Alaska West Cruises drops Valdez from schedule

Posted: Wednesday, July 10, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The Alaska division of Cruise West has dropped Valdez from its schedule of port calls beginning next year.

''It's not an easy decision for us,'' said John Kreilkamp, the Alaska division's vice president. ''It certainly hurts our (shore side) vendors.''

The division, Alaska Sightseeing, had been making stops twice a week between May and September. Its vessel, the Spirit of Columbia, home-ported in Whittier, carries 78 passengers on three- and four-day excursions in Prince William Sound.

In total, the cruises bring about 1,900 visitors to Valdez each summer for a six- to seven-hour layover.

Kreilkamp said dropping Valdez was not a negative reflection on Valdez. The physical setting of Valdez is world-class, he said, and offerings such as whitewater rafting, trips to the Worthington glacier and helicopter fight-seeing are outstanding.

But the company wants to emphasize wilderness venues offered in the Sound. The Spirit of Columbia will be spending its time in remote areas, he told The Valdez Star.

Alaska Sightseeing is a niche operator in the cruise business, offering less expensive and more intimate contact with the wilderness.

The decision to drop Valdez comes as another blow to the local economy. In recent years, three of the major players in the cruise-line industry -- Holland America, Princess Cruises and Carnival Cruise Lines -- have pulled out of Valdez.

Three years ago, Valdez saw 61 major cruise-ship dockings. Unless additional cruises are lined up this winter, Valdez will see about 15 cruise-ship stops next year.

The last major cruise line to pull out was Carnival. It announced last month that it was dropping Valdez from its list of stops next year.

Cruise West is based out of Seattle.

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