By Larry Persily
Norwegian Cruise Line has decided to give up on bringing its ships to Alaska even in late September and early October, putting an end to any chance of a large cruise ship season in the state.
The other major cruises serving Alaska — Holland America, Carnival, Princess, Disney and Royal Caribbean — had already canceled all their summer 2020 sailings to Alaska. Norwegian held off canceling the end of its season before becoming the last operator to admit defeat to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Your safety is our #1 priority — both on and off our ships,” the cruise line said in its June 30 announcement, attributing the cancellations to “the current global environment.”
Before the new coronavirus forced the shutdown of ports, drove people to shelter at home to avoid infections and decimated tourist travel worldwide, Alaska had anticipated about 1.4 million cruise ship visitors this summer, with about one million stopping in Skagway.
Still unknown is whether any smaller ships will come to Southeast Alaska this summer. All have canceled the entire season except for UnCruise Adventures. The company has not announced any change to its plans to start sailing Aug. 1. Its ships carry less than 100 passengers.
American Cruise Lines, which had planned to run a 175-passenger ship in Southeast, announced on July 7 that it was canceling all sailings this year. Not that it mattered much to many communities, since Skagway, Haines and Wrangell have so far decided to protect their communities from the risk of infected travelers by denying any port calls of the smaller ships.
Looking ahead to next year, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line have teamed up to hire a panel of high-profile health advisers to help the companies figure out how to safely return to operations. And they plan to share with other cruise lines whatever they come up with.
The two cruise companies are splitting the costs for the “brain trust” of health experts, as Royal Caribbean CEO Richard Fain described the team on a CNBC news program July 7.
The panel began meeting in June and will present their recommendations by August.
“We’re looking to establish protocols that protect the health of our guests and crew and do so without undermining what makes the cruising so special,” Fain said on CNBC. “It will be different.”
Another difference for next year will be fewer ships in the Carnival fleet, CEO Arnold Donald announced during a conference call with Wall Street analysts on July 10.
Carnival will shed 13 of its ships by the end of the year. The company reported a loss of $4.37 billion during the second quarter of this year— its largest quarterly loss ever.
The sale or scrapping of 13 ships would amount to a nearly 9% reduction of capacity at Carnival’s combined brands, Donald said. He did not specify which ships would leave the fleet.
Carnival Corp. owns several cruise lines, including Carnival, Princess, Holland America and Cunard.