Ship sail

Alaska’s first major cruise ship of the year arrives in Juneau

JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) – Alaska’s first major cruise ship of the year arrived in port in Juneau on Monday afternoon, kicking off what is expected to be a slow start to the season.

Norwegian Bliss, operated by Norwegian Cruise Line, is the first of nearly 600 voyages scheduled for Alaska this summer. The navigation season should end in mid-October.

If all ships scheduled to come to Alaska were operating at normal capacity, the state would see a record 1.5 million cruise ship passengers sailing to Alaska this year. Juneau officials say the true figure is more likely to be around 1 million, compared to the 1.3 million passengers who visited Alaska in 2019.

In 2020, Alaska saw no major cruise ships due to COVID-19 cancellations. Last year, an abbreviated sailing season saw about 10% of normal passenger numbers visit Alaska.

Business owners and local community leaders were excited about the return of a somewhat normal summer cruising season and projections that it would become more robust as the season progressed.

Juneau Mayor Beth Weldon said it was exciting to see the first ship arrive and she hoped passengers would take advantage of Juneau’s drizzly weather and spend a lot of money.

Jeff Rogers, chief financial officer for the city and borough of Juneau, said cruise ship passengers generate about $10 million to $15 million in sales tax revenue each year, then about $15 million a year. in passenger service charges.

“(It’s) a big part of how we pay for city government, how we pay for services on the waterfront, how we support sightseeing and tourism locally,” Rogers said, explaining that the cruise ships provide around 20% of the total city budget in any country. given year.

Local governments across Alaska are estimated share about $100 million in revenue from large cruise ships. Businesses across the state are said to earn more than $1.1 billion in a typical season.

Laura Martinson, owner of Caribou Crossings, a gift shop in downtown Juneau, was on the waterfront to welcome Norwegian Bliss. She said local businesses were “very happy to have customers back”.

“It doesn’t have to be a record to be amazing,” she added of the upcoming season.

Passengers disembarking from Norwegian Bliss said the ship was half full. The capacity of large cruise ships is expected to increase as the season progresses. COVID-19 vaccination are mandatory onboard Norwegian Cruise Line ships for everyone except young children, as well as testing.

Entering in a drizzle, Dawson and Kari Kilhoffer were thrilled with their first excursion to Alaska on a much-delayed trip.

“We’ve scheduled this particular trip four times because of the pandemic,” Dawson said with a laugh.

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