Royal Caribbean test voyage kicks off Alaska cruise season for large ships

Royal Caribbean International’s Serenade of the Seas is the first large cruise ship to sail into Alaska waters in nearly two years, on a test sailing required by the CDC to operate with a passenger vaccination rate of less than 95%.

The ship departed Seattle on July 7 and arrived in Ketchikan on July 9, marking the first large-ship port call of the 2021 Alaska cruise season. If the test sailing is successful, the Serenade will resume revenue sailings on July 19.

“It’s a happy day for Alaska’s tourism industry and communities that rely on tourism in Alaska,” said Alaska Travel Industry Association CEO Sarah Leonard. “This short cruise season means the difference between reopening or closing for good for so many small, locally owned businesses. We are grateful to our congressional delegation, governor and legislators for their hard work to bring cruise ships back to the state this year.”

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The Serenade is the first of nine large cruise ships that are scheduled to operate 78 Alaska sailings at reduced capacity through October, according to CLIA Alaska. Carnival Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean and Silversea will all sail ships to Alaska this summer, in addition to small-ship lines that have been operating since May.

According to the ATIA, cruise lines typically deliver more than half of Alaska’s annual visitors, and Southeast Alaska had been expecting an estimated 1.44 million visitors traveling by cruise in 2020 to spend nearly $800 million in the region.

“We’re seeing an increase in independent travelers already this summer, and that’s excellent news for a lot of businesses. However, we know large cruise ships are also an important part to our tourism recovery,” Leonard said.

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