On Thursday, cruise industry representatives visiting Juneau shared what to expect from this year’s short season and how cruise lines are handling COVID-19.
“It’s not going to look the same, but it sure does feel good to be back,” said Renée Reeve, vice president of government and community relations for Cruise Lines International Association Alaska. Its 17 member lines bring almost all of the cruise ship passengers to the state.
Reeve said there are nine big ships visiting Southeast Alaska this year, with 78 voyages planned. In 2019, there were 39 big ships with more than 500 voyages.
Passenger projections are fuzzy because cruise lines only got the regulatory green light in June. Booking time was limited, and the ships probably won’t sail at full capacity.
Reeve also discussed COVID-19.
“As we all know, our COVID numbers are rising across the state of Alaska right now,” Reeve said. “We at CLIA Alaska are committed to monitoring that with our member lines so that as the situation evolves, we can respond appropriately.”
She said most of the ships that will be in Alaska this season will have at least 95% of their passengers and crew vaccinated to meet a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requirement to sail.
Royal Caribbean is the exception. It markets to families with children who aren’t eligible for COVID-19 vaccines. Its ships, including the Serenade of the Seas that’s sailing in Southeast Alaska now, will have lower vaccination rates. But they’ll also operate under stricter CDC requirements for things like masking, physical distancing and meal service.
Regardless of vaccination rates, CLIA Alaska has asked its lines to participate in weekly briefings with port communities on COVID-19.
“So, if your community decides that it’s time to bring masks back? We want them to know that before their ship comes to port so their passengers are aware of that,” Reeve said.
Lanie Downs is senior director of community relations and public affairs. She said surveys have shown that cruise ship passengers are seeking COVID-conscious policies.
“The passengers that are coming on the ships actually wanted to those, you know, the high vaccine rates,” Downs said. “They don’t mind mask wearing, they don’t mind social distancing. They’re prepared for that, and they understand it.”
Reeve and Downs spoke during the Greater Juneau Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Thursday.