Cruise line ups stops in Glacier Bay

Westours' plan cuts trips to Valdez in half

Posted: Monday, February 28, 2000

VALDEZ - Increased cruise ship access to Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Southeast Alaska will be costing Valdez this summer as a port of call for Holland America Line Westours.

The company's large cruise ships, which carry more than 1,000 passengers, will tie up at Valdez, in Prince William Sound, just 21 times this summer. That's down from 41 port calls last year.

Cruise line spokesman Erik Elvejord said the change is related to a decision by the federal government boosting the number of permits allowed for cruise ships to sail through Glacier Bay through the year 2004.

``Glacier Bay is one of the carrots of Alaska; people love to go to Glacier Bay,'' Elvejord told The Valdez Vanguard. ``But if we do that, we don't have time to stop in Valdez.''

Holland America's cruises to Alaska typically last seven days. The packages that include Valdez typically begin at Vancouver, British Columbia, and make a number of stops at ports in the Inside Passage, including Juneau. They end at Seward.

``Nothing against Valdez, it's just being positioned against the need to have Glacier Bay and the desire of the passengers to see Glacier Bay,'' Elvejord said.

Holland America's decision means the total number of all cruise line stops at Valdez this summer will slip from 60 to 46.

Matt Cornell, the tourism manager for the Valdez Convention and Visitors Bureau, said cruise line passengers will be spending about a million dollars less in Valdez this summer.

That does not take into account the spin-off factors of a slower local tourism economy, Cornell said.

``Each dollar gets transported throughout the local economy,'' he said.

Holland America's Elvejord said it was possible his line could restore some Valdez stops in the next few years.

The cruise line is examining its itineraries and considering whether to offer cruises that are longer than a week, Elvejord said. The marketability of an extended cruise, perhaps 10 days, needs to be studied, he said.

``Alaska is a very popular and very successful destination for us,'' Elvejord said. ``It sells very well in a seven-day format. If we go to a longer format, can we still sell that?''

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