Alaska should expect about as many visitors as in 2018 and 2019, cruise line rep says

A cruise ship moored at Skagway’s ore dock. (Photo by Emily Files/KHNS)
A cruise ship moored at Skagway’s ore dock. (Photo by Emily Files/KHNS)

The cruise industry says Alaska can expect about 1.5 million ship passengers to visit this season. But with the first cruise ship of the season expected to arrive in Skagway on April 26, questions remain about the vaccination rates of visitors and the extra hurdles required to enter Canada.

Brian Salerno is Cruise Lines International Association’s senior vice president for maritime policy. On Wednesday, Mike Swasey talked with Salerno to get an industry perspective on what Alaskan’s should expect from the coming season.

Listen here:

This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

Mike Swasey: Brian, thanks so much for being here. I’m just going to ask you this straight out — how many people are coming to Skagway this summer?

Brian Salerno: You know, I don’t have it broken down. But overall, for Alaska, we’re estimating about 1.5 million passengers, that’s on 600 voyages by 40 individual ships. So the season will probably start out a little bit slower and will gradually build, but that’s the guess-timate right now.

Mike Swasey: And how does that compare to, let’s say, 2018 to 2019?

Brian Salerno: Well, I think it’s roughly comparable, to you know, pre-pandemic levels.

Mike Swasey: I’ve had a lot of questions, Brian, about the ArriveCan app. You know, specifically in Skagway, a lot of tours will emanate from Skagway and go up into Canada. And so one of the questions I’m getting from tour companies is, will everyone that gets on a cruise ship be required to fill out an ArriveCan app before they depart on their cruise ship?

Brian Salerno: That’s my understanding, yes. If the ship is going to call in Canada, and virtually all of them will — other than potentially the rare U.S.-flagged vessel that has no need to stop in Canada — there would be a need to complete the ArriveCan app as a condition of entry into Canada. And the cruise lines are prepared to check that upon embarkation so that it doesn’t become an issue during the course of the trip.

Mike Swasey: Okay, and then I’m told by Canadian officials that once they have filled out that ArriveCan app, it’s good for the duration of their cruise. So they don’t have to update it throughout the cruise. And then they can utilize that to, let’s say, leave from Skagway and go up to the Yukon. Is that similar with the information that you’ve gotten?

Brian Salerno: That’s my understanding as well.

Mike Swasey: Okay. Another question a lot of people have asked is, will everybody on board the cruise ships be vaccinated?

Brian Salerno: Sure, well, most people will be. You know, there may be a few exceptions, obviously, children under five aren’t required to be. There’s some question about whether, you know, children under 12 would be. But overall, the cruises that are operating to Alaska and certainly into Canada are going to have extremely high vaccination rates.

Most will operate at 95% crew and passengers. Even those where it’s just below the 95% threshold, which would characterize them as highly vaccinated, still above 90% in virtually every case. Plus, everybody getting on board the cruise ship needs to be tested. And there’s very limited time windows for obtaining that test. So everybody that you’re on a ship with is vaccinated and recently tested. And then, of course, there’s other layers of protection that are in place — new sanitation procedures and air filtration, plus the ability to respond if somebody does in fact come down with symptoms. So it’s a highly protected environment.

Mike Swasey: Brian, throughout the years, we’ve had a lot of international travelers come to Skagway. Will the cruise season this year look similar? Will there be an international flair, or will it be mostly folks from the Western Hemisphere?

Brian Salerno: Good question. You know, we’re seeing more interest in international travel now that many of the travel restrictions have been lowered. I think we’re still going to see a lot of international visitors to Alaska because it’s on a lot of people’s bucket lists. But predominantly, I think, you know, probably Western Hemisphere, at least to start.

KHNS - Haines

KHNS is our partner station in Haines. KTOO collaborates with partners across the state to cover important news and to share stories with our audiences.

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