As the cruise industry gets back on track after two years of zero to limited sailing, only one cruise port call is scheduled for Anchorage this year, in September.
Holland America downsized its fleet shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic began two years ago. And it has reduced the number of ships that once brought about 1,500 visitors to Anchorage at a time on a two-week tour focused on Alaska.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the industry, cruise ships made about a dozen calls in Anchorage each summer. They would dock at the Port of Alaska, delivering tour groups ready to visit gift shops and restaurants.
Tour operators and others say the change will have a small impact on Anchorage’s economy. They expect any loss to be offset by other changes in what some believe will be a banner year for Alaska tourism.
Large numbers of cruise passengers are expected to disembark in Seward and Whittier this season — the first cruise stops in south-central Alaska in two years — and head to Anchorage. Additionally, the companies say they see promising signs of another strong year for independent travelers — travelers not tied to a cruise-supported itinerary — which boosted results last year.
Small shops and restaurants in Anchorage will see some effects from reduced ship calls in Anchorage, said Josh Howes, president of Premier Alaska Tours, which transports Holland America cruise passengers.
But the ships only stopped in Anchorage for a day, limiting the economic impact of guests, he said.
“I would say the biggest impact for ships not coming to downtown Anchorage will probably be on vendors because people would be taking shuttles downtown and going to restaurants and gift shops and would get back on the shuttles and go,” said Howes, a board member. member of the Alaska Travel Industry Association.
Ships have also stopped in other towns along the Alaskan coast, so the reduced schedule will also be felt a bit in other communities such as Homer, Howes said. But the expected flood of visitors to south-central Alaska should make up for the losses, he said.
“Anytime we can have income diversification that’s a good thing, so when they come back it’ll be great to get them back,” Howes said.
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Jim Jager, a Port of Alaska spokesman, said while most ships visiting the port were Holland America ships on repeat voyages, a few other ships also made occasional stops in Anchorage, such as the Queen Elizabeth. 1000 feet. .
Those ships are not expected to return to Anchorage this year, Jager said.
Erik Elvejord, a spokesman for Holland America, said the reduction in visits to Anchorage was due to the cruise line selling four ships by mid-2020. The company now operates 11 vessels.
With the fleet reduced, Holland America is focused on delivering its base model week-long cruises, he said.
But there is still demand for two-week cruises in Alaska and elsewhere, he said.
Holland America has two planned visits to Anchorage in 2023, one in May and the other in September. So there are already signs of growth, he said.
He said Anchorage was very welcoming, with community groups and schools visiting the ships.
If demand for longer trips to Alaska continues to grow, the company will send more ships to Anchorage, he said.
“It was a wonderful call,” he said.