Canadian Government Takes Steps to Reallow Cruise Ships at Ports

Lions Gate Bridge
Lions Gate Bridge
A cruise ship passing under the Lions Gate Bridge in Vancouver, BC in 2014. File photo: Vancouver Fraser Port Authority; Colin Jewell Photography.

Canada says it is now ready to welcome cruise ships back to its waters after the maritime and tourism sectors were hit hard by the global COVID-19 pandemic.

On Feb. 7, Canadian Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra announced the public health framework the Government of Canada is putting in place to restart cruise ship activity in Canada.

“As Canadians continue to do their part by stepping up and rolling up their sleeves to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and practicing public health measures, our government continues to work hard to restart our economy safely and sustainably,” Alghabra said. “We welcome cruise ships—an important part of our tourism sector—back to Canada, and we will continue working with partners to support this important industry.”

“Our government’s actions in the fight against COVID-19 have been based on prudence and science. The return of cruise ships to our ports (or shores) is a further step in Canada’s reopening and a reflection of the progress we have made against this current Omicron variant,” national Minister of Health Jean-Yves Duclos said. “As we have said all along, Canada’s border measures will remain flexible and adaptable and we will continue to evaluate our measures to keep Canadians safe.”

As the country welcomes the first cruise ships back to Canadian waters the first week of April, Transport Canada, working alongside partners, has developed a public health plan for cruise ships, including:

  • Crew and passengers being required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19;
  • Crew and passengers being required to self-monitor for symptoms;
  • Passengers being required to take a COVID-19 molecular test within 72-hours before boarding a cruise ship OR take an antigen test within one day of boarding a cruise ship; and
  • Passengers being required to take a COVID-19 molecular test within 72-hours before arriving in Canada or taking an antigen test within one day of the scheduled arrival.

As of mid-March, the Government of Canada was still adjusting travel advice for cruise ship travel and continuing to advise travelers to proceed with caution.

“The health and safety of Canadians is our government’s top priority. As the COVID-19 situation evolves, so does our response,” Minister of Public Safety Marco E. L. Mendicino said, adding that the announcement was another important step “in a measured approach to safely transition into a new phase of Canada’s response to the pandemic.”

Canada Place
Four cruise ships at Canada Place, including the Norwegian Bliss entering port, with downtown Vancouver in the background. Photo: Vancouver Fraser Port Authority; William Jans Photography.

“The return of cruise ships to Canadian waters will be a welcome boost to the tourism sector and to the Canadian economy as a whole,” Minister of Tourism and Associate Minister of Finance Randy Boissonnault said. “The cruise industry has worked hard to meet important health standards in order to ensure the safety of their passengers and crews and the communities they visit. The Government of Canada is committed to reopening safely and this public health framework demonstrates that we are ready to restart cruise ship activity in Canada and to welcome travelers once again.”

The cruise industry is a vital artery for Canada’s economy. Prior to the pandemic, it supported about 30,000 Canadian jobs and generated an estimated CA $4.3 billion in total economic benefits, including CA $1.9 billion in direct spend, and CA $1.44 billion in wages and salaries each year.

The Cruise Lines International Association in Canada welcomed the announcement of the return of cruise to Canadian waters. CLIA said that the first cruise ship since 2019 is scheduled to call in Victoria, British Columbia on April 6 before transiting to Vancouver, BC.

“Cruise lines are preparing for a full schedule of sailings this year from April to November, with itineraries that will include ports and destinations on both Canadian coasts,” the organization said in a statement. “Many months of work have led to this announcement by Transport Canada, and we are delighted to be coming back.”