Travel

With Canada dropping its vaccination requirement, the cruise industry is gearing up for a big season

There’s lots of travel news this week.

At the top of the page, Canada dropped its vaccination requirement for visitors traveling by air, land and sea. This came as a welcome development to cruise companies sailing between Alaska, Vancouver, British Columbia, and Seattle.

“The news from Canada will help as much of the world has already gone to this stage, concerning COVID,” writes Dan Blanchard, head of Uncruise Adventures, a small-ship adventure company. “I still expect specific operators will continue with varying levels of mask use and testing of symptomatic individuals with potential isolation.”

Blanchard is in Belize, picking up where he left off in 2020. Uncruise is basing one of its ships there for the winter.

Airlines that serve the state, particularly Alaska Airlines and Delta, made a flash in the pan with the PFD fare sales. But cruise companies still are working hard to fill ships after the COVID pandemic shut down the business entirely for a time.

That means there are some great offers, especially for last-minute vacations.

For its part, Alaska Airlines has teamed up with Holland America Line to offer a $100 discount for Alaska residents. This comes after Holland America offered several cruises between Alaska and Vancouver, British Columbia, for residents as low as $199 per person, plus $246 in taxes and fees.

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For a cruise that lasts between four days and two weeks, $100 isn’t a huge amount. But the prices are super-cheap, too. Here are some of my favorites:

1. Sail on the Nieuw Amsterdam to the western Caribbean from Fort Lauderdale on Nov. 27. The seven-day cruise calls in Jamaica, the Cayman Islands and Mexico. Prices start at $299 per person, plus $190 in taxes and fees.

2. The Koningsdam sails from Vancouver, British Columbia, on a five-day itinerary to San Diego, stopping in San Francisco, leaving Oct. 24. Prices start at $179 per person, plus taxes and fees of $200.

3. The Nieuw Amsterdam also sails to the eastern Caribbean from Fort Lauderdale on Nov. 13. Ports include San Juan and St. Thomas. Prices starts at $319 per person, plus $189 in taxes and fees.

There are more than two dozen other itineraries available for Alaska residents, for reservations made through Oct. 31.

Stewart Chiron is known as “The Cruise Guy” because he’s always on his way to or from another cruise. He checked in from Los Angeles, where he’s attending a cast party for “Real Love Boat” reunion on CBS.

“Canada was a black eye for the cruise industry,” said Chiron. “It prevented people from sailing and blunted the booking season.”

The offers from Holland America and others are efforts to encourage travelers to get back on the ships.

“The beauty of cruising is there always are deals to be had,” said Chiron. “You just have to be flexible with your dates.”

On top of that, Chiron says that since inflation has pumped up hotel rates around the world, cruise ships are priced “between 30 and 40 percent lower” than land-based resorts.

Chiron is particularly bullish on cruises in November and December. “Repositioning cruises and trans-canal sailings on Holland America, Princess, Carnival and others are great.”

Nate Vallier, of Alaska and Yukon Tours in Juneau, is another cruise enthusiast. He echoes Chiron’s observation on the prices between cruises and a land-based hotel. “Hotels in Hawaii can run $300 a night,” he said. “That can get you a nice cruise with a balcony.”

Vallier researched some last-minute cruises and found some real values, particularly on the repositioning cruises that Chiron mentioned:

1. Sail on the Norwegian Sun for a 21-day trans-Atlantic crossing, leaving Miami on Oct. 31. Ports include New York, Newport, Ponta Delgada, Tenerife, Gibraltar, Malaga and Lisbon. Oceanview cabins are available for as little as $799 per person, not including taxes and fees.

2. Closer to home, sail on the Ruby Princess from San Francisco on Nov. 22. The 10-day itinerary includes Puerto Vallarta, Manzanillo, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas. Oceanview cabins start at $600 per person. Taxes and port charges are additional.

3. Holland America’s Eurodam does two back-to-back trans-canal cruises in the month of November. The first 11-day itinerary leaves Fort Lauderdale on Oct. 29, calling in Curacao, Aruba, Cartagena, Colombia and halfway in to the Panama Canal, Gatun Locks. Prices start at $449 per person for an inside cabin, or $799 for a cabin with a balcony. Taxes and fees are extra.

The second 10-day itinerary, leaving Nov. 20, is a little less: $749 per person for a balcony. Taxes and fees are extra. Vallier includes some special onboard credits for each passenger to use during the voyage.

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Vallier likes Norwegian’s “bid-up” function. “I tell people to book the least-expensive Norwegian cruise and then put in a bid on a better cabin,” he said. “I’ve had cruisers get an outside cabin for as little as $5 extra per day!”

The PFD airfare sale may have ended, but prices didn’t bounce back very much.

For example, if you wanted to sail from Vancouver, British Columbia, down the coast later this month, one-way tickets to Seattle cost $117 one-way on Delta. To fly all the way to Vancouver, British Columbia, is $216 one-way on Delta. Alaska Airlines is a little more: $225 one-way.

Tickets from Anchorage to Fort Lauderdale next month cost between $480 and $650 round-trip.

Cruise companies are thrilled that COVID restrictions have ended. They’re hoping it’s smooth sailing toward a robust 2023.

Scott McMurren

Scott McMurren is an Anchorage-based marketing consultant, serving clients in the transportation, hospitality, media and specialty destination sectors, among others. Contact him by email at zoom907@me.com. You can follow him on Twitter (@alaskatravelGRM) and alaskatravelgram.com. For more information, visit alaskatravelgram.com/about.

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