Dave McCasland, owner of Deckhand Dave’s Fish Tacos, center, talks with Eric Plummer, left, and Brennen Brewer, of Peak Construction, as they set up food truck businesses at Gunakedeit Park, also known as Pocket Park, on Thursday, May 9, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Dave McCasland, owner of Deckhand Dave’s Fish Tacos, center, talks with Eric Plummer, left, and Brennen Brewer, of Peak Construction, as they set up food truck businesses at Gunakedeit Park, also known as Pocket Park, on Thursday, May 9, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Local business owners nervous about canceled cruises

Princess is the first company to cancel several weeks of cruises

A decision by Princess Cruises to stand down all cruise operations for 60 days will affect Juneau in ways both positive and negative.

“What we’re anticipating is that even with this 60-day temp pause Princess has announced, it’s going to impact the early part of our season,” said Liz Perry, CEO and president of Travel Juneau, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting the tourism industry. “What folks need to remember is the vast majority of operators here are Juneau residents. This is going to hit them very hard.”

Cruise ships have been a visible part of the coronavirus epidemic since the highly publicized quarantine of the Diamond Princess in Yokohama Harbor, Japan. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended travelers avoid cruise ships, especially those with underlying health issues. But cruise ships are also inextricably part of the economy of Southeast Alaska. So what happens now?

“Losing this business in early May can affect their ability to operate even through the summer,” Perry said. “The impact to the community is going to be really widely felt.”

[Cruise line announces 60-day pause of ship operations]

Many companies that would regularly be looking to hire seasonal workers right now are feeling the pressure.

“It’s a lot of uncertainty. I’m definitely concerned,” said Scott Bergmann owner of the Alaskan Fudge Company. “We’re fortunate enough that we make our product. I don’t have to worry so much about making a big order. If I don’t have as many people coming to the door, I just make less.”

Bergmann said he’ll respond with a variety of measures, from hiring less- or no- seasonal staff to keeping the company’s seasonal second location closed for now until the situation stabilizes.

“I’m just gonna operate as normal and hope for the best,” said David McCasland owner of Deckhand Dave’s in a phone interview. “The locals will still come. It’s a pretty fun spot for the locals.”

McCasland was resigned but upbeat about the anemic-looking opening to the season.

“I’m bummed, but we’ll see how it goes,” McCasland said. “I’m just gonna do my best. Hopefully the locals will support local business.”

The Princess Cruises stoppage will account for three cruises scheduled to visit Juneau, according to Princess Cruises. It is not yet clear if other cruise lines will take similar action.

“I don’t blame people for canceling. Before Princess canceled, there was a rumor about how empty the ships were gonna be,” Bergmann said. “That was not an easy decision to make, and I won’t be surprised if there are more down the line.”

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757.621.1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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