(2:54 p.m. EDT) -- Canada Transport today announced additional details of its public health framework for resuming cruising. All adult guests and crew must be fully vaccinated, though "very limited exemptions" for children under age 12, medical conditions or religious beliefs will be allowed.
The previous lack of exemptions for kids had been a sticking point for cruise lines such as Carnival Cruise Line, and this new update comes only about a month before the Alaska cruising season is set to resume. Up until now, there has been much speculation about whether Canada health regulations would hinder the 2022 Alaska and Canada/New England cruise seasons.
With today's announcement, Holland American Line, for one, says the new published Canadian guidelines means it can proceed full steam ahead with sailings to and from Canada. Most cruise lines are currently requiring vaccinations for children ages 5 and up to comply with CDC voluntary regulations.
"The completion of this guidance by Transport Canada, Canada Border Services Agency, Public Health Agency of Canada, and port officials will allow us to sail our Alaska and Canada/New England seasons as planned," said Gus Antorcha, president of Holland America Line, in a prepared statement. "This is a positive step for everyone who loves to travel to these regions and for all of the businesses in Canada that we support through tourism."
Caribbean Princess, the first cruise ship to sail to Canada since 2019, is scheduled to call in Victoria, British Columbia on April 6 before transiting to Vancouver, British Columbia. The Koningsdam returns to Victoria on April 9; the Zaandam to Halifax on May 17. With a full schedule of sailings on the calendar between April and November, the Canadian cruise season is firmly back on the map.
The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) also hailed the return of Canada cruises, adding in a statement, "When cruise resumes in April, CLIA member cruise lines will be sailing with COVID-19 protocols that span the entirety of the cruise experience and provide some of the highest levels of prevention, detection, and mitigation compared to virtually any other tourism setting. CLIA will continue to engage with Transport Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada and regional agencies to review protocols as the public health situation evolves."
Omar Alghabra, Canada's Minister of Transport, announced the new health protocols in Halifax, a popular port of call on eastern seaboard itineraries. "As Canadians continue to do their part by stepping up and rolling up their sleeves to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and practicing public health measures, our government continues to work hard to restart our economy safely and sustainably," said Alghabra. "We welcome cruise ships--an important part of our tourism sector--back to Canada, and we will continue working with partners to support this important industry."
In addition to requiring most guests to be fully vaccinated, rules require crew and passengers to self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms, take a either a molecular test within 72 hours before boarding a ship or an antigen test within one day of boarding, and to take either a molecular test within 72 hours of arriving in Canada or antigen test within one day of the scheduled arrival.
"The return of cruise ships to our ports (or shores) is a further step in Canada's reopening and a reflection of the progress we have made against this current Omicron variant," said Marco E. L. Mendicino, Canada's Minister of Public Safety. "As we have said all along, Canada's border measures will remain flexible and adaptable, and we will continue to evaluate our measures to keep Canadians safe."
Canada's Minister of Health, Jean-Yves Duclos, applauded the cruise industry for "working hard to ensure the safety of their passengers and crews and the communities they visit."
A 2020 prohibition on cruise ships in Canadian waters was lifted November 1, 2021 -- too late for the year's Alaska and Canada/New England cruising season. A limited Alaska season took place in 2021 only after the U.S. Congress, at the behest of the Alaskan delegation, approved legislation to temporarily relax the requirements of the U.S. Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA), which requires foreign-flagged ships to stop at an international port (Alaska cruises stop in Canada) when departing from the United States.