Foreign-flagged ships only need to follow PVSA rules if the itinerary begins and ends at a US port. Cruises that begin or end in another country don’t have to abide by these regulations. This is because those itineraries aren’t essentially transporting passengers from one US port to another. They can visit more than one US port, as long as they begin or end in another country.
However, there are basically just two rules that cruise lines operating foreign-flagged ships in US waters need to follow.
- A cruise itinerary must include a stop at a foreign port if it visits another US port during the voyage
Any foreign-flagged cruise itinerary that begins and ends in the US and visits more than one US port needs to visit a foreign port during the voyage. Since “cruises to nowhere” on foreign-registered ships were outlawed in 2016, this includes all cruises that begin and end in the US!
This is why Alaska cruises from Seattle make a short stop at Victoria, BC, and cruises between California ports and Hawai’i make a stop at Ensenada, Mexico.
- A cruise itinerary must include a stop at a distant foreign port if it embarks at one US port and disembarks at a different US port
Closed-loop cruises, or itineraries that begin and end at the same port, can stop at any foreign port to satisfy the PVSA. But itineraries that begin in one US port and end in another, like a Panama Canal full transit from coast-to-coast, are required to make a stop at a distant cruise port.
This excludes any ports located in North America, with a few exceptions. So, ports in Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, Central American countries, and most West Indies islands are not distant foreign ports.