Murkowski Welcomes Restoration of Alaska Cruise Ships

Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, issued the following statement after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced this week it would revoke the COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships. This decision was made after the cruise industry consistently demonstrated being able to go above and beyond when ensuring safe cruises for passengers, crews, and the communities where they disembark.

“This is an overdue announcement, but one that I welcomed when I heard from Director Walensky at the CDC. I have been pressing the CDC for months to be reasonable and not single out one industry with undue burdens,” said Senator Murkowski. “From the outset of the pandemic, the industry experienced an unprecedented 18 month shut down, which led to the loss of the entire 2020 Alaska summer cruise season and a very small reopening in 2021. Since the CDC has allowed cruise operations to fully restart, the industry has stepped up to the plate to meet all health and safety requirements, and in many cases the industry has gone above and beyond the CDC’s required mitigation measures. The protocols from the CDC singled out the cruise industry and were not required for any other mode of transportation or hospitality industry. I appreciate the industry’s commitment and their considerable investment of time and resources to meet the CDC’s requirements, and most importantly, to keep their passengers and the communities they visit safe. I welcome this announcement on behalf of the Alaskans that rely on the tourism industry and all those who wish to adventure by way of cruise ship. This is encouraging news, and one more step toward ‘normal’.”

“The Alaska Travel Industry Association welcomes this announcement. Alaska’s cruise partners have adhered to CDC guidance, often implementing complicated COVID-19 restrictions far exceeding guidance other sectors of the travel industry have needed to meet,” said Sarah Leonard, President & CEO of the Alaska Travel Industry Association. “Even with concerns over rising costs and safety, travelers remain positive about and are eager to take vacations, and Alaskan cruises remain hugely popular. By lifting the COVID-19 program, the CDC is allowing the cruise industry to return to full operations, safely and reasonably managed. ATIA thanks Senator Murkowski for her ongoing efforts to support the economic recovery of Alaska’s tourism sector. This step continues that momentum, creating spending activity, safe experiences, and benefitting tourism businesses and communities.”

- Sarah Leonard, President & CEO of the Alaska Travel Industry Association

“RDC appreciates the tireless efforts by Senator Murkowski and Senator Sullivan to ensure a level playing field for tourism in Alaska with other travel destinations across the country. The cruise industry has proven from the start that by putting strong health protocols in place, cruising is just as safe as every other means of tourist travel by land and air. Cruise travel is an extremely important part of Alaska's economy, with over 1.5 million visitors coming to Alaska each year via cruise travel. We welcome this news from the CDC deeming it safe to revoke its COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships.”

- Leila Kimbrell, Executive Director for the Resource Development Council of Alaska, Inc.

“Princess Cruises and Holland America Line appreciate all of the hard work by Senator Murkowski and Senator Sullivan to put tourism in Alaska on equal footing with other vacation destinations around the country.  These positive changes are a result of their dogged determination and advocacy with the Administration and CDC and thanks to their support, we are confident that we will continue to be able to show the Great Land to visitors for years to come.”

- Jan Swartz, Group President, Holland America Group

Background: On June 10, 2022, the CDC rescinded its order requiring negative pre-departure COVID-19 tests for airline travel to the United States.

On April 18, 2022, a U.S. district judge in Florida struck down the federal mask mandate for public transportation and imposed a nationwide injunction ruling that the mandate exceeded CDC’s authority.

On March 15, 2022, Senator Murkowski successfully had multiple amendment adopted to S. 3799, the PREVENT Pandemics Act, to require the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to, publish a description of the anticipated economic impacts of any regulation or order on significantly impacted industries no later than 30 days after any regulation or order is issued in response to a public health emergency.

On March 7, 2022, the Government of Canada announced that their waters would be open to cruise ships starting in April 2022 opening the door for cruise ships to return to Alaska for the 2022 season.

On January 15, 2022, The Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO), which created the framework to resume cruising in the United States expired. In its place, the CDC introduced a “voluntary” COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships Operating in U.S. Waters, creating the ship color coding system.