Canada Bans Large Cruise Ship Arrivals Through July 1

Celebrity Eclipse at the Port of Seattle (file image)

Published Mar 13, 2020 7:06 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Friday, Canadian minister of transport Marc Garneau announced Friday that all large cruise ships carrying more than 500 passengers will be prohibited at Canada's ports, nationwide, from April 2 through July 1. The ban will extend through the entire season for Canada's northern and Arctic ports.

The ban may have a significant effect on the Seattle-to-Alaska cruise season, a market that serves more than a million passengers per year. All large cruise ships on the route are foreign-flagged, and they must stop in a foreign port - typically Victoria, B.C. - during their voyage in order to comply with the U.S. Passenger Vessel Services Act. With no Canadian port call, they cannot operate between ports in Washington and Alaska (unless they incorporate a port in a different foreign nation). 

Two out of the three publicly-listed American cruise lines have already suspended all U.S. sailings for several weeks, but Canada's restriction would last far longer. 

"We are reviewing Transport Canada’s actions and evaluating the order’s impacts on the 2020 Alaska cruise season," the Port of Seattle said in a statement. "The pace of change and scale of operational impact is significant, and we will continue to work closely with stakeholders on next steps."

The Port of Seattle has already seen a delay in the start of its cruise season. The cruise ship Grand Princess was to be the first large vessel to call Seattle this season, but her April 1 sailing was deferred after she was quarantined in Oakland. A port call by Celebrity Eclipse on April 5 has also been canceled.

At present, the first cruise ship of the season for Seattle will be the Holland America vessel Eurodam on April 15. The season normally runs through mid-October.  

Small cruise ships and ferries - notably the Alaska State Ferry system - are still permitted to enter Canadian ports under the new Transport Canada rules.