Cruise ships visiting Alaska this summer will require most passengers to be vaccinated

A cruise ship with a mountain in the background.
Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas was the first large cruise ship to sail to Alaska in 2021, after the COVID-19 pandemic upended the 2020 season. In late December 2021, the CDC once again warned Americans against cruise ship travel. (Eric Stone/KRBD)

Federal COVID-19 protocols that were mandatory for last year’s cruise season are now optional, but cruise lines visiting Alaska are still expected to follow the voluntary guidelines for the upcoming season.

Ketchikan’s acting city manager, Lacey Simpson, says in a memo that all cruise lines scheduled to visit Ketchikan’s city-run downtown port have indicated they plan to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 protocols. Norwegian Cruise Line, which is scheduled to tie its ships up at a privately run port north of town, has also said publicly that it’s opting in to the program.

As part of the voluntary program, cruise lines are encouraged to sign agreements with the ports they plan to visit outlining their COVID-19 protocols. One agreement between Royal Caribbean and a wide range of Alaska ports is up for Ketchikan City Council approval Thursday.

Under the proposal, 95% of crew and all eligible passengers 12 and older are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Passengers would be required to present a negative COVID-19 test before boarding. Shoreside workers who interact with cruise passengers and crew are also “highly encouraged” to be vaccinated.

With the start of the cruise season fast approaching, Ketchikan city officials are asking the council for the authority to sign similar agreements with other cruise lines.

Cruise Lines International Association executive Brian Salerno told KHNS last week that the cruise industry expects some 600 voyages to bring roughly 1.5 million passengers to the state this summer.

Large foreign-flagged cruise ships, which bring most passengers to Alaska, are also required to stop in Canada by federal law. Canadian authorities require all passengers 12 and older to be vaccinated and present a negative test.

[Sign up for Alaska Public Media’s daily newsletter to get our top stories delivered to your inbox.]

Previous articleListening session on 200-person shelter in East Anchorage rescheduled for Monday
Next articleMock M&M election teaches Alaskans about ranked choice voting