JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The first large cruise ship of the season has arrived in Alaska, marking the start of what industry and tourism officials expect will be a more robust travel year after two pandemic-stunted seasons.
The Norwegian Cruise Line vessel the Norwegian Bliss arrived at a dock in an industrial area near the edge of Juneau’s downtown area on Monday. Rows of buses and vans were on hand to whisk passengers away. The weather was cool and dreary, with drizzling rain.
Lanie Downs, a spokesperson for Cruise Lines International Association Alaska, said the trade group is looking forward to a “full season” again, with hundreds of planned voyages.
In 2019, there were 1.3 million cruise ship passengers in Alaska, she said. No large ships sailed to Alaska in 2020 because of the pandemic. Last year, there were about 116,000 passengers on large ships that carry more than 250 people, she said by email.
Alexandra Pierce, tourism manager with the City and Borough of Juneau, said the city has been having a “larger and needed conversation” around management and capacity issues and “what we look like as a tourism community into the future.”
“That said, I’m really kind of relieved for so many of the small businesses that rely on tourism,” she said, adding later: “I think it will be nice to see people downtown again. It’s been very weirdly quiet the last couple years working down there.”
Pierce said the ships aren’t expected to be full, particularly early in the season. She said officials in Juneau have estimated they will get about 1 million visitors from cruise ships this year.