski and Sullivan and others for their dogged efforts to salvage part of the 2021 Alaska cruise season. Since February, ASTA has advocated for this legislation, and it was one of the policy 'asks' in more than 170 Congressional meetings as part of ASTA Legislative Day just yesterday. We call on President Biden to sign it as soon as possible.
"While our members continue to face challenges and need additional support from the government, setting this framework for 2021 Alaska cruising is a big step in the right direction. We again commend Congress for taking this necessary step and thank our cruise line partners for the work they put in here and to restart cruising generally. We're proud of the part we played in this success."