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Alaska is Back: Cruise Lines Resume Sailing Towards America’s Last Frontier

Celebrity Cruises deploys new ship for the northern latitudes as travel slowly finds its post-pandemic sea legs

Celebrity Cruises is preparing to take on Alaska next week, debuting the Celebrity Summit for a series of nine seven-day sailings through America’s Last Frontier. What makes this cruise noteworthy, besides the Summit’s inaugural showcasing the cruise company’s $500 million fleetwide upgrade details, is the fact that it is sailing to Alaska at all. The popular destination in America’s northernmost latitudes had become another casualty in the COVID-19 take-down of the cruise industry last year – an industry that accounts for some $3 billion of the state’s economy.

But bringing those in-demand Alaska sailings back into some post-Covid new normal has not been as easy as flipping on a green light. A Canadian Transport Ministry Interim Order has seen the closure of Canadian ports to passenger vessels through the pandemic. Add to that a long-standing Federal law that requires foreign-flagged ships — including all large cruise ships sailing to Alaska — to make an international stop on domestic routes, and Alaska was fast becoming a land of fool’s gold for cruise lines this year. Putting Alaska back on the map for cruise lines eager to feature sailings to Alaska and without stopping in one of Canada’s now banned ports would take an act of presidential magnitude. And that is exactly what happened.

President Biden, on May 24, signed the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act — an act that allows designated foreign-flagged and foreign-owned cruise ships (as most cruise lines are) to transport passengers between ports in Washington and Alaska without having to stop in Canada. The Act is an interim one that is in place until the Canadian ban expires.

Celebrity Cruises, already the first U.S. cruise line to dip back into open waters, sent the Celebrity Millennium last month for a jaunt around the Caribbean. All eyes were on how the cruise line would handle the social distancing protocols, the testing, the masking and whatever the new normal is supposed to look like for cruise passengers who are seeking a break from pandemic concerns through a cruise vacation plan that has had many false starts and cancellations over the past 16 months.

On that cruise, all adult passengers and crew members were fully vaccinated, and they were not required to wear masks or socially distance during the sailing. The ship sailed at 35 percent capacity.

The cruise line initially required all passengers to be vaccinated, but due to some stump speech shenanigans managed by Florida’s governor that, in effect, outlawed companies from executing vaccination requirements, the vaccine requirement was downgraded to a recommendation. Two passengers on that Millennium cruise did test positive for Covid during the sailing and were isolated from other passengers. There were no other indications of the virus. Passengers were not required to wear masks or maintain social distancing protocols during the sailing.

Sailing to and through Alaska

For its Alaska sailings and all others not leaving from Florida ports, Celebrity maintains a policy of requiring all guests 16 and older to be vaccinated at least two weeks before boarding. Unvaccinated children are required to take a COVID-19 test at the cruise terminal. On Aug. 1, the cruise line is expected to drop that age bar to guests 12 and older.

Celebrity’s Alaska cruises take guests from Seattle along coastal destinations of extreme beauty to marvel at the wildlife, wilderness and natural beauty in what may become the state’s last glacial age as global warming is already playing havoc with the area’s eco-patterns. Sailing the line’s popular Alaska Dawes Glacier Cruise, the ship will visit:

– Ketchikan, at the southernmost entry to Alaska’s famous Inside Passage. It is the best spot for a flightseeing excursion of the Misty Fjords.

– Endicott Arm and Dawes Glacier, a 30-mile-long stretch that is surrounded by granite cliffs, mountain valleys and dozens of gushing waterfalls before viewing the 600-feet-tall and half-mile wide Dawes Glacier.

– Juneau, the energetic capital city that is home to Mendenhall Glacier and Mt. Roberts, and has more hiking trails than roads.

– Skagway, that was once the heart of the Gold Rush and now visitors can explore the Yukon on the White Pass Railway.

Celebrity Close-Up

Complimentary Wi-Fi, drinks and tips are now included on every Celebrity cruise, simplifying the luxury vacation experience. Celebrity Summit is the sixth Celebrity ship returning to service.

Celebrity Millennium is sailing the Caribbean with seven-night itineraries from St. Maarten; Celebrity Apex made her world debut in the Aegean, sailing the Greek Isles from Athens, Greece starting in June; and three of the new elevated ships start sailing the Galapagos Islands this month –  mega-yachts Celebrity Flora, Celebrity Xpedition and intimate 16-passenger Celebrity Xploration. Celebrity Cruises is a Royal Caribbean brand.

Guests can expect to sail with a set of comprehensive measures and procedures developed in collaboration with the corporation’s Healthy Sail Panel, and in compliance with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and government authorities around the world.