Faced with staffing shortages in one of the most remote parts of the world, cruise lines are having to cancel select cruise tours to Alaska just as the 2022 cruise season gets underway in that region.
Alaska cruise tours typically take passengers on overland excursions to places like Anchorage, Fairbanks, Denali National Park, and Canada's Yukon territory. They are paired with either a northbound cruise departing from Vancouver, or a southbound cruise sailing from northern Alaskan ports like Seward and Whittier.
This year, however, that remote geography is wreaking havoc on plans for these prized itineraries as cruise lines and operators struggle to find qualified workers.
That, in turn, has led to some cruise lines pairing back their summer 2022 Alaska cruise tours.
Which Lines are Canceling Cruise Tours to Alaska for 2022?
As of this writing, both Holland America Line and Princess Cruises -- the two largest cruise and cruise tour operators in Alaska -- have both canceled select cruise tours.
In early June, Holland America Line began notifying passengers booked on select cruise tours to Denali and the Yukon that their trips would not be going ahead as planned.
"Due to staffing shortages impacting the hospitality industry, we are cancelling select Yukon & Denali Cruisetours that occur on peak guest nights," Holland America told Cruise Critic in a statement.
"Holland America Line is known for exceptional and unique service onboard our ships and at our land properties operated for Alaska Cruisetours. In order to ensure the high service levels our guests have come to expect, we are cancelling some itineraries."
The line is offering impacted passengers a 100% refund plus a 100% future cruise credit, along with $200 onboard credit.
"We apologize for the inconvenience this will create and recognize this is very disappointing," the line's statement concluded. "We appreciate their understanding of this situation which is unfortunately present throughout the hospitality industry."
On June 6, Princess Cruises announced that "due to staffing shortages affecting the hospitality industry, the Copper River Princess Wilderness Lodge, one of its five Alaska lodges, will be closing for the season on June 17."
Passengers booked on affected tours will have the option to select an alternate itinerary, rebook for 2023, or elect to cancel their cruise tour.
Princess notes it is "working to provide employment opportunities for the displaced teammates from Copper River Princess Wilderness Lodge."
Why Are Cruise Lines Canceling Some Cruise Tours to Alaska This Year?
Staff shortages felt in hospitality and tourism industries around the globe are even more pronounced in Alaska's tourism industry, which tends to be reliant on younger populations of transient workers that come up north for a short part of the year.
With the exception of big cities like Anchorage and Fairbanks, the hotels found in more remote places like Denali National Park are only open seasonally, leaving hotel operators and cruise lines (many of which own or have a vested interest in these land-based properties) to try to find qualified housekeepers, servers, front desk staff, and technical positions with each passing season.
Cruise lines have long faced challenges operating in this remote region of Alaska. An unusually active wildfire season coupled with unusually heavy rain in 2019 forced cruise lines to shutter lodges temporarily. Cruise tours were suspended in 2020 due to the global health pandemic, while restrictions on cruises in Canada scrapped the popular land tours in 2021.
Cruise Critic members reacted to the news with alternating understanding and disbelief, particularly for those who had these trips planned for many years.
"I feel for all of you who have planned so far in advance for a cruise to Alaska," writes cr8tiv1. "The disappointments are mounting."
"This has been a lesson in flexibility, endurance, and patience. I know the seasoned travelers don't care much except to be on a ship cruising. But for many, it was a well planned family reunion."
Other readers were concerned with how they would salvage cruises set to depart in the short-term without the land portion of the trip.
"I have been on hold with the 3rd varied Princess office for more than an hour," writes bermudafan8. "Our travel agent is not in today. Our ship is to leave on 6/18. Then land of Copper, Kenai, Denali, McKinley, Fairbanks. They cancelled ALL of our land. No rerouting to Anchorage or anywhere."
"And to make matters more complicated, we have a southbound that starts in Fairbanks, then Denali, Anchorage and the ship."
Cruise Critic will update this article with more information as it becomes available.