Alaskan Dream Cruises To Sail In Alaska 2021, Backs Jones Act Waiver

Unlike the big shipping companies, Alaskan Dream Cruises, an AK Sitka-based company that operates 10 U.S.-flagged ships, will begin its 10-year Alaska cruise season in April with small ships. US-flagged vessels are not subject to the rules of the Vessel Passenger Services Act (the Jones Act), nor to Canada’s recent ban.

Lines with fewer than 100 people are also outside the purview of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – currently a stumbling block for the big shipping companies in their recovery efforts, as the CDC has not yet provided all the necessary data.

But while Alaskan Dream Cruises will offer a full schedule of voyages to Alaska in 2021, Zachary Kirkpatrick, director of marketing and public relations for the company, also expressed support for the Jones Act exemption for large ships, as well as efforts to get Canada to allow large ships to make technical calls.

The goal, he told reporters and tourism advisers at Friday’s briefing, is to avoid devastating impacts on Alaska’s businesses, jobs and economy.

Saving the big cruise season

Unfortunately, without a change in Jones Act requirements, not all large and mid-sized cruise lines and even some smaller ones will be able to call at Alaska this year, because U.S. federal law prohibits foreign-registered ships from sailing between two U.S. ports without calling at a foreign port in between, Kirkpatrick points out.

As a local Alaska company involved in various aspects of the tourism industry – such as Allen Marine and Orca Point Lodge, among other proposals – it is important for us to strongly support a temporary repeal of these parts of the law, which would allow foreign-flagged vessels to enter Alaska this summer, Kirkpatrick said.

He believes that the importance of the entire cruise industry to the economic health of Alaska cannot be overstated, and that the loss of large ships could result in devastating losses in terms of retail sales, revenue and jobs, as well as municipal sales tax.

Businesses and communities in southeast Alaska are really overwhelmed by the seasonal nature of the state, which generally runs from May to September, Kirkpatrick said. It forces the company to survive the expected 19 months until reopening in May.

This delay began with the end of the Alaska season in September 2019, was extended into the cancelled Alaska cruise season in 2020, and is expected to end when the entire cruise industry resumes that year. He continued: But now, with this Canadian announcement, the company will disappear for 31 months. It’s just disastrous. He said the company is working with representatives of Congress to try to get an exemption for these large shipping companies.

In addition, Mr. Kirkpatrick noted that we support our government in working with Canada to allow these ships to make at least technical calls in Canada. I wanted to make sure we were supportive.

Today, The Travel Agent reported on a letter sent late last week by two U.S. senators and a U.S. congressman to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calling for solutions to the problem and better cooperation at the border.

Small cruiser

Alaskan Dream Cruises’ ships have a capacity ranging from 10 to 76 passengers. So we’ve never gotten a CDC ban, even in 2020, Kirkpatrick says. But for health and safety reasons in the early stages of a pandemic, we decided not to swim last year.

But, he added: We are very excited about swimming this year. Alaskan Dream Cruises is headquartered in Sitka, AK, and is owned by the Allen family, who are members of the local Tlingit tribe in Alaska. They have been enhancing the wildlife and habitats of the Inner Passage for more than 50 years, first with operating vessels and then, in 2011, with the launch of Alaska Dream Cruises.

The 10-passenger Misty Fjord line will begin its 2021 season in Alaska with two sailings in April. Another larger vessel will be launched on the 7th. May to sail, and other ships will sail soon after. The Kruzof Explorer, pictured below, is the newest member of the lines’ fleet; it is a converted former Bering Sea crab fishing vessel.

Exposure to vaccine

The line will comply with all local, state and federal health and safety regulations. In addition, we are encouraged by the current use of the vaccine, Kirkpatrick said. The average passenger on the Alaska Dream Cruise is over 60 years old, which is why, he says, many of these guests or potential guests expect to be vaccinated or at least have already received their first dose in the coming months (before they go to sea). Kirkpatrick expects the pace of vaccinations to accelerate.

In southeast Alaska, he sees the inoculation of residents as a source of optimism: The introduction of our vaccines has been reliable and well-organised, and vaccines have been distributed quickly and efficiently in the region.

Starting at 10:00. By February, 24% of residents in southeast Alaska had received at least the first dose of the vaccine, according to the Alaska Department of Health and Human Services. Alaska Native tribes received separate allotments.

In a recent phone conversation with the Kake Tribe, AK, an Aboriginal village and a remote small craft port, Alaskan Dream Cruises found out they want to do even more with us this year, Kirkpatrick said. A village of about 600 people has been 69% vaccinated with another 100 doses.

A cultural and dance performance by members of the Kake tribe for Alaskan Dream Cruises disembarking guests.

Kirkpatrick congratulated state and local officials and the state’s chief medical officer, Dr. Ann Zink, for making sure Alaska does very well with this vaccination. It’s a beautiful sight.

He described Alaska as a land based on communities and said Allen Marine had once used one of its boats and crews to deliver vaccines to small, isolated communities in Alaska.

Safety of navigation

Flights to our landing ports in Alaska are really easy, he said, pointing out that Ketchikan, Juneau and Sitka are easily accessible from Seattle. Once in Alaska, cruise participants will embark and disembark at the company’s private ocean facilities in various locations throughout southeast Alaska. In addition, Mr. Fitzpatrick pointed out that the routes of his small boat line in Alaska include many outdoor activities and are flexible even under normal conditions, allowing the captain to adjust the boat’s route according to wildlife or weather conditions.

During the upcoming Alaska 2021 voyages, the line will adjust routes as necessary to shift them based on community concerns or COWID-19 onshore development. We’ll just explore by kayak, ski or on foot, Kirkpatrick said.

As for onboard safety protocols for guests and crew, we know as little as anyone what state and local health laws will apply when cruises resume, he said, adding that the state of Alaska has approved the VIDOC reduction training program for crew and cabin crew.

But again, the situation is volatile, he said, noting that if things change, the line will be adjusted. Mr. Kirkpatrick also noted that management is in contact with the Alaska State Operations Center, the agency that will approve the health/safety protocols and the VIDOC-19 test plan or other requirements.

He said many of the protocols already in place will be implemented regardless of what happens in the future. They include a health questionnaire before the guest enters the boarding house to mitigate potential problems before the guest enters. This rule would be consistent with the state’s travel regulations, which currently require a negative test for COWID-19 within 72 hours before departure, which must then be entered on the Alaska Travel Portal website. Travellers can also present proof of a negative result at the airport controls.

We strongly encourage Alaskan Dream Cruises customers to request their test results before leaving home and making the trip to Alaska, Kirkpatrick told reporters. Positive COVID-19 test results may be delayed until a later departure date.

In addition to providing negative test results for regulatory purposes, Alaskan Dream Cruises will also require confirmation of a negative test result using the same criteria – a negative test result taken within 72 hours prior to the departure of the cruise. This applies to all foreign or U.S. visitors (including Alaska residents).

A Kirkpatrick fact? Our firm has unique expertise in the area of [check-in testing and requirements], as we actually have a contract with the government to conduct a COWID search at Sitka Airport.

If a guest tests positive before boarding, they will not be allowed to board. Kirkpatrick said that when there is stress, as he does to help customers who fly to Alaska and then are denied boarding due to a positive test, the rules change in this area. He has not yet been able to provide details.

Regardless, Alaska Dream Cruises will hire a dedicated staff, familiar with changing travel and testing needs, to act as a liaison between customers and travel agents. According to Kirkpatrick, rice mandates can be confusing and are constantly changing.

Chichagof’s dream has open terraces from which to admire the spectacular scenery; the photo above was taken before the pandemic, so the social distance wasn’t there yet. // Photo by Susan G. Jung/.

On its ships, the shipping company will focus on permanent hygiene, including disinfection of common areas, contact points and cabins. It also disinfects vehicles. To enable further disinfection at the hospital level, the company currently produces its own EPA-registered solution in Sitka. Additional hand hygiene stations will also be installed on the line and daily health and welfare checks will be carried out, including temperature checks and symptom questionnaires.

We have equipped our ships with ultraviolet sterilization lights on the air conditioning systems, Kirkpatrick told reporters, and we know how effective the masks are, so masks will be mandatory [for all guests and crew] in all public places.

Alaska Dream Cruises also plans to use staggered schedules for lunch and educational presentations to create more physical distance.

In addition, operational managers of shipping companies are trying to obtain PCR test kits or antigens for their ships so that they can test crew members or guests who exhibit symptoms on board. We’re working feverishly to get them now, Fitzpatrick said, but there are issues with availability. However, he added that the line expects improvements in the coming months, and line staff are in constant contact to achieve them.

When asked if crew and guests should be vaccinated, Mr Fitzpatrick replied that it was too early to know and acknowledged that it would depend on the greater availability of the vaccine and the requirements of the government. At this stage we have no conclusive answer. However, he hopes the vaccination process will be much longer by spring.

What would happen if a person aboard the Alaska Dream Cruises tested positive for VIDOC-19? Upon confirmation, they will be quarantined in their room and, if nearby, landed in Sitka or Juneau to a local hotel for quarantine. We don’t anchor just because we have private facilities [on shore for guests to embark and disembark], and that should give us some peace of mind.

The company also owns another fast catamaran company. So if we weren’t close to the port to drop off a guest like that, we basically have these high-speed transport ships that can do that, Kirkpatrick said.

Cabins on board where guests who have tested positive are staying will be thoroughly disinfected. In addition, the line can search for contacts.

Pent survey

The line is starting the season with many customers already booked for 2020, benefiting from the cruise assets of the future. This won’t come as a surprise to anyone because we’ve all experienced this pandemic, but there is a pent-up demand for travel and a demand for Alaska cruises.

There was an increase in bookings last week and we expect that to continue, Kirkpatrick told reporters, adding that the traditional golf season in Alaska generally runs from January to March, but this year will likely run from March to May.

The line recently lowered the required bond from about $750 per person to $49 per person. In 2019, 96% of Alaskan Dream Cruises’ customers came from outside Alaska.

For its 10th anniversary in 2021, the line will run on 11 different lines. The trip will take you to the Tracy Arm Fords Terror Wilderness, Glacier Bay National Park, Orca Point and Fin Island, small fishing villages, Alaska Native communities and the best wildlife habitats. A new five-day route will also offer a lower price.

The atmosphere on board can be described as relaxed. All cabins have a private bathroom with shower and a mattress with pillow. The ships have expedition vehicles on board (as pictured above), such as DIBS, zodiacs and kayaks.

As we prepare for the 2021 season and are excited about the ongoing vaccinations, the proven effectiveness of PPE, especially masks, and the numerous onboard mitigation measures, we are confident that we will have a safe and successful season in Alaska, Kirkpatrick said.

We reiterate our support for the Jones exemption and we also advocate for Canada to allow the use of engineering tools to call for large ships, he said. The importance of this issue to Alaska’s economy cannot possibly be overstated.

He pointed out that the impact of the shortage of these ships affects not only cruise lines and tour operators, but also restaurants, retailers and even businesses such as paper printers that often work with travel companies. Kirkpatrick says it’s important to get big ships back in the water.

What has changed this year from last year? In addition to the many people who can be vaccinated before the departure date, health authorities now state that fully vaccinated guests do not need to be quarantined if they are exposed to VIDC-19. This means that the cruise can continue even if a guest on board is positive, as fully vaccinated guests do not have to disembark.

In addition, it is possible that more visitors will come to Alaska on larger ships this year. We’re not saying there’s a better or worse way to look at Alaska, Kirkpatrick said. There’s no wrong way to do it. But he said guests who are used to sailing only on large ships need to understand that on a small ship the entertainment on board is educational and there are no swimming pools or casinos on the intimate ships of his range.

But there is a distinct advantage to sailing on a small boat, and that is the flexibility of the route, so that when a group of orcas is spotted, the captain can say Let’s turn around and maybe even bring out the Zodiacs. In addition, small ships can call at small remote ports where large ships cannot go, such as B. the remote home village of Kake or the small fishing village of Pelican.

Kirkpatrick’s thoughts? There is reason for optimism, especially with this small ship, especially with the proven effectiveness of things like the masks and numerous measures on board; the interstate travel warnings; the accelerated introduction of vaccinations in April…. and we are excited to celebrate our 10th anniversary. A season to celebrate.

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frequently asked questions

Will there be cruises to Alaska in 2021?

The Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Holland America websites stopped sailing to Alaska altogether in 2021. A search for Alaska cruises only returns sailings scheduled for 2022.

Will Alaska allow cruise ships this summer?

The government’s decision of 4. February means Alaska, which received about 60% of its visitors via cruise ships in the summer of 2019, will almost certainly miss another major cruise season unless there is an exemption or change of heart in Canada.

Will cruises to Alaska resume?

Last year, the entire Alaska cruise season was lost – and it looks like it will be lost this year, too. The Canadian government surprised the industry this week by extending the ban on cruises by one year until February 2022.

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