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Air Canada's new Covid testing is a good option for Canadians flying to the US for cruises

In:
03 Nov 2021

Air Canada, the nation’s largest airline, is making it easier for Canadians to get pre-travel Covid testing, which is great news for cruisers flying to the United States.

The airline recently announced that they are selling a portable test kit for both molecular and antigen testing. These kits allow for a self-administered test which will be monitored by a health professional via a mobile device, with results in 45 minutes.

Mark Nasr, Air Canada's Senior Vice president of Products Marketing and E-commerce noted "We are pleased to offer our customers the most comprehensive range of travel testing options that will make travelling abroad easier and more predictable"

This provides Canadian travellers with added flexibility, especially with varying testing requirements for flying.

Testing requirements

Currently, there are specific testing protocols for both flying and cruising. The latest testing requirements for Canadians flying to the United States for a Royal Caribbean cruise:

Flying to the United States - Canadians, aged 2 and over, flying to the U.S. must provide a negative Covid test within 3 days of their flight. More specifically, the test must be performed no more than 3 days before the first scheduled departure time in the flight itinerary. For flights to the U.S., either an antigen or molecular test(such as PCR test) is accepted.

Pre-cruise testing - Cruisers must provide testing 2 days before the sail date. The day a passenger sets sail is not included as one of the days you count back from. For kids under 12, there are additional testing requirements as noted on the cruise line's website. It is important to note that supervised telehealth tests are not accepted for unvaccinated guests (kids under 12), they must be completed in person.

Return to Canada testing - For the return trip home, travellers must have a negative COVID-19 molecular test (PCR, RT-PCR, NAAT, RT-LAMP) result. The test must be taken a maximum of 72 hours before the departure of their last direct flight to Canada.

How the test kits work  

Air Canada has partnered with Switch Health, which currently provides in person testing through clinics and airports in Canada. For the portable kits, they are currently offering both antigen and molecular (RT-LAMP and PCR), available for purchase via Air Canada’s website. These are accessible for purchase pre-trip, shipped to the desired Canadian address.

Travellers need to register the kit by creating an account prior to testing. When ready to test, log into the account with government issued identification such as passport or driver’s license. Access to the internet and a mobile device with a camera is required to join the telehealth session to complete your test. Telehealth sessions are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Participants will be guided through the testing process by a health professional. Results will be uploaded to the account within 45 minutes with an official electronic report suitable for travel verification.

At this time, Royal Caribbean is not yet accepting these tests, but they do provide travellers with more options when flying to and from the United States. 

How to order

The kits are available for purchase through Air Canada’s website under “Covid 19 testing locations”. This is fulfilled in partnership with Switch Health.

Currently, there is special pricing for Air Canada's Aeroplan members (the airline’s loyalty program ) with promotional pricing of $79 CAD for two Antigen tests. An RT-LAMP test kit is priced at $149 CAD and a RT-PCR for $159 CAD. In addition, members will receive 500 bonus Aeroplan points for the purchase of a kit. For those who are not currently members, signup instructions are included on the site. Additionally, tests can be purchased using existing Aeroplan points through the Aeroplan e-store.

Free shipping is included, mailing within 5-7 business days, or express shipping for 1-3 business days, for an additional $15 CAD.

What Canadians need to know about cruise insurance

In:
19 Oct 2021

One of the biggest issues for Canadians wanting to cruise is the federal government’s advisory against cruise travel and its impact on insurance.

This level of risk assessment can void a portion or all of a travel policy, even if already purchased. Some cruisers have expressed concerns about the lack of transparency as it relates to insurance coverage in the current situation.

Consider the following tips when evaluating cruise travel insurance requirements.

Terms and Conditions

When purchasing travel insurance there are three main travel categories: trip interruption, trip cancellation, and emergency medical. It is important to understand coverage and limitations for all of them, especially as it relates to Covid.

Most insurance companies list Covid related travel products on their websites. However, the depth of coverage is not always clear. A detailed review of the terms and conditions or frequently asked questions (FAQs) section is often required to determine what is included, or more importantly what’s not included. In some cases, policies don’t reference cruising specifically but rather that travelling despite a travel warning or travel ban, will result in a lack of coverage.

For example, TD Insurance clearly lists on their insurance homepage, that travel advisories will invalidate any claims for Covid related expenses. However, for Manulife Insurance, their Covid travel insurance list exclusions in the FAQs section. There are also questions that relate to pre-conditions, which may impact eligibility for insurance.

Royal Caribbean’s Benefits

One great benefit to cruising with Royal Caribbean is their “We’ll Get you Home” policy. The Healthy Sail Centre explains:

  • “If you or a member of your traveling party tests positive for COVID-19 during your cruise, we'll take care of things so you can focus on getting better. Costs related to onboard medical care and your travel home — even a private jet, if needed — are on us.*”

It further specifies:

  • If you are fully vaccinated or unable to be vaccinated and you test positive for COVID-19 during the voyage, the cruise line will: • cover the cost of necessary COVID-19 related medical treatment onboard the ship; • coordinate and cover the costs of any required land-based quarantine for you and members of your Traveling Party; and • coordinate and cover the costs of travel arrangements to get you and members of your Traveling Party back home.

For those who add some vacation time pre or post cruise, it should be highlighted that this program covers getting Covid during the cruise (not pre or post cruise). And, as with most policies, is subject to change, so monitor accordingly.

Read moreRoyal Caribbean is flying passengers home on a private jet if they have Covid-19

Insurance Review

Given the variables in insurance, it is best to complete a review of travel insurance from all sources for both the land and cruise portions of the vacation. Check current travel insurance, annual plans, employee benefits, etc.

Note, major airlines such as Air Canada and WestJet were offering complimentary Covid insurance with ticket purchases, however, this has not been extended beyond Oct.31. 2021.

Consider what’s needed:

  • Trip cancellation, coverage if a trip is cancelled due to Covid
  • Trip interruption, for example, for quarantine
  • Emergency travel/ medical Insurance pre/ post cruise
  • Coverage for pre-existing conditions, age, and other exclusions

Often, the insurance legal ease can be unclear, and policies can vary amongst provincial jurisdictions. If ambiguous, it is best to contact the insurance company and seek clarification in writing so there is no confusion in the event that claims are submitted.

What the future holds

In July, The Canadian government said that they will open Canada to cruise ships starting Nov 1, 2021. The Federal Transport Minister, Omar Alghabra noted at that time that cruise companies will be required to "fully comply with public health requirements" in order to sail through Canada's waters and dock at its ports.

No additional updates have been provided on these conditions, or changes in timelines.  It is unclear if the government will maintain its travel ban on cruising while welcoming international cruise ships.

Travel advisories can change quickly, so it is critical to monitor both cruise and specific country travel notices, especially when a trip has been booked well in advance. Subscribe to travel updates through the government of Canada website and follow social media accounts.

Canada lifts cruise ship ban beginning in November

In:
15 Jul 2021

Canada's multi-year ban on cruise ships is coming to an end.

Canada's Transport Minister Omar Alghabra announced today it will end its prohibition on cruise ships as of November 1, 2021.

Prior to today's announcement, the cruise ship ban was set to go through February 2022.

Effectively, the announcement means cruise ships can sail to Canada for the start of the traditional cruise season beginning in 2022.

"As Canadians have done their part to reduce the spread of COVID-19, our government continues to work hard to safely restart our economy and build back better," said said Alghabra, in a release Thursday.

"We will welcome cruise ships — an important part of our tourism sector — back in Canadian waters for the 2022 season."

Cruise ships have been banned since March 2020 in Canada due to the global health crisis, although unlike the United States, there had been no pathway for ships to restart until today.

Canada's cruise ship ban had a significant impact on cruise ships, which meant due to U.S. cabotage laws, ships were unable to conduct Alaska or New England cruises.

Canada banning cruise ships means cruise lines cannot legally offer cruises to Alaska or New England because of cabotage laws that require a foreign port to be visited during the sailing.

Cruises sailing from the United States must adhere to the Passenger Vessel Service Act of 1886 (sometimes referred to as the Jones Act).

For the 2021 cruise season, the United States passed a temporary waiver allowing cruise ships to bypass Canada, although that only helped Alaska cruises for this season.

Congress sends bipartisan letter to Canada asking for compromise on cruise ship ban

In:
25 Feb 2021

Canada's ban of cruise ships for an entire year has compelled the United States Congress to work together in trying to find a better answer.

Members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee sent a bipartisan letter to the Canadian Ambassador to the United States yesterday, concerning the one year extension of the cruise ban in Canada.

On February 4, 2021, Canada's Minister of Transport announced a ban of all cruise ships from Canadian waters until February 28, 2022.

The letter was signed by  Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Congressman Sam Graves (R-MO), Congressman Salud Carbajal (D-CA), Congressman Bob Gibbs (R-OH), and  Congressman Don Young (R-AK).

In the letter, the congressmen shared their concern regarding Canada's ban, and encouraged Canada to "find a mutually agreeable solution."

"We would like to encourage the Government of Canada to work with the U.S. government and industry stakeholders to find a mutually agreeable solution."

The group suggest Canada allowing cruise ships to conduct a "technical stop" whereby Canada would permit cruise ship stops in Canada without disembarking passengers.

"It is our hope that this solution would both address the important health concerns of Canadian authorities and allow cruises to resume with the approval of U.S. Government authorities when it is deemed safe to do so."

Due to U.S. laws, cruise ships that are foreign flagged (which is pretty much every cruise ship on major cruise lines) must stop in a foreign port if they sail from the United States. By Canada denying entry into their waters, that leaves no foreign ports for cruise ships to sail to within the vicinity of Alaska or New England.

The letter includes optimism that the global health crisis is starting to subside, and vaccine rollout will be the impetus for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to allow cruise ships to start sailing again.

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) thanked Congress for acting on behalf of the cruise industry in sending the letter.

CLIA issued this statement after the letter was sent to the Canadian Ambassador, as well as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

"We thank Chairman DeFazio, Ranking Member Graves and other signatories of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee for their leadership in facilitating dialogue with the Canadian government to determine a path for resumption of cruises to Alaska should cruising resume in the U.S. this year."

"CLIA looks forward to working with the Canadian and U.S. authorities on a solution that addresses the public health needs of Americans and Canadians alike, while responsibly restarting a critical economic driver for the Pacific Northwest and Alaska."

The bipartisan letter is the second notable act by Congress to compel Canada to alter the ban.  

Earlier this month, a joint statement by Alaska's Senators and Congressmen called the Canadian cruise ship ban, "unacceptable".

Royal Caribbean has not made an official change to any of its Alaska cruises it has scheduled for 2021.

"At this time, we have decided not to cancel any sailings scheduled to visit Canada," the line said in a letter sent to travel advisors.

"This includes cruises embarking/debarking from Canada ports, as well as those itineraries touching on Canadian ports of call. It's our hope that your clients will maintain their existing reservations with us as we work with the government and CLIA on potential alternatives."

Passengers currently booked on Alaska sailings have several options:

  • Leave their bookings as they are, and wait to see what happens. All final payment dates have been extended to just 45 days prior to embarkation day.
  • Request a 100% refund of the amount they've paid, to the original form of payment, to be processed by June 30, 2021.
  • Choose a 125% future cruise credit (for sailings booked by April 30, 2022, and departing through September 30, 2022). Credits will be issued by April 16, 2021.
  • Select a modified Lift & Shift, allowing the reservation to be moved to the same date next year (plus or minus one week) on the same ship with the same itinerary.

Royal Caribbean removes 2021 Alaska and Canada cruises from website

In:
05 Feb 2021

Less than 24 hours after Canada announced it banned cruise ships for a year, Royal Caribbean's website no longer shows cruises to Alaska or Canada available to book.

Canada announced it was extending its ban on cruise ships for an entire year, through February 2022.

While Royal Caribbean has not officially informed guests that sailings that visit Canada in 2021 are cancelled, all potentially affected sailings have been removed from being able to be booked on the cruise line site.

When searching for Alaska sailings, no dates in 2021 are available to search, and New England/Canada cruises are also missing from the available cruises to book.

If cruise ships cannot visit Canada, Royal Caribbean cannot legally operate sailings that do not visit a "nearby foreign port" during the sailing, due to the Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1886.

Canada made the sweeping ban on Thursday that prohibits any cruise vessel carrying more than 100 or more people from operating in Canadian waters.

Cruises to Alaska or New England that sail from the United States are required to make at least one stop in a foreign port in order to satisfy U.S. law.

Without the possibility of visiting Canada, the Alaska and New England cruise season is effectively cancelled.

There are only two possible ways these cruises could be salvaged:

First, Canada could lift the cruise ship ban if the health situation improves. Canada added in its announcement that if the global health crisis sufficiently improve to allow the resumption of these activities, the Minister of Transport has the ability to rescind the Interim Orders. 

Second, the U.S. could provide a temporary waiver of the Passenger Vessel Services Act.  The chances of that happening seem low based on recent comments by the new U.S. Transportation Secretary.

During confirmation hearings, Pete Buttigieg told the Senate committee that he supports the Jones Act, which is the part of the law that applies to cargo vessels.

"[The Jones Act] is so important to a maritime industry that creates hundreds of thousands of jobs, as well as a shipbuilding industry here in the U.S.," Buttigieg said in response to questioning from Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the Senate Commerce Committee’s ranking member.

Canada bans cruise ships for one year

In:
04 Feb 2021

The 2021 Alaska cruise season looks to be in serious trouble with a new ban just announced.

Canada's Minister of Transport announced on Thursday it has banned all cruise vessels from Canadian waters until February 28, 2022.

Citing the need to keep "Canadians and transportation workers safe and healthy", the government announced two interim orders that prohibit pleasure craft in Canadian Arctic waters and cruise vessels in all Canadian waters until February 28, 2022. 

Specifically, cruise vessels carrying 100 or more people are not allowed in Canadian waters.

According to Canada's government, cruise ships, "pose a risk to our health care systems."

"As Canadians continue to do their part to reduce the spread of COVID-19, our government continues to work hard to ensure Canada’s transportation system remains safe. Temporary prohibitions to cruise vessels and pleasure craft are essential to continue to protect the most vulnerable among our communities and avoid overwhelming our health care systems. This is the right and responsible thing to do."

Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra added that if the global health crisis sufficiently improves to allow the resumption of these activities, the Minister of Transport has the ability to rescind the Interim Orders. 

Prior to this extension, Canada's ban on cruise ships was set to expire on February 28, 2021.

Not only does the ban affect Alaska cruises, but New England cruises in the fall visit Canadian ports as well during the popular leaf peeping season.

Just like Alaska cruises, New England cruises rely on a stop in Canada to make the visit legal under U.S. law.

In case you are wondering, the penalties for violating the ban include $5,000 per day for individuals and $25,000 per day for groups or corporations. 

Canada banning cruise ships means cruise lines cannot legally offer cruises to Alaska because of cabotage laws that require a foreign port to be visited during the sailing.

Royal Caribbean has three cruise ships schedule to sail to Alaska in 2021.  Quantum of the Seas already had her entire 2021 cruise season in Alaska cancelled in favor of keeping the ship sailing from Singapore.

Cruises sailing from the United States must adhere to the Passenger Vessel Service Act of 1886 (sometimes referred to as the Jones Act).

Even if the United States allows cruise ships to sail again, they would not be able to sail to Alaska without Canadian waters and ports open to satisfy U.S. cabotage laws.

There is some talk of a temporary amendment to the PVSA to allow cruise ships to depart without a foreign port stop, although there has been no progress made beyond proposals. 

The Greatert Victoria Harbour Authority issued a statement in support of the Canadian government's decision to extend the cruise ship ban.

"Cruise will resume when it is safe to do so, when border restrictions are removed, and when people may safely enjoy non-essential travel."

The port authority did concede the decision will, "create a devastating impact on the dozens of local, small businesses that are involved with cruise in Victoria," due to a combination of no cruise ships in 2020 and now another year without them.

Canada will require tourists to quarantine in hotels in order to discourage international travel

In:
29 Jan 2021

While it remains unclear what will happen with Alaska cruises in 2021, it looks like Canada is not yet moving in a direction friendly to cruises.

The Canadian government has added a mandate for travelers entering the country to quarantine at a hotel at their own expense.

The Canadian government is looking to discourage international travel by adding these tougher rules. By requiring isolation in a hotel instead of a house, it would mean an added expense for travelers to incur.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the announcement on Friday.

"Travelers will then have to wait for up to three days at an approved hotel for their test results, at their own expense, which is expected to be more than $2000," Trudeau said.

"Those with negative test results will then be able to quarantine at home under significantly increased surveillance and enforcement."

The cost includes the hotel stay, as well as a private PCR test, security, food and the cost of measures the designated hotels will have to take to keep their workers safe.

Read moreWill there be any Alaska cruises in 2021?

Canada's new rule mirrors Australia's rule, which requires most travelers to quarantine at a government-arranged hotel for 14 days for $2,800 AUD per adult and $4,620 AUD for a family of four.

The U.K. also introduced a similar rule earlier this week to require citizens arriving from dozens of high-risk countries to quarantine in hotels for 10 days at their own expense.

Since March, Canada has banned non-essential travel into the country by anyone that is not a citizen, as well as banning cruise ships from its waters until at least February 28, 2021.

There is already a rule that requires those entering Canada to self-isolate for 14 days and to present a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days before arrival. 

Rules like this, as well as the ban on cruise ships, makes operating cruise ships to Alaska or New England effectively impossible because U.S. cabotage laws require foreign-flagged vessels leaving from a U.S. port of call to first call on a "distant foreign port" before returning to the United States.

Read moreComparing the Royal Caribbean ships sailing in Alaska 2021

Along with the No Sail order in the United States, Royal Caribbean was unable to offer cruises to Alaska in 2020, but a ban from Canada would prevent any Alaska cruises from operating.

Those who do not comply with the prohibition could be subject to penalties: $5,000 per day for individuals and $25,000 per day for corporations.

Canada extends cruise ship ban through February 2021

In:
29 Oct 2020

The Canadian Government has extended its cruise ship ban until February 28, 2021.

Canada's Minister of Transport, Marc Garneau, made the announcement it will continue banning cruise ships carrying more than 100 people from sailing in Canadian waters.

"As Canadians are doing their part to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, the Government of Canada is working hard to ensure Canada’s transportation system remains safe. The extension of these temporary measures for cruise ships and other passenger vessels in Canada reflects our ongoing work with all levels of government, transportation industry stakeholders, and Indigenous peoples to help ensure appropriate measures are in place."

Prior to today's announcement, Canada had closed off its borders to all cruise ships until October 31, 2020.

Royal Caribbean had no cruises visiting Canada between October and February, due to a combination of already cancelled cruises and the fact ships do not sail to Canada in the winter months.

Canada's ban on cruise ships was initially announced on March 19, 2020, and extended on May 30, 2020.

Will there be Alaska cruises in 2021?

While the extension of the ban has no short-term effect on Royal Caribbean cruises, the bigger question is will Canada allow cruise ships to visit in summer 2021.

The ban of cruise ships in Canadian waters makes operating cruises to Alaska or New England effectively impossible because U.S. cabotage laws require foreign-flagged vessels leaving from a U.S. port of call to first call on a "distant foreign port" before returning to the United States.

Along with the No Sail order in the United States, Royal Caribbean was unable to offer cruises to Alaska in 2020, but a ban from Canada would prevent any Alaska cruises from operating.

Those who do not comply with the prohibition could be subject to penalties: $5,000 per day for individuals and $25,000 per day for corporations.

There are two primary ports Royal Caribbean relies on for its Canadian cruises: Vancouver and Victoria.

Vancouver is where Radiance of the Seas and Serenade of the Seas homeport during the season, while Victoria is a port of call for cruises out of Seattle.

Without access to Canadian ports, it is impossible for Royal Caribbean to operate any cruises, since even sailings beginning in the United States require a foreign port stop at some point in order to be in compliance with U.S. laws.

Royal Caribbean cancels 2020 Alaska, Canada/New England and Hawaii cruises

In:
02 Jun 2020

Royal Caribbean has informed travel agents that due to the Canadian Government restricting all cruise traffic through October 2020, its Alaska, Hawaii and Canada/New England cruises are cancelled.

The cruise line indicated itineraries touching on a Canadian port through October 2020 are suspended.

Similar to other cancelled cruises due to the current global health crisis, Royal Caribbean is offering guests three options:

Lift & Shift: Move your existing booking to next year, protecting the current price/promotion, simply by electing to remain on the same itinerary type, sailing length, stateroom category, and within the same 4-week period of their original cruise date same-time-next-year. Opt-in deadlines are as follows:

  • Sailings departing June 12-July 31, 2020
    • On-or-before June 10, 2020
  • Canada Port closures departing August 1-October 31, 2020
    • On-or-before June 17, 2020

Future Cruise Credit: You client will receive a Future Cruise Credit for 125% of the amount paid, to be redeemed on-or-before December 31, 2021 on sailings through April 2022. This option is automatic and will default if neither of the other options are selected.

Refund: If a refund is preferred, you can opt to receive a 100% refund of their cruise fare. No need to decide now – refund requests are available through December 31, 2020.

Last week, Canada's Public Health Agency announced it was extending its ban on cruises ships with more than 100 people through October 31, 2020.

Canada had originally closed off its borders to all cruise ships carrying more than 500 passengers and crew until between April 2 and July 1, 2020.

Without the ability to visit Canadian ports, Royal Caribbean cruises cannot legally offer sailings because of U.S. cabotage laws that require foreign-flagged vessels leaving from a U.S. port of call to first call on a "distant foreign port" before returning to the United States.

Royal Caribbean removes 2020 Alaska and Canada cruises from website

In:
31 May 2020

Royal Caribbean's website no longer has 2020 cruises to Alaska or Canada available to book.

Canada announced on Friday it was extending its ban on cruise ships through the end of October 2020.

While Royal Caribbean has not officially informed guests that sailings that visit Canada between July 1 - October 31 are cancelled, all potentially affected sailings have been removed from being able to be booked on the cruise line site.

When searching for Alaska sailings, no dates in 2020 are available to search, and Brilliance of the Seas 2020 sailings from Boston are all removed, minus a repositioning cruise from Boston to Tampa.

Royal Caribbean indicated a "full update" will be made by Royal Caribbean on Tuesday, June 2nd, 2020.

If cruise ships cannot visit Canada, Royal Caribbean cannot legally operate sailings that do not visit a "nearby foreign port" during the sailing, due to the Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1886.

Thanks to RoyalCaribbeanBlog reader Bud Dickson for alerting us to this news.

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