Cruise company still giving despite head tax

Posted: Thursday, October 05, 2000

JUNEAU (AP) -- Cruise ship companies are donating about $1 million to Southeast Alaska charities this year, industry officials said.

Even Holland America Line Westours, which threatened to drop its charitable donations last year after Juneau voters imposed a head tax on cruise ship passengers, said it is contributing about $57,000 to Juneau organizations during the company's current fiscal year.

Overall, the nine member lines of the North West CruiseShip Association are giving $2.1 million in cash or in-kind contributions to Alaska charities his year, said John Hansen, president of the Vancouver, British Columbia, group.

''That's what you do if you belong to a community,'' Hansen said. The association didn't keep track of charitable contributions in the past, so a year-to-year comparison isn't possible, Hansen said. He also wouldn't release amounts for individual companies.

Lynn Martenstein, vice president of corporate communications for Royal Caribbean International, the parent company of Royal Caribbean Cruise Line and Celebrity Cruises, said its contributions in Alaska have more than tripled in the past two years to $583,000 this year.

Royal Caribbean paid $18 million in fines last year to settle 21 felony counts for dumping toxic chemicals and oil bilge water in Southeast Alaska and other U.S. ports in the mid-1990s.

''It is an important market for us,'' Martenstein said.

Juneau beneficiaries include the Southeast Alaska Land Trust, the school district's summer daycare program and the Sealaska Heritage Foundation.

Holland America makes direct corporate contributions and also has a community advisory board that selects some grantees. Beneficiaries this year include Aiding Women in Abuse and Rape Emergencies, Parents for a Safe Graduation and Juneau Jazz and Classics.

Al Parrish, the Anchorage-based vice president of the company, said there was a misunderstanding about comments he made following the head tax vote last year.

A letter sent from the company to applicants for grants read: ''The board regrets to inform you that they have decided to decline all requests for funding in the near future. Community sentiment regarding tourism-related issues has compelled Holland America to redefine its position in Juneau and evaluate the benefits of continued philanthropic activity.''

Editorials criticizing the company appeared in the Juneau Empire and the Anchorage Daily News after stories were published about the letter.

Now Parrish contends ''It was never, ever the intent that we were going to stop giving.''

Parrish said the company continued charitable contributions at almost the identical level of support it had maintained for the past few years, although he said some sponsorships were dropped.

''It's not an entitlement program, where if you get it one year, you get it the next one,'' Parrish said.

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