KETCHIKAN (AP) -- Cruise ships may bring more passengers to Alaska next year as companies replace older ships with larger vessels, an industry official said.
With two weeks left in the summer season, about 630,000 people visited Alaska this year by cruise ship, said John Hansen, president of the North West CruiseShip Association.
Hansen told the Southeast Conference this week that most sailings were full, and said he expects even more people to come next year as the major lines increase capacity by about 7 percent.
The total number of ships won't change, Hansen told the gathering of local government officials from around Southeast Alaska, but bigger vessels will accommodate more people.
Carnival Cruise Lines is replacing the aging Jubilee with the larger Carnival Spirit, Celebrity Cruise Lines is replacing the Galaxy with the Infinity and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line is introducing a third ship called the Radiance of the Seas, Hansen said.
Meanwhile, Princess Cruises is taking the Sky Princess out of Alaska, leaving the company with only five ships operating in the state.
Holland America Line is retiring the Nieuw Amsterdam and replacing her with a new ship called the Zaandam, while Radisson Seven Seas is replacing the Seven Seas Navigator with the larger Seven Seas Mariner this coming year.
The Infinity and the Radiance of the Seas will both have gas turbine engines instead of the conventional diesel-burning engines, Hansen said. The new engines are part of a gradual trend toward technology designed to ease the industry's occasionally troubled relationship with Southeast Alaska communities.
The industry took a scathing attack from Gov. Tony Knowles last week over results of wastewater sampling this summer. Knowles called the results, which showed widespread violations of state and federal water quality, a disgrace.
Hansen told his Southeast Conference audience that the cruise lines immediately began working with the Coast Guard and other agencies to find out if there problems with on-board treatment systems.
And he said companies are researching and testing new technology to lessen water and air emissions.
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