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  • Johanna Jainchill

Small-ship lines will sail in Alaska this season

Small-ship, U.S.-flagged cruise lines sought to reassure travel advisors and guests that they are not affected by Canada's extension of its cruise ban and still plan to operate cruises in Alaska this summer.

"There is sailing in Alaska this summer," said UnCruise Adventures CEO Dan Blanchard. "We are going to be there. The small-ship U.S. fleet is going to be there."

Several members of the U.S. Overnight Passenger Small-Boat Operators Coalition, including UnCruise, American Cruise Lines (ACL) and Lindblad Expeditions, have all confirmed that they plan to operate their Alaska itineraries this year, as they are not impacted by the one-year extension of the ban that crushed hopes for a big-ship Alaska cruise season.

Although small-ship lines are touting their U.S. flag status, Blanchard also said that while the cruise ban may help his company, he called Canada's decision "heartbreaking."

"The news is just devasting," Blanchard said. "Although my company may stand to benefit, it's devasting to me as an Alaskan. So many of my friends own small businesses that are attached to the cruise industry who will now go through a second year of absolutely zero revenue. This has shaken the boots of the industry."

UnCruise plans to operate six of its seven ships, all under 100 passengers and U.S.-flagged, starting May 16 out of Juneau. If the market allows, it will activate the seventh ship. To help travel advisors move their guests booked on big ships to an UnCruise sailing, Blanchard said the line will give a $500 per cabin discount to anyone booked on a large ship that is not sailing in 2021.

ACL said it will operate three Alaska itineraries and five New England itineraries as scheduled this summer. Its 13 small ships and riverboats are all U.S.-flagged, owned and built and accommodate fewer than 190 passengers each.

"American Cruise Lines has been working closely with communities in Alaska and New England and looks forward to safely resuming small-ship cruises this year," said Charles Robertson, ACL's CEO. "We are proud of our American roots, and together with other U.S. cruise operators, we look forward to contributing to the local economies that are impacted so significantly by the Canadian order."

Lindblad said that while it has not yet confirmed a launch date, it is planning to operate the National Geographic Venture, National Geographic Quest and National Geographic Sea Lion in Alaska this summer. If the demand is there, it will add the National Geographic Sea Bird, as well.

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