May 5. Mark your calendar. The last day of no cruise ships in Juneau for 140 days.
Scratch out summer, spring and fall. Replace with “Cruise Season.”
The best half of the year no longer means Juneauites are fortunate to hike, fish, garden, picnic, paddle, relax and adventure where we live. Now, those months are all about money. If you are not working a low-wage tourism job to “earn extra money,” you might be looking for how to get away from Juneau’s cruise-assault on resident quality of life.
This year Juneau will see a relentless onslaught of cruise ships (more than 660 ship calls scheduled), with capacity for more than 1.6 million passengers (plus a lot of crew). Next year, even more. The five-large-ship limit, recently suggested by Assembly resolution, provides no relief. Ships on order will increase global cruise capacity 43% in the next five years. And, MSC Cruises wants into Alaska. A five-ship limit still allows over 3 million passengers in 140 days, as smaller ships are switched out for large ships.
Businesses and city employees are looking for new places for shore excursions. That new place might be your neighborhood, or your special place to get away. No helicopters over your house? That could change. e-bikes, Segways, jet skis, hovercrafts, guided hikes, Jeeps, whale watching boats, anything anyone can dream up. Everywhere in and near Juneau is vulnerable to cruise business gluttony.
Many in Juneau think nothing can be done. Not true. The City Council in Key West, Florida, bowed to community will and their city dock is not used on days the private dock has a ship, halving cruise visits. The city of Monterey, California, voted to end all services to cruise ships, sending a strong message they don’t want ships calling. A federal judge in Maine recently called out the Bar Harbor city government for their history of boosterism of the cruise industry and, in July, will be hearing a industry lawsuit challenging the 1,000 daily limit off cruise ships that was approved by voter initiative.
The swift aggressive opposition of cruise-reliant businesses in Juneau to the 2021 cruise initiatives demonstrates their knowledge that they could not risk the issues getting on the ballot. I believe cruise-reliant businesses know, given the privacy of a ballot, a majority of Juneau voters will vote yes to limits, as did those in Key West and Bar Harbor.
If you are fed up, dreading “the cruise season,” and sick of (and from) pollution, take a few minutes to act now, and again throughout spring, summer, and fall.
Tell your story. Say how “cruise season” impairs your quality of life and what you want (not what you’re able to survive, as they’ve been using that to justify ever-increasing numbers for decades). Send an email to the mayor and all Assembly members: email@example.com.
The industry Tourism Best Management Practices dictates a lot of conditions and behaviors for industry employees, and is useful when a bus is swerving down the road or spewing black smoke at you, or other violations of TBMP.* Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 907-586-6774 with details. We can hold industry accountable to do what they said they will do.
For congestion, flightseeing noise, cumulative air pollution and other bigger systemic issues, don’t waste time with the hotline; these issues are all related to the lack of management of the overall cruise numbers and the responsibility of the assembly. Call Mayor Beth Weldon at (907) 586-5240, email email@example.com, and write letters to the editor. Officials might try to refer you to the hotline; remind them TBMP cannot/will not fix systemic issues, and solutions rest with the Assembly. Even for impacts the assembly says they cannot fix (for example, helicopter noise), they can, when they gain the will and courage to negotiate from a position of power and principle. Your contacts will help them gain will and courage.
Oct.25 is the last ship. We’ll then have 165 days until the next ship arrives April 8, 2024.
• Karla Hart worked in and around Juneau tourism for almost 30 years, including a decade of tourism business ownership, with a focus on independent travelers. She was a primary sponsor of the three 2021 cruise ballot initiatives, and is a founding member of the Global Cruise Activist Network. Inescapable helicopter noise fuels her activism.