OTTAWA — Though Minister of Transport Marc Garneau announced yesterday that Canada will be extending its cruise ship ban until Feb. 28, 2021, travel industry experts and agents are saying that the news will have minimal impact heading into the winter season.
The ban, which was set to expire on Oct. 31, 2020, applies to the following:
- Cruise ships with overnight accommodations carrying more than 100 people continue to be prohibited from operating in Canadian waters.
- All other passenger vessels must continue following provincial, territorial, local and regional health authority guidance.
- Passenger vessels carrying more than 12 people continue to be prohibited from entering Arctic coastal waters, including Nunatsiavut, Nunavik and the Labrador Coast.
- Adventure-seeking pleasure craft also continue to be banned in Arctic waters.
Though the news is in line with ongoing travel restrictions and bans (CLIA’s No Sail Order is set to expire on Oct. 31), Vanessa Lee, President of Cruise Strategies Ltd. doesn’t think that it will have a huge impact on cruise lines, particularly during the winter months.
She tells Travelweek: “Cruise ships would typically begin cruising in Canadian waters from April onward with Alaska cruises and vessels making their way up the Eastern Seaboard to Atlantic Canada, Quebec and the Great Lakes. Ships will also head to the Arctic for the summer season, providing the Government agrees to Arctic cruising in Canada. As long as Canadian waters are available to cruise by the spring and the border reopens, I presently see very little impact.”
Lee adds that she would be far more concerned if Minister Garneau extended the deadline to March or April but conceded it would be a “wait and see attitude” at this point.
“A more significant issue will be if the Alaska season is impacted in any way, as that will be devastating to so many people, businesses and cruise lines,” she says. “Equally, there is greater interest in cruising in the Great Lakes so those ships, which are mostly quite small, should be allowed back into our seaways with suitably implement safety and health protocols.”
Travelweek checked in with a few travel agents for their reaction to the ban extension, here’s what they had to say:
Teresa Simon, Senior Travel Advisor, Vision Travel Solutions, Paris, ON
“I feel that the cruise ban is warranted until we see a viable vaccine. With buffet restaurants and upwards of 4,000 passengers on some ships, it’s just too risky without a vaccine.
“I personally was supposed to cruise on Nov. 14 and have rebooked for November 2021. I have several clients who have rebooked their cruises until late 2021 and even into 2022.
“I’ve had several enquires for winter travel but with the Canadian government’s 14-day quarantine upon return to Canada, it’s just not feasible for a lot of my clients. Once they improve the rapid testing and make it available at all international airports, I think we’re going to see a real surge in people getting out of the cold and heading south.”
Gary Rams, Adventure Travel Specialist, associated with Crowfoot Travel Solutions, Calgary, AB
“With the numbers being so high in Canada, it was expected. I don’t think it is a real issue over the next few months as we head into winter. This gives the cruise lines and countries time to get on top of proper testing and safely start up cruises in the late spring.
“My clients are waiting to see what happens over the next few months. They’re waiting for better airport testing. They’re wary of countries closing, flight changes and cruise lines changing their dates.”
Pamela Ann McLeod, CTC, CAA Travel, Pickering, ON
“The ban has to be extended. Our movements are so strict, I would not want to book something just to cancel it a week or two prior to departure. Flights are not guaranteed to operate until 30 days prior to departure, so you wouldn’t even be able to guarantee the logistics.
“Plus, you would have to be checking each country’s requirements, like COVID tests and protocols. Clients would have to wear a mask everywhere, except in the pool (if it’s open) and at the dinner table, and that is not desirable to most.
“My clients are not ready to book; most are waiting for a vaccine. I would say most are looking to book in 2022.
“We have already experienced what it is like to systemically cancel bookings. I would not want to create more work for myself so I agree with the decision.”
Marilyn Stainer, Cruise and Travel Consultant, Independent Flight Centre, Burnaby, BC
“I’m not sure whether the ban should be extended or not. There are cruises in Europe that seem to be doing okay, with very strict rules. I feel the USA needs to get a better control of the virus before ships can dock there again. I myself and friends are booked on a 39-day cruise for April 2022 starting in New Zealand, and I am booked on another cruise for October 2021. If people don’t start booking cruises soon, then prices will go up as there is less availability.
“We have had to cancel cruises from March to December so there are a lot of people out there with future cruise deposits. Once they book again, ships will fill very quickly, especially since they will not be sailing at 100% capacity to start, but rather 60% or 70%.”