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Business/Economy

Alaska’s first cruise sailing of 2020 leaves quietly from Juneau

The UnCruise Adventures ship Wilderness Adventurer departs the Port of Juneau on Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020. The ship was the first of Alaska's COVID-abbreviated tourist season. (James Brooks / ADN)

JUNEAU — A small cruise ship based in the Pacific Northwest is the first to sail Alaska waters during the state’s coronavirus-limited tourist season.

The Wilderness Adventurer, carrying 30 crew and 37 passengers, departed Juneau on Saturday for a weeklong voyage in Southeast Alaska. The ship is owned and operated by UnCruise Adventures, which is planning a handful of additional voyages.

“With UnCruise, basically they’re the only cruise operating in North America right now,” said Liz Perry, president and CEO of Travel Juneau, the tourism bureau in Alaska’s capital city.

Other than Juneau, UnCruise isn’t planning any port stops.

The ship “will essentially self-isolate in the remote wilderness, foregoing any port stops, interaction with outside crowds, and focused on daily adventure activities in the fresh air. Guests and crew will be in their personal travel bubble until they return to Juneau,” Liz Galloway of UnCruise Adventures said in an email.

The Wilderness Adventurer has been tied up at a Juneau dock since spring, and Galloway said having the ship in-state “was a cost and logistics advantage to restarting the season.”

The ship is operating at two-thirds capacity, and negative COVID-19 tests were required of all passengers and crew.

Cruise lines have been restricted in U.S. waters since spring by a no-sail order imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All the major cruise lines that visit Alaska canceled their sailings.

UnCruise is exempt from that order because it operates ships with a capacity of fewer than 250 people. Its vessels are also registered in the U.S., removing a legal hurdle others face.

Other small cruise lines that could operate, such as American Cruise Lines, The Boat Company and Alaskan Dream Cruises, decided against sailing this year due to coronavirus worries.

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