It isn't all about Alaska.
The shutdown of large ship cruises to the Last Frontier affects British Columbia and Washington state.
Taxicab drivers, hotel staff, cafe and restaurant cooks and dishwashers, merchants — big and small — bear the brunt of the continuing cruise industry hiatus in U.S. waters that began in early 2020.
One major issue is it that cruise ships with a capacity of more than 100 passengers that usually operate between Washington and Alaska are banned from sailing in Canadian waters and visiting Canadian ports such as Vancouver and Victoria until February 2022.
It's no small matter, Ketchikan knows.
The bigger city of Seattle is experiencing severe impacts, as well. Every time a cruise ship docks in the Emerald City, according to The Associated Press, more than $4 million is injected into the city's economy, and $14.5 million in statewide taxes is collected. It's a $1 billion industry for Seattle during the six-month cruise season. Jobs supported by the industry total about 5,500, some of which lost half their income or more as a result of the industry pause.
Seattle is one of the largest ports for cruise travel in the country, according to the Port of Seattle. The ships increasingly sail for Alaska.
Additionally, 86% of the Seattle cruise ship passengers fly in and out of Sea-Tac International Airport, 2020 statistics show.
U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan lobbied the Senate, which unanimously passed a bill to allow foreign-flagged cruise ships to sail to Alaska without an intermediate stop in Canada.
The Alaska Tourism Recovery Act, introduced by Murkowski and Sullivan in February, will advance to the House of Representatives. The law would allow foreign-flagged ships to sail between two U.S. ports without tagging a foreign port — at least until Canada lifts a ban on the large ships calling there.
That the bill passed the Senate unanimously is noteable. It's a hopeful sign for the response that it might receive in the House, a much larger body, but also one with representatives from Washington and other coastal communities affected by the shut down of the cruise industry. By the time it reaches President Biden's desk, perhaps he will be inclined to assist an industry intent on responsible cruising and preparing to restart safely for passengers, crew, communities and the country.
Then, for the cruise lines, the potential for seasons in other places around the globe will need to materialize. Of course, Alaska, Washington and other domestic places will stand ready to aid those startups, too. The Centers for Disease Control will be key to returning the industry and the communities who depend upon it to pre-2020 activity.
This week a battle was won. The war, with widespread ramifications, continues.
The hope is for an early end, coming yet in 2021 for not only Alaska, but Washington, too.