After two years of cancellations, northern ports hope for the return of cruise ships in 2022

Already 12 cruise ships — including some headed for the Northwest Passage — plan to stop in Nome in 2022.

By Yereth Rosen - August 3, 2021
The end of the existing causeway at the Port of Nome. (Yereth Rosen)

After cruise ship visits to Nome, Alaska were canceled for a second season, the community is pinning its hopes on a the prospect of voyages through the Bering Strait — including some transiting the Northwest Passage — in 2022.

Earlier in the year, there were six or more cruise ship stops expected, but one by one the companies canceled their visits, said Lucas Stotts, Nome’s harbormaster.

“Everybody now has their sights on 2022,” Stotts said. “Here’s hoping.”

Twelve cruise visits are tentatively planned for Nome next year, according to the Cruise Line Agencies of Alaska.

The planned Nome stops include visits by ships that are, for now, scheduled to sail the once-impenetrable Northwest Passage.

Although the COVD-19 pandemic put a halt to cruise traffic throughout Canada this season and last season, several companies have plans for voyages through the entire passage over northern Canada or portions of that route.

Along that route on community in particular is working hard to create economic opportunities from increased tourism from future cruise travel. In Gjoa Haven, the community closest to the sites where the wrecks of the two Franklin Expedition ships were found, local residents are in favor of increased cruise tourism and have plans to build infrastructure to accommodate cruise visitors, according to research by Melissa Weber of the University of Ottawa.

The Canadian government announced in mid-July that it will allow cruises to resume in Canadian waters this November, as long as the nation’s safety protocols are met. However, November is too late to accommodate cruise travel that had been planned for 2021 in Nome and in another Bering Sea port, Unalaska/Dutch Harbor.

Unalaska, the largest community in the Aleutians, was also hit hard by cancellations. Eighteen of the 19 cruise dockings that were scheduled for this year have been called off, according to Unalaska port information.

“The cancellations here for 2020 and 2021 are for the same reasons cruise ships have cancelled everywhere: COVID-19,” Ann Touza of the Unalaska Convention and Visitors Bureau said by email.

Next year, however, 25 cruise ship stops are tentatively scheduled for the Aleutian port, according to the Cruise Line Agencies of Alaska.