It goes to show that no problem is too big for a solution.
Congress has passed the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act. President Joe Biden is expected to sign it quickly.
Cruise lines are beginning to take reservations for Alaska cruises as soon as August 2021.
Canada’s response to the novel coronavirus prodded Alaskans and Alaska’s congressional delegation into action.
In 2020 with the advent of the pandemic, Canada banned large cruise ships that call in British Columbia ports from its waters, preventing a historically successful Alaska cruise season.
The large foreign-flagged ships are required to tag a foreign port when sailing between two U.S. ports as described in the Passenger Vessel Services Act. The cruise lines most often choose Vancouver, British Columbia.
The Canadian ban is effective until February of 2022.
The tourism restoration act passed by Congress allows the ships to bypass Canada and sail back and forth between Seattle and Ketchikan.
The act is temporary, with a February sunset date.
But, it will allow cruise lines to begin preparing for an Alaska cruise season.
A shorter season — although about the length of the earliest three-month seasons — is better than no season at all.
The PVSA, coupled with Canada’s ban, was a mighty barrier to a 2021 cruise season. Bypassing the ban opens possibilities. While other issues remain, such as Seattle’s willingness to welcome the ships in the midst of a pandemic still slowly subsiding, nothing would be possible without the tourism restoration act. (Seattle lost millions of dollars in taxes, jobs and business without the ships last season.)
But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have outlined operating procedures for the large ships, and other challenges might need to be addressed.
None of those would matter, however, without the suspension of the PVSA.
Alaskans are grateful to Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, as well as Congressman Don Young, who heard Alaskans call for help and responded heroically to the emergency.