Small boat overnight operator UnCruise Adventures expects to start sailing Saturday in Alaska, a state that before the coronavirus pandemic was one of the hottest cruise destinations.
Occupancy on the 60-passenger, 156’x38’x6’ Wilderness Adventurer will be capped at 66% for the seven-night cruise. “Our crew is in Juneau preparing the boat, and we continue to work in lockstep with the state of Alaska and other health officials on health and safety for our guests and crew,” said spokesman Liz Galloway.
The vessel will be the Seattle company’s only one in Alaska this season. They also will have one in Hawaii. “We are expecting our Pacific Northwest sailings to depart as usual this season,” Galloway said. Each location is being assessed as dates get closer and they work with local officials on safety.
UnCruise noted its extra protocols include a mandatory negative Covid-19 testing certificate before boarding, daily temperature checks for passengers and crew, sanitation rounds four times a day, masks when necessary, no buffets, extra hand sanitizing stations and personal protective equipment for the crew.
Other small boat operators have either suspended sailings in Alaska until next year or not yet announced restart dates. Bigger ships that carry at least 250 overnight passengers and crew in U.S. waters come under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) no-sail order that was recently extended through Sept. 30.
“As one of the first companies to restart service, this is a pivotal moment for the travel industry and Alaska,” UnCruise owner and CEO Dan Blanchard said when the Aug. 1 sailing was announced. Their Alaska season typically starts in April. Last year they made company history with an April 6 cruise, their earliest ever.
Members of the U.S. Overnight Passenger Small-Boat Operators Coalition, which Blanchard organized, have been adjusting restart dates as they grapple with regulatory issues and the general impact of the virus.
Alaska cruise specialists Alaskan Dream Cruises and The Boat Company will not operate this season and will resume sailing in 2021, according to their websites. American Cruise Lines (ACL) will resume Alaska sailings next year and expects its first cruise in the lower 48 to be Aug. 28 on the American Harmony on the Upper Mississippi River.
American Queen Steamboat Co. (AQSC), which sails U.S. rivers, said it expects to resume operations Aug. 17 on the American Duchess sailing from New Orleans to Memphis, Tenn.