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Politics and Cruising

Written by: Paul Motter

Regardless of which side of the fence you are on, I decided to take a look at which candidates have initiated more legislation for what I would consider positive changes for the cruise industry. here is what I found…

Politics and Cruising

by Paul Motter
We went to Alaska on August 13 and asked locals what they thought of Sarah Palin as VEEP. If I knew she was under consideration three weeks ago, can she really be the “surprise” many people suggest? In any case, after visiting Alaska I believe Sarah Palin is far more “real” than the media appears to regard her.

Hubbard Glacier in Juneau Alaska.
I wonder if some Americans don’t take her seriously because they don’t take Alaska seriously. Travel agents tell of people asking if Alaska requires a passport and accepts U.S. dollars. I can tell you that Alaska is not only all-American, it is über-American. The citizens are hardy and independent, and we found a very high regard for their governor – despite “trooper-gate” which was no secret.

Why am I using a cruise newsletter to discuss Sarah Palin? Because traveling gives you a unique perspective. Alaska is surprisingly temperate, and it covers an area greater than 20% of the lower 48. The Baltic Sea area in Europe, that continent’s geographic equivalent to Alaska, is home to more than 250 million people. So, I believe Alaska has a huge role in our nation’s future.

Juneau derives 90% of its tourism from cruise ship visitors, and Sarah Palin knows the cruise industry. No matter who wins the election, I am glad for the recognition that she has received.

I took a quick look into cruise politics for this newsletter. Travel Weekly is reporting Governor Palin backed the industry when the Alaska legislature tried to impose levies on onboard sales and tour operations. She kept our cruise fares lower, but increased state coffers by socking it to the oil industry, increasing two-fold the amount of the yearly checks each Alaska citizen receives from the oil rent trust fund.

 

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What about John McCain? Sarah wouldn’t be alone is knowing cruise industry issues. He introduced the U.S. Cruise Ship Tourism Development Act of 1999 with Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Frank Murkowski (R-AK) as co-sponsors. That bill allows cruise ships to visit successive U.S. ports, as denied by the Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1886. It limits these visits to repositioning cruises.

“America’s cruising public has been denied the opportunity to cruise to many attractive U.S. port destinations, and those ports have been denied the economic benefits of those visits because of a law that was written over 100 years ago,” McCain said. Other parts of the legislation also led to the creation of NCL-America which provided jobs for U.S. seamen and maritime union members. He found a way to please cruise enthusiasts and help the unions at the same time.

Compare that to Minnesota’s James Oberstar (D-MN), head of the House transportation committee. He has taken it upon himself to deny the Delta Queen Steamboat the right to continue operating as a passenger vessel. He is withholding a piece of legislation Congress has previously passed seven times. Oberstar doesn’t like that, so this year he is holding the bill in his committee – denying a fair vote.

Why? Since the last time he personally voted FOR the Delta Queen bill his local maritime union now opposes it. He denies the union is the reason, but that’s the only thing that has changed. Whether you agree that this National Historic Registry steamboat deserves to continue operating or not, doesn’t it make sense to at least allow the full House to vote on it?

What else is Congress doing concerning the cruise industry? All I could find on Google were bills to enhance “cruise safety” by requiring extensive reporting of all reported crimes, whether subsequent investigation led to prosecution or not. Most of these reports will never even be investigated. This casts a pall over the cruise industry that it doesn’t deserve. Would you like it if Congress passed a law saying every accusation concerning you (even peripherally) was to be made public whether or not you had your day in court?

Congresspeople involved in these anti-cruise industry bills include Democrats Doris Matsui (CA) in the house and John Kerry (MA) in the Senate. There are some Republicans co-sponsoring the House bill (Shays, CT), But Matsui and Kerry are the most vocal cruise industry critics. Two other bills that never became law were S.793 (sponsored soley by five Democrats) and H.R. 1636 sponsored by 46 Democrats and two Republicans. These bills were to regulate cruise ship discharge, but neither were ever passed, even with a Democratic congress.

Why propose cruise bills that never go forward? When certain interest groups get vocal enough they introduce legislation and get their pictures in the papers. But ultimately nothing actually changes. Whether you are for or against these bills, there is no way you appreciate the futility of these Congressional dog and pony shows.

This is not an endorsement of either party – just a snapshot of what I found. I Googled both Obama and Biden with “cruise ship” and found just one article, Obama criticizing using Carnival cruise ships for emergency Katrina housing where more than 8000 lived aboard and over two million meals were served. For three ships’ use for six months Carnival was paid over $200 million.

No matter what, there are obviously more important issues in this election than the cruise industry, but a lot of Americans depend on the cruise industry for a living, it contributes $35 billion/year to our economy.

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