Cruise ship season starts today with the Juneau arrival of the Ruby Princess at 11 a.m.
The red carpet won’t be rolling out, but Mayor Ken Koelsch has encouraged locals to welcome passengers at the Franklin Dock today at an event between 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
“We can’t underestimate the economic benefits of the visitor industry to Juneau,” Koelsch said in a release. “Regardless of how they arrive, visitors and the dollars they spend in Juneau help provide the city services that our residents expect and enjoy. It’s fitting that the community makes our first visitors feel welcome.”
This year’s passenger numbers project to set another record for Juneau’s brisk tourism trade. About 27.2 million people are expected to cruise worldwide this year, according to the Cruise Line Industry Association. More than a million of those passengers will visit Juneau this year between today and the end of the season on Oct. 2.
Between one and six ships will dock in Juneau during that time, with more than 500 individual port calls scheduled for this summer. The season kicks into full gear around mid-May. Multiple ships are expected every day during a stretch May 20-Sept. 18.
The influx means big bucks for Juneau’s tour companies, gift shops and restaurants. CLIA figures show cruise ship passengers spent $176.6 million in Juneau in 2017 in taxable spending. Visitors spent an average of $162 per passenger.
“We calculated that approximately $1.25 million of new money comes into our community every single day during the summer, providing economic opportunities, jobs, and funding for so many local services,” CLIA Alaska’s Mike Tibbles said in an email to the Empire.
A new, “mega-ship” is expected in Juneau this year. The 1,082-foot-long, 4,000-passenger Norwegian Bliss starts making port calls in June and docks in Juneau for the first time June 5. The boat is custom designed for Alaska sailings, Tibbles said, with an oversized, covered observation deck. Another mega-ship, the 5,000-passenger Ovation of the Seas, will start sailing in Alaska next year.
To kick the summer off, CLIA Alaska, Norwegian Cruise Lines and Travel Juneau are opening an essay contest for seventh and eighth graders on the economic impact of the cruise ship industry in Alaska. Twenty-five of the winning students will get to visit the Bliss for a pizza party and race on the ship’s go-kart track, which is the largest and most challenging at-sea track in the world, according to a release.
More information on the contest can be found at CLIAAlaska.org/gokart-contest.