Amsterdam opens cruise season May 5

SARS, concerns about Iraq war have slowed cruise bookings somewhat

Posted: Wednesday, April 23, 2003

The Holland America ship Amsterdam will bring a full load of 1,380 visitors when it sails into Juneau on May 5 to start the 2003 cruise ship season, said company spokesman Erik Elvejord.

How many passengers come for the rest of the season, though, depends on whether bookings pick up between now and the fast-approaching summer tourism season.

"With the well-publicized world events and the other issues that are in the press concerning SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and other concerns for travel, the cruise bookings for this summer are slightly behind ... ," said Paul Allen, Holland America's vice president for Alaska sales and marketing.

But he is optimistic that a more stable international climate following the war in Iraq will bring bookings up to last year's level.

"The February-March world events have thrown just about everybody's summer travel plans out of kilter," Allen said. "... But we just saw some strength coming back into the booking patterns recently ... over the last week."

Allen's thoughts are echoed by many in the tourism industry.

"We are hoping for a good season, but due to world events of course our bookings have not been as good as we would have liked," said Don Habeger, director of industry relations for Royal Caribbean Cruises. "But with ... the turn of events, i.e., the war in Iraq slowing down, hopefully that will pick up."

Forty-four ships operated by 17 cruise lines plan to make 581 calls in Juneau between May and September, according to the Juneau Convention and Visitors Bureau. The ships have a capacity for 771,000 people - more than 50,000 more than visited the state aboard cruise ships last year.

"If we come out of this year flat with where we were last year, we'll be very pleased," said Kirby Day, director of operations for Princess Cruises and Tours. "Given the world climate the last two years, that probably can be deemed successful."

In the summer of 2001, each visitor spent an average of $122 during his or her stay in town, according to a McDowell Group survey. If passengers spend the same amount this year, they will contribute about $94 million to Juneau's economy.

Additional spending by ship personnel - the expected 338,000 crew-member visits will bring an average of $20 each - will bring the total economic contribution of the cruises to more than $100 million, said Susan Bell, a partner at the McDowell Group, a Juneau-based research firm.

To help kick off the season, the Juneau chapter of the Alaska Travel Industry Association will hold the fifth annual Juneau Appreciation Day downtown on May 10.

"It's just an opportunity before the season starts to encourage folks to go downtown," said George Reifenstein, general manager of the Mount Roberts Tram.

Most downtown stores will be open that day, and rides on the tram will be $5 each, with profits benefiting the Juneau Raptor Center, which cares for injured eagles and other birds.

Sept. 23 will be the last day cruise ships will visit town this season, said Cecilia Sears, port secretary for the city.

Christine Schmid can be reached at

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