Murkowski Welcomes First Cruise Ship to Alaska Since 2019

“Today marks an important step toward Alaska’s road to economic recovery”

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) joined state leaders and community members in Ketchikan today to welcome the first large cruise ship to Alaska since the 2019 season. Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas arrived to the Ketchikan port this morning to serve as the state’s test cruise—with volunteer passengers—to demonstrate to the CDC the implementation of COVID-19 mitigation protocols. Following today’s simulated voyage, 78 sailings are currently scheduled to take place in Alaska for the remainder of the 2021 season. At the event, hosted by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), Senator Murkowski was presented with an award in appreciation for her leadership in the passage of the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act (ATRA).

Cruise Ship Event 2

Cruise Ship Event 1

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“I am pleased to welcome the first large cruise ship of the 2021 season. Tourism is the lifeblood for hundreds of Alaska small businesses and thousands of employees. I’ve been committed to help bring tourism back for the 2021 season and keep Alaskans afloat through the hardships created by the pandemic. It was an all-hands-on-deck effort to find a solution to the 2021 cruise ship season and bring a much-needed economic boost to our communities. I want to thank the other members of the delegation for working with me to get my legislation, the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act, across the finish line. This legislation made it possible to begin to bring cruise ships back to Alaska – so that our communities can have a productive tourist season. Today marks an important step toward Alaska’s road to economic recovery from the pandemic.”

In 2019, Alaska hosted over 1.3 million visitors by way of cruise ships. That number came to a halt in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and associated mandates, decimating Alaskan small businesses and Alaska’s economy overall. The tourism industry in Alaska typically generates more than $214 million in state and municipal revenue, more than $1.4 billion in payroll, and $2.2 billion in visitor spending—all of which saw a significant decline during the coronavirus pandemic.

Senator Murkowski worked diligently to ensure that large cruise ships could return to Alaska to provide economic opportunity for communities and small businesses who rely heavily on tourism. Her legislation, the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act (ATRA), which was signed into law on May 24, 2021, provides a temporary fix under the Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA), paving the way for cruise ships to resume operations and transport passengers between the State of Washington and State of Alaska. Due to the Canadian prohibition on passenger vessels traveling through Canadian waters, large cruise ships sailing to Alaska would not have been able to sail to Alaska this summer as the PVSA requires a stop in a foreign country.


  • On May 24, the Alaska Congressional Delegation attended a ceremony at the White House where the President signed into law the ATRA.
  • On May 20, the ATRA passed the U.S. House of Representatives.
  • On May 13, the ATRA passed the U.S. Senate.
  • On May 13, Representative Young sent a letter to DHS Secretary Mayorkas urging him to collaborate with Canadian authorities to accept technical stops in Canadian waters to satisfy the Passenger Vessel Services Act’s requirements.
  • On May 11, Senators Murkowski and Sullivan wrote letters urging Canada to reconsider the prohibition for passenger vessels in Canada’s ports and waters, and calling on the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to accept technical stops in Canada to satisfy the Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA), which currently restricts cruise ships transportation passengers between the State of Washington and the State of Alaska.
  • On April 30, Senators Murkowski and Sullivan spoke on the Senate floor urging their Senate colleagues to consider and pass S. 593, the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act.
  • On March 26, the Alaska Congressional Delegation sent a letter with colleagues to Jeffrey Zients, the White House COVID Response Coordinator, urging the Biden administration to be more transparent and timely in their efforts to develop guidance for the resumption of operations for the cruise ship industry.
  • On March 19, both Senators met in person with Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Anchorage, AK and discussed Canada’s border closures and sent a follow up letter on  March 24, reiterating and emphasizing the need to work together to address Canada’s border closures.
  • On March 5, Senators Murkowski and Sullivan introduced the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act to alleviate the PVSA restrictions for cruise ships transporting passengers between the State of Washington and the State of Alaska.
  • On February 24, Congressman Don Young introduced the Alaska Tourism Recovery Act in the House of Representatives.
  • On February 13, Senators Murkowski and Sullivan and Congressman Don Young (R-AK) penned a letter to Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, urging him to work with the Alaska Congressional Delegation on COVID-19 travel restrictions in an effort to limit the negative impacts to Alaskan and Canadian constituents.
  • On February 4, the Alaska Congressional Delegation reacted to an announcement by the Canadian Minister of Transport regarding two new Interim Orders which ban pleasure craft in Canadian Arctic waters and cruise vessels in all Canadian waters until February 28, 2022.
  • On February 4, Congressman Young sent a letter to Jeffrey Zients, Counselor to President Biden, urging the Administration to work with Alaska’s tourism sector, which continues to suffer from COVID-19’s impacts on travel. Additionally, Congressman Young is calling for collaboration with the Administration in light of Canada’s announcement that their ports will remain closed to cruise vessel traffic until 2022. 
  • In October 2020, in an effort to address US-Canada border crossing issues created by the COVID-19 pandemic, Senators Murkowski, Sullivan, Congressman Young, and Governor Mike Dunleavy (R-AK) sent a letter to Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to raise specific issues severely impacting Alaskans due to border crossing restrictions due to COVID-1. In their letter, the Alaska Delegation highlighted specific, persisting challenges impacting the health and safety of Alaskans and proposed reasonable solutions.