Canada implements cruise restriction

Alaska cruises from Seattle must call in Victoria, B.C., in accordance with U.S. cabotage laws.
Alaska cruises from Seattle must call in Victoria, B.C., in accordance with U.S. cabotage laws.

Canada’s government will restrict cruise ships with more than 500 passengers from calling at its ports until at least July 1, delaying the start of the Alaska cruise season for most large ship lines.

The decision will impact Alaska cruises from Seattle that have to call in Victoria, B.C., in accordance with U.S. cabotage laws requiring foreign-flagged ships sailing from U.S. ports to call in a foreign port before returning to the U.S.

Small-ship lines that operate in Alaska with U.S.-flagged ships such as Lindblad Expeditions, Alaska Dream Cruises, Uncruise Adventures and American Cruise Lines will not be impacted.

The restriction won’t impact Canada/New England cruise itineraries, as that season starts after July 1.

More than 140 cruise ships from 10 countries docked in Canada last year, Canada said, bringing at least 2 million travellers to the country. The country also deferred all cruise vessel calls in the Canadian Arctic for the entire cruise season this year, citing the limited public health capacity in Canada’s Northern communities.

Canada’s chief public health officer has already issued a health advisory recommending that Canadians avoid going on cruise ships.

“There is no immediate solution to allow cruise ships to operate in Canada while adequately containing the public health risk associated with Covid-19, other than delaying the start of the cruise ship season,” said Canada Minister of Transport Marc Garneau. “We do not take these decisions lightly and will continue to reassess as the situation evolves.”

Modern Mississippi riverboat to be named American Song

The first of American Cruise Lines’ modern riverboats will be named American Song.

The vessel will launch on the Mississippi River in fall 2018 and will head to the Pacific Northwest’s Columbia and Snake rivers for 2019.

The American Song will be wider, faster, and quieter than any of ACL’s other river cruise ships. Like ACL’s other vessels, the American Song is being built at Chesapeake Shipbuilding in Salisbury, Md., and thus will be U.S. flagged and crewed.

The vessel will have a four-story glass atrium and large lounge areas. It is being designed to have sweeping views throughout the ship. The staterooms will be the largest in the industry, according to ACL, and will have private balconies and large bathrooms.

With the launch of American Song next year, ACL will operate a fleet of 10 vessels, including coastal cruisers and paddlewheelers.

The company sails along the coasts and inland waterways of Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, the Mississippi River region, the Southeast and New England.

New ships mean new port calls in the U.S.

Image result for grand majestic paddlewheel steamer

Sure, it may not be growing as aggressively or rapidly as the European river cruise market, but the U.S. river cruise industry continues to see a steady number of new vessels being launched each year, the latest being a passion project of Cincinnati native Capt. Joseph Baer.

And while it’s always exciting to see new vessels coming online, to get the first sneak peeks at interior renderings and to witness the ways in which different companies are interpreting the U.S. river cruise experience onboard, what some of these new vessels symbolize is more than just new hardware; some are promising to take U.S. river passengers on entirely new river routes and new ports.

For instance, the 70-passenger paddlewheeler Grand Majestic, being launched by Baer’s Grand Majestic River Co. this fall, will reportedly be able to sail along some smaller inland waterways due to its shorter height and shallower draft. Baer said that the smaller size of the Grand Majestic means it can clear some bridges and sail in shallower waters that will enable it to cruise to or near Tulsa, Okla.; Omaha, Neb.; Sioux City, Iowa; Charleston, W.Va.; and into the outskirts of Chicago by next year.

American Cruise Lines, too, has said that it plans to look into some new and different waterways in the U.S. as it develops a fleet of five more modern riverboats for the U.S. market. The first two of those are slated to hit the more traditional Mississippi River System and the Columbia and Snake rivers in the Pacific Northwest, but the company has previously said that it has its eye on numerous additional waterways, including the Sacramento River, San Joaquin River, Missouri River, Des Moines River, Wabash River, Illinois River, Apalachicola River, Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, Mid-Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, Erie Canal, Hudson River, Oswego Canal, Potomac River and Alaska’s Inside Passage.

Hopefully the trend will continue. Because while everyone wants to see places like New Orleans, Memphis and Portland, Ore., when it comes to U.S. river cruising, there is clearly still a fair amount of untapped potential in terms of where to go and what to see.