Juneau expects record number of cruise ship visitors

Posted: Thursday, April 25, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- The Juneau Convention and Visitors Bureau is predicting a record number of cruise ship passengers will visit Juneau this season.

Based on the bureau's pre-season projections, more than 700,000 passengers are expected to stop in the city, contrary to early concerns by the state's tourism industry about travel fears stemming from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The cruise season kicks off Tuesday (April 30) with the arrival of Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Sky and ends Sept. 25 with the departure of Celebrity Cruises' Mercury. By summer's end, 718,633 cruise ship passengers and 315,038 crew members are scheduled to visit on 39 ships, according to bureau totals.

Last year's pre-season projection was 683,077 passengers. The final total was 690,648.

For the larger cruise lines, the projections are based on ''lower berth capacity,'' or an average of two people per cabin, Don Habeger, port manager for the Juneau office of Cruise Line Agencies of Alaska, told the Juneau Empire.

''There are times that lower berth capacity can be exceeded, for example, a family of four in a cabin by themselves,'' he said.

New ships to Juneau this year include Holland America's Amsterdam, Princess Cruises' Star Princess and Celebrity Cruises' Summit. Royal Caribbean's Legend of the Seas and Radisson Seven Seas' Seven Seas Navigator will return to Juneau after a break.

Seabourn Cruise Lines will return to Alaska after a five-year hiatus. The company's Seabourn Spirit is scheduled to make 10 stops in Juneau this summer with a passenger capacity of 208 people.

The ship, which spent the winter months in Southeast Asia, was rerouted from Europe to Alaska after Sept. 11, said Bruce Good, a spokesman for the luxury cruise line. The Seabourn Spirit has a few openings early in the season for Alaska, but is booked for the rest of the summer, he said.

''As soon as we announced we were doing Alaska, it just took off,'' he said. ''About 50 percent of our people repeat year in and year out. When we go to a destination that we haven't been to for years, a lot of people want to go.''

While several larger cruise lines reported an increase in bookings by February after a post-Sept. 11 drop, not everyone has recovered. The Boat Company, which is not included in the visitors bureau's totals, has three boats that carry between 12 and 24 passengers through Alaska waters and to Juneau each summer.

''Not everything is hunky-dory,'' company vice president Mark McIntosh said. ''Our selling season went much longer; we were selling into April. We usually do a lot prior to December with a spurt after the holidays. I think people are still trying to find their comfort level.''

Radisson Seven Seas' 490-passenger Seven Seas Navigator is scheduled to make 19 stops in Juneau this year. Director of Strategic Marketing Andrew Poulton said the company's peak-season Alaska cruises are sold out.

''I think people perceive Alaska as being a safer destination than other parts of the world at this time,'' he said. ''They want to stay closer to home and there's the security of knowing they're still in the United States.''

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