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With Canada key to Alaska cruising, could Biden help 'mend fences?'

PHOTO: MAKARISTOS, PUBLIC DOMAIN, VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS CRUISE_Canada_US_flags.jpg
With US-based cruise lines hoping to resume sailing in the spring, close-to-home Alaska will be an especially key destination in 2021. Canada is critical to that.

Yet Canada has had stricter, more consistent COVID-19 mitigation policies and much lower infection rates than the US. The border remains closed to most travelers.

Canada acted decisively early in the outbreak to block cruise ships, and its current ban extends through February. Sources recently told Seatrade Cruise News the government remains wary about allowing this traffic, given the majority of cruisers will come from the US.

'We've got to mend that fence,' said Alex Sharpe, president and CEO, Signature Travel Network.

Need to restore confidence

'The easiest path back is for the Canadians to have confidence in our administration and their handling of COVID and these numbers to start to flatten,' he said.

Sharpe implied there may be ways to 'circumvent' the US Passenger Vessel Services Act so foreign-flag cruise ships could sail in Alaska without the mandatory call at a foreign port. That would be unprecedented, though. (And, recently, a Holland America Line sales executive said she knew of no such efforts.)

'Critical component to a really successful 2021'

In any case, Sharpe stressed having Canada to diversify the destination and give multiple launch points and cruise lengths is 'a critical component to a really successful 2021. Alaska's going to be important,' he said. 'Some of these cruise lines that have dedicated a big number of ships there for 2021 are going to need to make this work.'

Sharpe suggested the new Biden administration 'could have a positive impact in this, but it's yet to be seen how active a role they'll take and how the Canadians will react to the changes. Some of it is just going to be wait and see how the [coronavirus] numbers are in January and February.'

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