March 13, 2020
(2:25 p.m. EDT) -- The Government of Canada today announced it is suspending calls of all cruise ships carrying more than 500 passengers and crew, effective from April 2 to July 1, 2020, to all Canadian ports.
The sweeping measures, intended to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Canada, were announced Friday morning by Transport Minister Marc Garneau and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, also includes the full-season cancellation of calls scheduled for any northern or Arctic port in Canada for vessels of any size, which effectively ends the Arctic expedition cruise season and voyages scheduled to transit the Northwest Passage.
The new measures could have wide-ranging implications for the 2020 Alaska cruise season, as well as the season in Quebec and Canada's Maritime provinces.
Canada's decision will have an impact on Alaska voyages out of Seattle, which currently call on Victoria, British Columbia, to satisfy U.S. cabotage laws that require foreign-flagged vessels leaving from a U.S. port of call to first call on a "distant foreign port" before returning to the United States.
"We respect the decision by the Government of Canada in putting health and safety of Canadians first," a spokesperson for the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority, which operates the city’s Ogden Point cruise terminal said in a statement. "We will work to engage with our cruise partners and terminal operators to comply with the decision. … We will remain engaged with Transport Canada, agencies, and other ports across Canada as these regulations are implemented."
With Canada out of the picture until July 1, big-ship cruises from U.S. ports to Alaska could effectively be terminated as well, barring any relaxing in Jones Act regulations by the U.S. federal government.
Transport Minister Garneau stated that Canada's policy toward cruise ships would be revisited June 30.
It is not known yet if lines with ships of less than 500 passengers and crew still intend to call on Canadian ports. The first ships were scheduled to call on East and West Coast Canadian ports in early April.
Holland America Line, one of a number of cruise lines to devote multiple ships to sailing seasonally in Alaska, told Cruise Critic:
"We are aware that this morning it was announced that effective today, Transport Canada has suspended the cruise season across Canada until July 1, 2020.
"We will be evaluating our Alaska and Canada and New England cruises scheduled within this time frame, and when more information is available we will share it.
"Guests booked on these cruises in May and June are kindly asked to not call our reservations center for more information as we do not have it at this time.
"Due to significant call volume, we are doing our best to manage long hold times for those with bookings in the next few weeks. We greatly appreciate your cooperation and understanding."
This article will be updated with more information as it becomes available.