Firefighter medic Andy Tighe snaps a photo of the breakaway plus-class cruise ship Norwegian Bliss while Captain Tracy Mettler operates a fireboat in the Tongass Narrows in Ketchikan, Alaska, on June 4, 2018. President Joe Biden signed into law Monday, May 24, 2021, legislation that opens a door for resumed cruise ship travel to Alaska after the pandemic last year scrapped sailings. (Dustin Safranek / Ketchikan Daily News)

Alaska’s cruise season ‘good to go’

Officials say Florida lawsuit won’t affect Alaska

Alaska’s cruise ship season won’t be affected by a recent ruling in a court case involving the state of Florida and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding cruise ship sailings, according to Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s office.

The cruise season in Alaska is “good to go” Dunleavy spokesperson Jeff Turner said in an email late last week noting the decision only affected ships in Florida.

A federal judge ruled for Florida and issued a preliminary injunction on Friday, which explicitly stated Alaska was exempt from the current decision. The CDC may appeal the decision, the Associated Press reported, but the judge has sent both parties back to mediation to try to find a full solution even after a previous attempt failed.

Large cruise ships are expected to arrive in Alaska in late July, but the state and industry have had to overcome significant hurdles to make even that limited season happen this year. The CDC banned all cruise ship sailings during the COVID-19 pandemic and has since been rolling regulations back. However, state and industry officials say it’s not fast enough. Further complicating matters for Alaska is a federal law that typically requires large, foreign-flagged cruise ships leaving U.S. ports to stop in Canada en route to Alaska.

[CDC: Florida lawsuit imperils summer cruises to Alaska]

Alaska’s congressional delegation worked to get a law passed allowing ships to bypass the Passenger Vessel Services Act this year, which was signed into law in late May by President Joe Biden. CDC lawyers, according to AP, argued that the law’s passage ratified the CDC’s order.

The law allowing cruise ships to Alaska Tourism Restoration Act requires the CDC’s no-sail order to be in place, and according to AP, lawyers for the CDC argued earlier this month if Florida were to win an injunction blocking the CDC it would, “end cruising in Alaska for the season.”

Assistant Attorney General Grace Lee said in an email the ATRA creates exemptions for ships under certain conditions, one of them being a conditional sail order. Nothing in the Florida injunction prevents the CDC from issuing a conditional sailing certificate to an Alaska-bound ship, Lee said.

Both Alaska and Texas submitted requests to join the lawsuit but their requests are currently unresolved, according to the injunction.

The injunction doesn’t go into effect until July 18, and the judge gave the CDC until July 2 to propose a narrower injunction, “both permitting cruise ships to sail timely and remaining within CDC’s authority as interpreted in this order.”

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at psegall@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire.

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