Royal Caribbean kicks off shortened 2021 Alaska cruise season

Royal Caribbean International’s Serenade of the Seas became the first large passenger cruise ship to set sail for Alaska on a revenue sailing since September 2019. 

The Serenade kicked off the late summer season of cruising to the Last Frontier when it departed on seven-day cruise from Seattle on July 19. The ship will visit Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan and Icy Strait Point, and cruise through Endicott Arm fjord and Dawes Glacier.

Alaska checks a lot of the boxes as people in the U.S. emerge from a pandemic travel pause: It’s a bucket-list destination that doesn’t require going abroad, and there’s a focus on wide-open spaces, nature and outdoor activities. 

The Serenade did an Alaska test sailing earlier this month with volunteer passengers. 

“Cruising in Alaska is finally back, and we are excited to be the first to return,” said Michael Bayley, CEO of Royal Caribbean International. “Alaska is one of the most popular destinations among our guests, especially families with young kids  — children who are ineligible for the vaccine today.” 

Ninety-seven percent of everyone onboard the Serenade is fully vaccinated, Royal said. The line requires that all crew members and guests who meet the age of eligibility for the vaccine are fully vaccinated, which starting Aug. 1 will be lowered from age 16 to 12. Children younger than the eligible age must undergo testing and follow other health and safety protocols. 

Bayley thanked Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, the Alaska U.S. senators who sponsored the Alaska Tourism Recovery Act, which was instrumental in enabling a truncated return of cruising this summer that Bayley said “is significantly felt by many, including those whose communities rely on cruise tourism.”

The Serenade will be joined by the Ovation of the Seas in Seattle on Aug. 13. That ship will do seven-day sailings to Skagway, Sitka and Juneau and travel through the Inside Passage. Royal extended the Ovation’s Alaska season into October with four additional sailings, with more to be announced, the line said. 

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