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During the brand’s first-ever webinar from a ship — its Cascadia catamaran in this case — Canada-based Maple Leaf Adventures’ co-owners Maureen Gordon and Kevin Smith outlined the company’s current status and plan to return to service.
“We’ve always been an ecotourism company,” said Gordon, noting how that has influenced the line’s recent endeavors, including inspiring a marine debris removal initiative that successfully cleaned up 127 tons worth of material over a period of six weeks while the line was not operating in 2020.
"We’re really conservationists,” Smith said. “We’re using tourism to save the coast we know and love.”
This means collaborating with the Pacific Northwest’s First Nations on cleanup projects as well as indigenous interactions with guests. However, such visits may not happen during Maple Leaf’s first season back, for the sake of COVID-19 safety.
Gordon expressed her love for the term “regenerative travel,” which describes the goal of physically improving the places travelers visit.
We’re using tourism to save the coast we know and love.
For a 2021 return to operations, Maple Leaf has a strategic advantage due to its low volume of passengers compared to much larger cruise ships, a distinction that the brand likes to highlight. The Cascadia, for instance, has an average capacity of just 20 guests.
What’s more, current Canadian cruise restrictions only apply to vessels carrying more than 100 people, so the small-ship brand is “seen as far lower risk” and can sail in both Canada and Alaska, according to Smith.
The biggest hurdle now, at least for U.S. travelers, is predicting when they will be permitted to cross the Canadian border, which is currently closed due to COVID-19. To address that ongoing uncertainty, the company has updated its cancellation policy to be far more flexible.
As a family-owned company, “we’re not going to leave anybody hanging,” said Smith. “They’re going to be looked after.”
Even as travelers wait for things to open back up, Gordon says there is pent-up demand for travel, particularly among small groups. As a result, family and private group charters are more popular. For such groups, even private arrivals will be possible via helicopter, thanks to a new heli-deck on Cascadia, which will also facilitate heli-skiing options.
Specific coronavirus precautions for 2021 will include pre-cruise testing and post-testing isolation, daily monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms, required non-medical face masks when six feet of physical distance cannot be maintained, increased sanitation and more.
Another new offering for summer 2021 — and a great option for families — is a shorter five-day Great Bear Rainforest itinerary featuring Kitlope and Haida Gwaii in Canada, and Alaska. In addition to offering heli-skiing with Bella Coola Heli Sports, Maple Leaf is preparing to make special trip announcements in partnership with a coastal lodge, as well as the Canadian arts community.
With some availability left for 2021 and strong bookings already for 2022, Gordon says there is definitely a “light at the end of this COVID tunnel.”
The DetailsMaple Leaf Adventureswww.mapleleafadventures.com