Juneau Preps for Record-Breaking Cruise Season

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Juneau, Alaska, is gearing up for what’s expected to be the biggest cruise season in the city’s history. After the pandemic brought tourism to a halt last year, the city is expecting a massive wave of visitors this summer.

However, with the growing size of ships and deployments comes Juneau’s tourism industry being faced with handling crowds.

majestic princess alaska juneau
A Princess ship in Juneau (Photo courtesy of Princess Cruises)

The Pandemic and Juneau, Alaska

The pandemic had a significant impact on Juneau’s tourism industry in 2021, with only 10 percent of normal visitors arriving in the city, totaling 100,000. This was a huge blow to the city’s economy, as the cruise tourism industry is a major source of income for many business owners and residents in town.

In 2022, 1.15 million cruise passengers came ashore in Juneau, Alaska, and 1.5 million are slated to arrive this season, which runs from April through early October.

In the last full Alaska cruise season prior to the pandemic, Juneau saw 1.3 million passengers.

Handling the Crowds

One of the reasons for the massive uptick in tourism numbers is the cruise lines choosing to keep their vessels in North American homeports.

As an example, Royal Caribbean has Quantum of the Seas returning the region his year, which has a maximum guest capacity of just over 4,900 passengers, not to mention 1,500 crew members. Before the pandemic, Quantum was sailing in Asia.

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Quantum of the Seas (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean)

Quantum is just one ship belonging to the Royal Caribbean Group, which has ships sailing from both Seattle and Vancouver. Carnival Corporation, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, Disney Cruise Line, and a handful of smaller operators do as well.

While Juneau’s tourism industry is excited about the growth, the city is faced with the challenge of handling crowds. The city’s popular attractions are already maxing out.

Developing more shore excursions is one way the city is trying to alleviate potential overcrowding. New excursions can help to spread visitors out across the city and alleviate overcrowding at popular close-to-ship attractions like Mendenhall Glacier and the Mount Roberts Tramway.

mendenhall glacier

The Five Ship Limit

How many visitors are too many? It depends on who you ask. Some residents believe that there are already too many visitors, while the city sees this record-breaking year as a test run to determine how many visitors it can handle.

The city’s tourism task force recommended a daily limit of five ships, which most residents support. The city finalized this limit as the first cruise was docking. While the agreement is not enforceable, it sends a message to the industry that the city is taking the issue seriously. The city surveyed its residents in 2022, and 75 percent were in support.

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Juneau, Alaska (Photo courtesy of Celebrity Cruises)

Final Thoughts

Developing more shore excursions and implementing a daily limit of ships are just two of the solutions the city is considering to alleviate potential overcrowding.

While some residents believe that there are already too many visitors, most people in Juneau agree that implementing some sort of limit is necessary to ensure that visitors have a good experience while visiting the city.

As for now, local businesses like the Red Dog Saloon and Tracy’s King Crab Shack will enjoy six months of the cash register ringing.

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