More than 700,000 cruise ship passengers are scheduled to tour, shop and gaze at Juneau this year, based on pre-season projections from the Juneau Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The cruise season kicks off 2 p.m. April 30 with the arrival of Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Sky and ends at 10 p.m. Sept. 25 with the departure of Celebrity Cruises' Mercury. By summer's end, 718,633 cruise ship passengers and 315,038 crew members are scheduled to visit on 39 ships, according to JCVB totals.
Last year's pre-season projection was 683,077 passengers. The final total was 690,648, according to the JCVB.
For the larger cruise lines, the projections are based on "lower berth capacity," or an average of two people per cabin, according to Don Habeger, port manager for the Juneau office of Cruise Line Agencies of Alaska.
"There are times that lower berth capacity can be exceeded, for example, a family of four in a cabin by themselves," he said.
New ships to Juneau this year include Holland America's Amsterdam, Princess Cruises' Star Princess and Celebrity Cruises' Summit. Royal Caribbean's Legend of the Seas and Radisson Seven Seas' Seven Seas Navigator will return to Juneau after a break.
Seabourn Cruise Lines will return to Alaska after a five-year hiatus. The company's Seabourn Spirit is scheduled to make 10 stops in Juneau this summer with a passenger capacity of 208 people.
The ship, which spent the winter months in Southeast Asia, was re-routed from Europe to Alaska after Sept. 11, said Bruce Good, public relations director for the luxury cruise line. The Seabourn Spirit has a few openings early in the season for Alaska, but is booked for the rest of the summer, he said.
"As soon as we announced we were doing Alaska, it just took off," he said. "About 50 percent of our people repeat year in and year out. When we go to a destination that we haven't been to for years, a lot of people want to go."
While several larger cruise lines reported an increase in bookings by February after a post-Sept. 11 drop, not everyone has recovered. The Boat Company, which is not included in the JCVB totals, has three boats that carry between 12 and 24 passengers through Alaska waters and to Juneau each summer. Company Vice President Mark McIntosh anticipates numbers will be down this year.
"Not everything is hunky-dory," he said. "Our selling season went much longer; we were selling into April. We usually do a lot prior to December with a spurt after the holidays. I think people are still trying to find their comfort level."
Reservations manager Kathy Nissley said the company has 596 passenger reservations this summer, a number she expects will grow to 650. The Boat Company took 749 passengers through Alaska last summer, she said.
Radisson Seven Seas' 490-passenger Seven Seas Navigator is scheduled to make 19 stops in Juneau this year. Director of Strategic Marketing Andrew Poulton said the company's peak-season Alaska cruises are sold out.
"I think people perceive Alaska as being a safer destination than other parts of the world at this time," he said. "They want to stay closer to home and there's the security of knowing they're still in the United States."
Meanwhile, the Juneau Convention and Visitors Bureau is working with some 200-plus volunteers who provide information at Centennial Hall, the cruise ship terminal, the Alaska Marine Highway System terminal, the Marine Park kiosk and the Juneau Airport, according to president Lorene Kappler. The JCVB moved to Centennial Hall from the Davis Log Cabin last year.
One focus for this year's volunteers will be encouraging cruise passengers to return, Kappler said.
"We've always done that, but we're going to start putting a little more emphasis on encouraging cruise passenger to spend more time, get to know us better and get to do the things here that they don't get to do when they're on a cruise," she said.
The visitors bureau also is working to get a good handle on the number of independent travelers, or noncruise visitors, who come to Juneau each year, Kappler said. The number of independent travelers has held steady over much of the past decade, ranging from 110,000 to 150,000 people a year, Kappler said.
Joanna Markell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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