MUSKEGON, Mich — Canada's Minister of Transport is extending a ban on cruise ships until at least Feb. 28, 2022.
The ban was set to expire later this month. It applies to all cruise vessels carrying more than 100 people.
"As Canadians continue to do their part to reduce the spread of COVID-19, our government continues to work hard to ensure Canada's transportations system remains safe," Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra said in a statement last week. "Temporary prohibitions to cruise vessels and pleasure craft are essential to continue to protect the most vulnerable among our communities and avoid overwhelming out health care systems. This is the right and responsible thing to do."
In January there was optimism in Muskegon County with tourism and economic leaders excited that cruise operators were starting to take reservations for cruises.
The extension of the ban means five ships won't dock 25 times in Muskegon from June to October. When in Muskegon, the ships dock at Muskegon County's Heritage Landing.
All of the 2020 cruise ship season in Muskegon was also canceled due to COVID-19.
Locally there's a loss of docking fees, and business at shops and museums. Other Michigan cities will also loose out on the economic impact the ships and passengers bring to port communities.
"In Michigan the ports that will be impacted most will be Detroit, Mackinac Island, Muskegon, Sault Ste. Marie, those are the most popular ports right now," said Vice President of Travel Michigan Dave Lorenz.
Cruise ships offering Great Lakes itinerates carry between 150 and 250 passengers. Lorenz says the state will loose out on a chance to win those travelers over with a Pure Michigan experience.
"Because we know that if people will come here by cruise ship these are people with a lot of money and a lot of time to spend. They'll see what we have here in the Great Lakes, when they come back they're going to spend a lot of money and they're going to help to retain and build jobs," said Lorenz.
With the Great Lakes cruise ship season being canceled in back-to-back years, Lorenz is beginning to worry about the ability of ship operators to weather the storm caused by COVID-19.
"I'm hoping the Victory, Pearl Mist, and just recently announced the Viking Cruise Lines coming into the Great Lakes and others coming down the lane will be able to hold on so they can come back in 2022," said Lorenz.
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