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COVID-19 Updates for 2021 Cruise Season

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Bookmark this page to follow ongoing updates for the 2021 cruise season at the Port of Seattle.

Cruise line contact information: Cruise Line Directory 

COVID-19 Travel Advisories for Cruise Lines

Thursday, August 26

Cruise Season 2021 Fully Underway

The 2021 cruise season at the Port of Seattle is now fully underway with scheduled passenger sailings. Until the season ends in October, residents will see ships coming into port to disembark passengers, load supplies, and embark passengers, and then sailing away for the next voyage.  

While the season is now a full month into operations, passenger volume remains less than we would expect in a normal season, in part to accommodate physical distancing. Cruise lines hosted nearly 89,000 revenue passengers since July 19.  

Cruise lines continue to adapt COVID-related health and safety measures in response to public health guidance and recommendations. For example, in Seattle cruise lines updated their existing measures to begin requiring negative COVID tests within 72 hours of embarkation for all passengers regardless of vaccination status. Norwegian Cruise Line requires all passengers to show proof of vaccination and all passengers to test negative for COVID at the terminal before boarding the ship. Cruise line and passenger commitments to these safety measurers protect fellow passengers, crew, employees, our community here in Seattle, and along the Alaska itinerary.  


Monday, July 19

2021 Cruise Season Begins

The 2021 Alaska cruise season began with the first revenue cruise departure at Smith Cove Cruise Terminal. Royal Caribbean International’s Serenade of the Seas set off on the opening cruise of its summer of 7-night itineraries, the first of 83 voyages the Port of Seattle has scheduled with cruise lines operating Alaska cruises.


Wednesday, July 7

Serenade of the Seas Simulation Cruise

Royal Caribbean International begins a simulated cruise on Serenade of the Seas from Pier 91 on Wednesday, July 7.  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requires that U.S-based ships conduct simulation cruises to test health and safety protocols if the cruise line expects to return to sailing with less than 95% fully vaccinated guests or crew. Cruises that cater to families may choose the simulated cruise to allow children under 12 who are ineligible for vaccines to travel with their families.  A successful simulated cruise is one of the many steps for CDC approval to operate Alaska cruises from Seattle.


Monday, June 28

Arrival of Ovation of the Seas

The Port of Seattle is expecting its first cruise ship arrival June 29th, with Royal Caribbean International’s Ovation of the Seas docking at Terminal 91 to ready the ship for the season. Pending U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) authorization of cruise lines’ applications for a Conditional Sailing Certificate, passenger cruises are expected to start July 19th with Royal Caribbean International’s Serenade of the Seas.

Prior to sailing, cruise lines must submit to the CDC operational plans to prevent the spread of COVID or respond to any documented positive cases. The seven major brands calling the Port of Seattle will resume cruises with eight vessels, with over 80 trips scheduled, pending CDC authorization. To make the 2021 season possible, public health officials, cruise lines, and federal leaders addressed or reached major milestones, including temporary federal authorization to sail directly from Seattle to Alaska without a stop in Canada.


Tuesday, June 8

Countdown to Cruise

We are reaching the final stages of preparing for a safe cruise season here in Seattle. Previously, we noted that the Port’s work focused around four areas: vaccines, port agreements, the international stop, and enhanced safety measures in our own terminals.  

Since then, public health officials, cruise lines, and federal leaders addressed or reached major milestones on these topics, including new temporary, federal authority to sail directly from Seattle to Alaska without a stop in Canada, beginning CDC approval of port agreements for ships beginning sailing in other states, and the start of crew vaccinations by cruise lines. Locally we reached a major milestone with our Washington Governor announcing a full re-opening of our state on June 30.   

As a result of this work, cruise lines could begin serving passengers in Seattle as soon as late July. To complete our preparations, the Port will finalize its health and safety protocols and launch a communications and engagement program. 

While the full schedule of ship arrival and departure dates is still being developed, the Port anticipates that approximately 8 vessels will sail 10 roundtrip cruises from Seattle this year. 


Monday, May 24

President Biden signs Alaska Tourism Recovery Act

The Port of Seattle thanks President Biden and the efforts of the Washington congressional delegation in providing a temporary waiver to the Passenger Vessel Services Act, enabling cruise vessels to serve the Alaska market this summer.  We have been working with Cruise lines, CDC, the Washington State Department of Health, and Public Health Seattle-King County on Port Agreements, which will outline protocols that will protect public safety during cruise operations.  These agreements will cover things that both prevent the spread of COVID, as well as outlining response if there are COVID cases.  Cruise lines will need to have agreements in place with local providers for both treatment and quarantining passengers, if necessary.  Agreements will cover things like vaccination, testing, mask requirements, including physical distancing.  Please visit our Cruise Healthy website for more details. 


Thursday, May 20

There is strong momentum from Congress and the CDC to support and safely restore cruise jobs and economic activity, particularly the Seattle to Alaska itinerary.  This is a significant step towards an economic recovery for our region, and we thank our congressional delegation for their efforts.

As has been the case since the pandemic began, our focus on the health and safety of the community, passengers, crew, and staff is paramount. We are working with the cruise lines on a port agreement to ensure visitors and community are aware of our safety measures as outlined by the CDC and local health authorities.

We appreciate the efforts of state and local governments, cruise lines, and local tourism organizations to keep everyone focused on the same goal of a safe restart to cruising that supports approximately 5,500 jobs and generates nearly $900 million in local business revenue annually.


Thursday, May 13

Port of Seattle Statement on the Passage of the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act

We are excited to learn that the U.S. Senate has approved the Alaska Tourism Recovery Act, which makes a technical, temporary fix that would - once the CDC authorizes the safe resumption of cruise - allow cruise ships to visit Alaska this year while Canada’s COVID-19 restrictions remain in effect. We especially thank the leadership of U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell, Patty Murray, Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, and hope for the swift passage of this legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives. 

Without taking further legislative action, communities in Alaska face severe economic hardship even as cruises are allowed to resume in other parts of the country. In Seattle, cruise supports approximately 5,500 jobs and generates nearly $900 million in local business revenue. As this is one step closer to safely resuming Alaska cruises, ports, cruise lines, public health officials, and local leaders can now focus on the remaining work needed to restart cruise, including vaccinations, port agreements, and other enhanced safety measures.

- Stephanie Jones Stebbins, Maritime Director, Port of Seattle


Friday, April 30

Centers for Disease Control (CDC) provides additional guidelines to cruise lines and ports easing  pathway to a healthy and achievable return to service.  

On April 29th, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued five new clarifications to its Conditional Sailing Order that constructively advance planning to safely resume cruise in the United States. The clarifications include an alternate pathway to cruise resumption when passengers and crew are vaccinated, updated testing requirements, and the use of multi-port agreements.  

These changes do not automatically mean a return to cruise. Cruise lines will still need to meet all the CDC Conditional Sailing Order requirements before sailing can resume.  

The Port will emphasize four areas of work in planning for resumption of cruise:

  • Vaccines. Vaccination is the key to so many industries and facets of life returning to normal. Achieving universal vaccination for crew and passengers would be a major milestone for the safe return of cruise. The Port of Seattle assisted with vaccination clinics for other industries this spring; if we can offer any assistance to cruise, we will as well.
  • Port agreements. Ports are required to enter into agreements that have approval between ports, cruise lines, and local public health officials. We have begun the process of connecting these parties and will continue to focus on this work.
  • International stop. Current law requires foreign-flagged vessels to stop at an international port between U.S. port sailings. The Port of Seattle is working with partners on practical solutions that could enable the 2021 Alaska season to commence even if Canada has yet to permit traveler arrivals at its borders.
  • Enhanced safety measures. This includes adding proven safety measures and facility improvements at our cruise terminals that are consistent with best practices developed from safely operating SEA Airport through the pandemic.

The work to resume cruise requires partnership with public health officials, cruise lines, terminal operators, local labor, Alaska ports, and our international partners.  Depending upon approval from CDC, cruise lines may be able to offer cruises from Seattle mid to late summer for 2021 season.   


Friday, April 2

Centers for Disease Control (CDC) provides new technical guidelines to cruise lines and ports.

Under the Conditional Sailing Order, cruise lines and ports need to comply with new technical guidance released by the CDC on April 2.  Depending upon those requirements, and approval from CDC, cruise lines may be able to offer cruises from Seattle towards the end of our 2021 season.  We look forward to better understanding the next steps ports should take to facilitate a safe return of cruise.  We greatly appreciate everything public health officials are doing to manage the pandemic. 
 
In the meantime, we continue adding safety measures and facility improvements at our cruise terminals that are consistent with best practices developed from safely operating Seattle-Tacoma International Airport through the pandemic.  When it is safe to cruise again, we will be ready.


Thursday, February 4

Canada’s transport ministry announced an extended suspension of cruise operations in their waters through February 2022 due to continued concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.  We respect the decision by the Canadian government to continue the suspension.  This may affect our 2021 cruise schedule, as under federal law cruise vessels must stop at a Canadian port on their Alaska itineraries.  There remains a possibility of a limited cruise season in Seattle this year.  We are working with our cruise line customers on updates to the schedule. Nonetheless, the health and safety of our community comes first, and we await further guidance from the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC).  We will continue working closely with federal and local officials and our industry partners to implement the latest health and safety requirements to support a safe return of cruise.  When it is safe to cruise, Seattle will be ready.


Thursday, January 21

The cruise 2021 schedule remains in great flux as cruise lines adjust their procedures to meet new United States Center for Disease Control (CDC) Requirements. In October 2020, the CDC provided guidance on steps cruise lines and ports need to take to safely resume cruise. The Port welcomed these new requirements, some of which reflected input we provided to them at the time. When adopted, these measures will make up some of the most robust health protections we have observed in any travel industry. 

Cruise lines are actively working to implement these health measures to meet the new CDC standards. As a result, many cruise lines are extending their no-sail periods to provide more time for planning and provisional sailings. The Port will rely on cruise lines to best determine when they are ready to resume their schedules as long as they are approved by the CDC with the engagement of local health organizations. 

In light of this, we expect the cruise season to start more slowly and later than usual this year. Normally our season begins with ships arriving to the Pacific Northwest in April, with our season hitting its full stride by May and June. Right now, berth reservations are in flux, making a firm schedule of sailings difficult to predict. 

Cruise is an important part of Seattle's economic recovery and we will continue to coordinate with local and state public health agencies as we prepare for our next cruise season. 

 

See previous updates

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