Holland America drops Valdez stops

Posted: Monday, September 10, 2001

VALDEZ (AP) -- Holland America will drop Valdez from its 2002 port of call list.

The company said it has not found a way to show off what Valdez has to offer passengers, said Paul Allen, vice president for Alaska Cruise Tours.

The company's ships will stop in Skagway instead.

Allen said he has several phone conferences scheduled with Valdez civic leaders this month in order to find a way to keep Valdez as a port of call for Holland America in the future.

''We've taken people to Valdez historically. We just need to be more confident in putting together a package for our passengers,'' Allen told The Valdez Vanguard.

Holland America accounted for 19 of the 46 port calls in Valdez during 2001. The cruise ships Ryndam, Veendam and Statendam stopped at the city.

Though port-of-call numbers for 2002 are not yet in, Pat Caples with Alaska Maritime Agencies does not expect an increase from the other lines that stop in Valdez.

Valdez could see as few as 27 port calls next summer, which would be a devastating blow to local retailers. Business owners attending an emergency meeting Thursday night with city officials said traffic from RVs, independent travelers and people attending conventions in Valdez cannot make up sales brought by the cruise ships.

Many retailers said they are putting merchandise orders for next year on hold until they learn more.

Valdez has seen a decline in the number of cruise ship visits for more than five years, according to figures from the Alaska Maritime Agencies. In 1996, 70 cruise ships called on Valdez. That number dropped to 67 in 1998, 61 in 1999, 47 in 2000 and 46 for this year.

''We've heard crew personnel tell people, don't bother getting off the ship, there's nothing to see in Valdez,'' said Nancy Peterson, assistant city manager.

Lisa Von Bargen, with the city of Valdez Community Planning Department and formerly with the Valdez Convention and Visitors Bureau, told the group that cruise lines are crossing the Gulf of Alaska because they have land-based excursions.

Ships now drop off passengers at Seward and take on new passengers before heading south. The land-based excursion buses take the passengers to Denali National Park and other locations before the passengers board flights for home. So far, logistics prevent Valdez from becoming the destination port Seward is.

Valdez and Prince William Sound also compete with Glacier Bay as a popular cruise ship stopover and Valdez is losing out to the Glacier Bay, Von Bargen said.

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