Canada announced Thursday it is banning cruises until Feb. 28, 2022.
The announcement by the country’s transportation ministry is a blow to the already beleaguered cruise industry, which has been paralyzed since mid-March when COVID-19 outbreaks on multiple ships forced the industry to shut down passenger operations. In addition to banning cruises for the next year, the Canadian ministry warned citizens not to take cruises outside the country’s waters either.
“As Canadians continue to do their part to reduce the spread of COVID-19, our government continues to work hard to ensure Canada’s transportation system remains safe,” said Minister of Transportation Omar Alghabra in a statement. “Temporary prohibitions to cruise vessels and pleasure craft are essential to continue to protect the most vulnerable among our communities and avoid overwhelming our health care systems. This is the right and responsible thing to do.”
The ban will eliminate cruises to Alaska, which stop in Canadian ports to comply with U.S. shipping laws.
Spokesperson for Miami-based Royal Caribbean Group Jonathon Fishman said the company is getting in touch with affected passengers.
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“We understand and appreciate the Canadian government’s focus on combatting COVID-19,” he said via email. “The health and safety of our guests, crew and communities we visit is our top priority. Royal Caribbean Group is ready to work with health and transportation officials on a path forward to address the impact on multiple sectors of the Canadian economy.”
Miami-based Carnival Corporation, the largest cruise company in the world, owns several Alaska hotels. Spokesperson Roger Frizzell said in a statement the company plans to continue to operate its hotels in Denali, Fairbanks and Kenai for the summer season, and hopes the Canadian government will rescind the cruising ban if pandemic conditions improve.
“Given the unexpected length of the order, it will take us some time to assess whether there are any options to preserve a portion of the 2021 Alaska season,” the statement said. “We will be consulting authorities in both the U.S. and Canada before we take any additional action.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lifted its ban on cruises in October and replaced it with a long list of conditions cruise companies must meet in order to resume passenger operations. On Tuesday, Michael Rubin, Florida Ports Council vice president of governmental affairs, told members of the Florida Senate Transportation Committee that it could take companies more than a year to comply.