Amsterdam opens cruise season, but later bookings slowed

Posted: Wednesday, April 23, 2003

JUNEAU (AP) -- The first cruise ship of 2003 will arrive in Juneau with a full load of passengers May 5, but the health of the rest of the season remains unclear.

The Holland America ship Amsterdam will be carrying 1,380 passengers, said company spokesman Erik Elvejord.

How many passengers come for the rest of the season, however, depends on whether bookings pick up.

''With the well-publicized world events and the other issues that are in the press concerning SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and other concerns for travel, the cruise bookings for this summer are slightly behind,'' said Paul Allen, Holland America's vice president for Alaska sales and marketing.

But he is optimistic that a more stable international climate following the war in Iraq will bring bookings up to last year's level.

''The February-March world events have thrown just about everybody's summer travel plans out of kilter,'' Allen told the Juneau Empire. ''But we just saw some strength coming back into the booking patterns recently.''

Allen's thoughts are echoed by many in the tourism industry.

''We are hoping for a good season, but due to world events of course our bookings have not been as good as we would have liked,'' said Don Habeger, director of industry relations for Royal Caribbean Cruises.

Forty-four ships operated by 17 cruise lines plan to make 581 calls in Juneau between May and September, according to the Juneau Convention and Visitors Bureau. The ships have a capacity for 771,000 people - more than 50,000 more than visited the state aboard cruise ships last year.

''If we come out of this year flat with where we were last year, we'll be very pleased,'' said Kirby Day, director of operations for Princess Cruises and Tours. ''Given the world climate the last two years, that probably can be deemed successful.''

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