In letter to White House, Gov. Dunleavy cites $3 billion loss to Alaska from no cruise ship season

Cruise ships dock in Skagway’s port in pre-pandemic times. On Thursday, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy sent a letter to an advisor to President Joe Biden about the cost of lost cruise seasons. (Photo by Emily Files/KHNS)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy sent a letter to an adviser to President Joe Biden on Thursday asking for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to allow a summer cruise season.

Along with the letter to Jeffrey Zients, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, Dunleavy sent a report that says Alaska’s economy would lose $3 billion each year if there is no cruise season. Port and cruise-line-related communities have lost more than 22,000 jobs compared with the year before the pandemic.

Alaska Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development Commissioner Julie Anderson acknowledged that it would be challenging for cruise ships and communities to ramp up quickly if a cruise season were allowed. But she said she’s spoken to cruise industry members who said there still could be Alaska cruises in August or September.

“Our communities are suffering so tremendously that anything will help,” she said. “To be able to have something to help you offset (costs) to help you get through the winter — to give you hope for the next season — I think would just be immeasurable. It would be wonderful to be able to have that.”

The letter did not address a federal law, the Passenger Vessel Services Act, that requires cruise ships coming to Alaska to stop in Canada. The Alaska Senate passed Senate Joint Resolution 9 on Wednesday, asking Congress and Biden to exempt Alaska-bound ships from that requirement. 

Andrew Kitchenman

State Government Reporter, Alaska Public Media & KTOO

State government plays an outsized role in the life of Alaskans. As the state continues to go through the painful process of deciding what its priorities are, I bring Alaskans to the scene of a government in transition.

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