End of the ban on cruise ships in Canada
Canada has become the latest country to end its restrictions on cruise ships. The ban’s expiration in November comes for the first time 19 months after the country banned large cruise ships from entering its ports, but at the same time, the federal government continues to advise citizens against traveling to aboard cruise ships.
The official end of the ban follows a decision first announced by Omar Alghabra, Canada’s Minister of Transport, in July 2021. This decision, however, is largely ceremonial, as the cruise season in Canada is already over. almost complete for the year. The last of the cruise ships operating to Alaska ended its cruises in mid-October after a season that had been cut short by Canada’s decision to continue blocking cruise ships for most of 2021. cruises to the Atlantic Maritimes from Canada in 2021 have been canceled due to the restrictions.
Canada first announced it would close its ports to cruise ships in mid-March 2020 at the start of the pandemic. The ban was then extended until the 2020 cruise season, and then into February 2021 for an additional year. In addition to impacting large cruise ships, the ban along with other travel restrictions also disrupted ferry service, including operations on the Pacific coast.
The federal government continues to advise citizens to avoid traveling on cruise ships until further notice. The warning first issued at the start of the pandemic warns that travelers could find themselves in quarantine situations where Canada has little diplomatic authority to assist them. The advisory also states that “it is unlikely that there will be a government-organized repatriation flight to return to Canada”, in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak or travelers who become ill. The traveling community is calling on the federal government to end the cruise warning following the lifting of restrictions on international air travel effective October 21.
Minister Alghabra said the decision to shorten the cruise ban to end on November 1 was intended to help cruise lines plan their cruise operations in 2022. The federal government wanted to send a signal to cruise passengers that Canada would be open to tourists next year. British Columbia local government officials report that already more than 600 cruise ship visits are scheduled for 2022 to Vancouver and Victoria. They expect more than a million passengers to visit each of the ports next year.
Some, however, have questioned whether ending the ban was a political attempt to defuse efforts by the US Congress to call for a permanent exemption from cabotage rules for Alaska cruises. The Passenger Ship Services Act, dating from 1886, requires foreign ships carrying American passengers to visit a foreign port on cruises scheduled to depart and end in the United States. Led by the Alaska delegation that succeeded in securing the 2021 exemption, new legislation has been proposed to extend the exemption allowing major cruise ships to operate directly from U.S. ports to Alaska.
With the end of the ban in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and China remain the largest cruise markets that still restrict cruise travel. Australia’s travel community has called on its government to ease restrictions on cruises, but the country’s 2021-2022 cruise season has been largely canceled. Likewise, China continues to restrict international travelers but has allowed some of its domestic cruise ships to resume service.