Royal Caribbean International President Jack Williams faced a smaller and friendlier audience Monday night than on his first trip to Juneau last year.
Then the company was reeling from federal felony pollution convictions and millions of dollars in fines. On Monday, Williams and five other RCI executives heard more about the money they've given voluntarily to local nonprofit groups.
``I must say last year we met under some very difficult circumstances,'' Williams told about 50 people at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall, where he held an informal presentation and question-and-answer session. ``There's one thing that hasn't changed: our commitment to Alaskan communities.''
Since 1998, RCI has given about $1 million in Alaska, 11 percent of its charitable contributions worldwide, Williams said.
Several local residents thanked him for those contributions. Among them was Jono McKinney of Discovery Southeast, an environmental education organization that teaches natural science in elementary schools.
McKinney was happy not only about the grant, but also about the company's environmental rating from an international group that grants certifications for advanced pollution-control procedures.
Williams told the audience of a minor procedural violation uncovered on the Vision of the Seas recently. A photo concessionaire was found handling rinse water improperly and was dismissed, he said.
The incident also was reported to the U.S. Coast Guard and other regulators, even though no discharges of metals were made into the water, Williams said.
The growth in the cruise ship traffic in Juneau, with an estimated 630,000 passengers this year, was cited as a source of concern, however.
Sandy Warner, a volunteer at local visitor centers, said that for the first time she's hearing from the passengers themselves that downtown Juneau is too crowded.
Williams said that surveys on the ships aren't showing any drop in high customer satisfaction with the Alaska cruises.
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