First small cruise ship of the season aiming for July, not June, visit to Southeast Alaska

Juneau’s cruise ship docks are empty on April 23, 2020. The cruise ship season was supposed to begin, but sailings have been suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Jennifer Pemberton / KTOO)

A small cruise ship company that had planned sailings in Southeast Alaska this month is pushing back its planned starting date.

American Cruise Lines has been planning voyages starting and ending in Juneau, with stops in Skagway, Haines, Petersburg, Wrangell and Ketchikan onboard the American Constellation. That ship has capacity for up to 130 people, with passenger numbers reduced for COVID-19 precautions. It had planned cruises in late June and was working with communities to come up with acceptable protocols for screening, testing, cleaning and quarantine for its passengers and crew.

Ketchikan’s city council okayed the company’s safety plan and agreed to allow the Constellation to dock in June.

“They submitted draft protocols — which looked pretty good honestly, looked like they were trying to do the most they could,” said Rorie Watt, Juneau’s city manager.

But the company confirmed in an email statement Thursday, June 11th, that it would be delaying Alaska cruises until July 23rd.

“While we understand the state’s need for testing and quarantine requirements, currently, they pose potential complications for our passengers,” the statement said. “American looks forward to resuming cruises in Southeast Alaska very soon.”

American Cruise Lines had already notified officials in some Southeast communities.

Watt said that even with the safety plan from the cruise line in place, the state health mandate 10, which covers quarantine and testing requirements for travelers coming into Alaska would prevent the ship from docking.

“We want the visiting public including passengers on a small cruise ship to comply with health mandate 10. So, I don’t think we’re going to see any small cruise ships for another 6 weeks or so.”

Many cruise ship companies have already canceled their Alaska voyages for the season. Earlier this week, the Haines Borough Assembly voted to ask cruise lines to suspend visits to that community after discovering its first confirmed case of COVID-19.