The Admiralty Dream in Glacier Bay. Alaskan Dream Cruises began with the Admiralty Dream and Alaskan Dream in 2011, added the Baranof Dream in 2013, the Misty Fjord in 2015, and the Chichagof Dream in 2016. Zak Kirkpatrick, marketing director for the company, said they’re looking at a normal schedule for the summer of 2021 (Photo courtesy of Alaskan Dream).

News last week that Canada has banned cruising in Canadian waters until February 2022 has most considering Alaska’s large cruise ship season cancelled this summer. But some small cruise lines, like Sitka-based Alaskan Dream Cruises, are still planning to operate.

At a press conference on Thursday (2-11-21), head of marketing Zak Kirkpatrick laid out preliminary plans for the upcoming season. Alaskan Dream has two planned sailings in April and will start with a full schedule in May with planned stops in remote communities like Kake and Pelican. He said they’ve been in close communication with local leaders.

“So Alaskan Dream Cruises is in a unique position because we’re locally based, we’re Alaska owned small ship cruise line, and our vessels embark and may disembark from our own privately-owned marine facilities in several Southeast Alaska communities,” he said. “And our itineraries just by virtue of being small ships, they’re really flexible.”

Because their ships carry less than 250 passengers, they’ve never been subject to federal no sail orders outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They also aren’t impacted by Canada’s ban on cruising because all of their trips start and stop within Southeast Alaska.

But Alaskan Dream still cancelled their 2020 season for health and safety reasons. Kirkpatrick said they’re feeling confident they can now operate safely with proper protocols like sanitization, masking and temperature checks. He also pointed to high vaccination rates in Southeast and among their clients.

“The average age of our cruisers is over 60, so many booking expeditions with us expect to have received the vaccination in the coming months, or have already received at least the first dose of vaccination, and we expect this to accelerate as the nation-wide rollout ramps up and more vaccinations are approved for use in the near future,” he said.

Some of the company’s plans like whether they’ll require vaccinations for passengers and crew are still up in the air and dependent on additional guidance from the CDC. They will require a negative test within 72 hours of departure for all guests, and they’re attempting to purchase their own tests, so they can test anyone on board who exhibits symptoms. They also have a clear plan if someone needs to quarantine. 

“Upon confirmation of a positive COVID test, the affected guests or passengers would be quarantined in their room,” Kirkpatrick said. “And upon consultation with shore-based medical, the guests would be transferred to either a Sitka or Juneau local hotel.”

Kirkpatrick said they’ve seen an uptick in bookings over the last week. He also said the company hasn’t given up on a large cruise season for 2021, which still impacts their day boat company Allen Marine. They’ve been in contact with Alaska’s congressional delegation, urging them to push back on Canada’s decision and search for alternatives.

Erin McKinstry is a Report for America corps member.