Tourists walk the piers downtown on July 14, 2022. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

Tourists walk the piers downtown on July 14, 2022. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

Mid-season passenger numbers at roughly two-thirds capacity

There’s about the same number of hulls, but less passengers aboard than pre-pandemic.

As dozens of ships come through Juneau each week with the return of cruise ships, passenger numbers are coming in just below 70% of total berthing capacity, according to City and Borough of Juneau data shared with the Empire.

The return is going smoothly for the city’s Docks and Harbors division, said Harbormaster Matthew Creswell.

“It’s good. It’s much better than expected. There’s been no major hiccups,” Creswell said in an interview. “It’s incredibly smooth compared to what it could have been.”

[Positive growth in the forecast for Juneau’s economic climate]

Docks and Harbors is seeing a return to pre-pandemic levels of ship traffic, but passenger berths are not as full. Through June, Docks and Harbors recorded 330,708 passengers from ships with a total capacity of 485,678, for an average level of 68% of operating capacity.

“I think we’ve got more ships this year. It’s on par with 2019. We’re seeing a little bit smaller capacity number but that’s going on,” Creswell said. “If you walk the docks you couldn’t tell the difference between 2019 and 2022.”

There’s significant variation between passenger levels from line to line, Creswell said.

“Some lines are running 90%, some are running 60,” Creswell said. “Depends on the cruise ship line.”

Cruise ships lay moored alongside the piers downtown on July 14, 2022. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

Cruise ships lay moored alongside the piers downtown on July 14, 2022. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

Back to business

For businesses, that returning tide of tourists is a welcome one.

“It’s going really well. From the (Downtown Business Association) perspective we’re super excited to visitors back in town,” said DBA president Midgi Moore. “Businesses are doing well. We’re all excited to have that sense of normalcy back.”

While ships might be averaging two-thirds capacity, Moore, that might be a silver lining as businesses seek to staff back up and resume operations at their pre-pandemic tempo.

“I see that businesses are open and thriving. It’s going to take at least 2 years of good business to recover. But we’re making progress,” Moore said. “It’s not necessarily everything we need. But it’s a foot in the door.”

For others who cared less for the tempo of full-bore tourist seasons, this lighter season has been more palatable than past years.

“I think that because the cruise ships haven’t been running full — I think perhaps what we’re experiencing this year is a tolerable level of tourism,” said Karla Hart, a local cruise-limiting activist. “Not in number of ships, but in number of passengers.”

Hart said this level of passengers is a more reasonable one for Juneau, to her mind.

“I think this year might be a model for what we should look toward for Juneau,” Hart said.

However, the tourists are still making their presence felt, Hart said.

“People are still experiencing things. There’s certainly neighborhood impacts going on,” Hart said. “We got used to using the glacier area a lot in 2020 and 2021. How many people are displaced now, I don’t know.”

But for businesses, it’s good to get the bodies back circulating through Juneau, Moore said. While she didn’t have hard numbers for the economic boost, she — and others— were struggling to keep up with demand from tourists.

“From my point of view, Juneau Food Tours, it’s my banner year. It’s going great,” Moore said. “It’s all going very well. We’re all tour operators and businesses so grateful to have our visitors back.”

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757-621-1197 or

More in News

(Juneau Empire File)
Aurora forecast for the week of Nov. 27

These forecasts are courtesy of the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute… Continue reading

Hundreds walk the waterfront near Elizabeth Peratrovich Plaza during the 2023 Juneau Maritime Festival in early May. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
Survey: Residents increasingly negative about cruise tourism, but postive opinions still prevail

48% of respondents say overall impacts positive, 22% negative after record-high passenger season.

A Hawaiian Airlines plane taxis for position at Kahalui, Hawaii, on the island of Maui, March 24, 2005. Alaska Air Group said Sunday that it agreed to buy Hawaiian Airlines in a $1 billion deal. (AP Photo/Lucy Pemoni, File)
Alaska Air to buy Hawaiian Airlines in a $1.9 billion deal that may attract regulator scrutiny

SEATTLE — Alaska Airlines said Sunday it agreed to buy Hawaiian Airlines… Continue reading

Cruise ship passengers walk around in downtown Juneau in late May. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
Public suggestions for spending cruise ship passenger fees being accepted starting Monday

More than $21.6M available after record season, but proposals limited to cruise-related projects.

The Hubbard state ferry (left), the newest vessel in the Alaska Marine Highway System fleet, is back in service in northern Southeast Alaska after a maintenance period as the LeConte, which also serves the region, undergoes a scheduled annual overhaul until March 3. (Photo courtesy of the Alaska Marine Highway System)
AMHS leaders hopeful staffing, sailings are trending up

More employees at key positions hired, restoration of cross-Gulf sailings next summer envisioned.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2023

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

A ConocoPhillips oil rig operating during winter on Alaska’s North Slope is featured on the cover of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s report recommending approval of the Willow oil project. (U.S. Bureau of Land Management)
Judge rejects calls to halt winter construction work on Willow oil project in Alaska during appeal

A federal judge in Alaska on Friday rejected requests from environmental groups… Continue reading

Strips of chum salmon hang on a drying rack on Aug. 22, 2007. A new study by federal and state biologists identies marine heat waves in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska as the likely culprit in the recent crashes of Western Alaska chum salmon runs. (Photo by S.Zuray / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Study points to concurrent marine heat waves as culprit in Western Alaska chum declines

Successive marine heat waves appear to have doomed much of the chum… Continue reading

Marzena Whitmore (elf) and Dale Hudson (Santa), pose for a photo with Benny Orvin (partially obscured), 6, and his siblings Lilly, 4, and Remi, 2, taken by their mother Alex as their father Randy watches during Gallery Walk in downtown Juneau on Friday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Coming together as one giant community family at Gallery Walk

Thousands share an evening of entertainment in the outdoor chill, visiting shops and hot chocolate.

Most Read