Four cruise ships dock in Juneau on Tuesday afternoon, shortly after the departure of a fifth ship also in town during the day. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Four cruise ships dock in Juneau on Tuesday afternoon, shortly after the departure of a fifth ship also in town during the day. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Limit of 16,000 cruise passengers most days, 12,000 on Saturdays being discussed by industry and CBJ

Voluntary policy to “get the peak out of the week” targeted for 2026, city’s tourism director says

A limit of 16,000 cruise ship passengers on most days and 12,000 on Saturdays beginning in 2026 is being considered by municipal and industry officials, similar to the voluntary agreement of a five-ship-per-day limit that took effect this year, according to Alexandra Pierce, tourism manager for the City and Borough of Juneau.

The daily passenger limit is intended to “get the peak out of the week” by more evenly distributing roughly the same number of visitors throughout the season, Pierce told the Juneau Assembly on Monday night. She said there would be a provision allowing the limit to be exceeded under extenuating circumstances.

“Right now where we’re at in our negotiations we have nine Tuesdays that go over the limit because we’re still working on a long-term solution to hot berthing,” she said, referring to two ships arriving at the same dock at different times during the same day. “So those days that go over are about 16,700 passengers. For context that’s 3,200 passengers fewer than our busiest day in 2023. And it’s 4,300 passengers fewer than our busiest days prior to this year.”

The lower Saturday limit is similar to the busiest current number of passengers on that day, Pierce said.

“It’s protecting Saturdays at status quo,” she said. Also, “Saturdays typically are kind of our luxury ship day. We just wanted to, rather than issuing a blanket daily limit, recognize that they were already quiet.”

Last year a record 1.67 million cruise ship passengers visited Juneau, and about the same number are expected this year and next, according to Pierce. Assembly members at a meeting last fall expressed a general preference to keep traffic at or slightly below current levels in subsequent years, along with efforts to reduce perceived impacts on residents.

Pierce said the proposed daily limits were conceived with the Assembly’s stated goals in mind. She said while the projected number of passengers for 2026 is not finalized, she expects it will be about 1.6 million.

City leaders have also discussed the possibility of an official limit on daily cruise ship passengers, but been advised by municipal and other attorneys such a policy would likely violate a provision in the U.S. Constitution allowing people to freely travel between states.

Assembly members, while not taking a formal vote on the voluntary daily passenger limit concept, generally offered support for Pierce to proceed with further discussions with industry officials.

“This is an awesome deal — better than I thought that we were going to see,” Assembly member Wade Bryson told her. “I thought there was going to be a heck of a lot more pushback. I would strongly recommend that we support this.”

However, objections to the idea were expressed by Karla Hart, a longtime advocate against mass cruise ship tourism who is part of a ballot petition effort to ban such vessels on Saturdays and the Fourth of July. In a letter sent Tuesday to Assembly members and shared with the media, she stated a 16,000-passenger daily limit could allow the industry to significantly expand its presence.

“It allows Juneau cruise ship numbers to increase to over 2.5 million passengers over a 22-week season,” she wrote. “Is that what you intend? Also, taking the Tuesday peak out of the week serves the cruise industry shore operators; however, it does not address community concerns and lived impacts from overtourism. This effort is tone deaf to the community overall.”

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com or (907) 957-2306.

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