Sitka, Alaska is expecting a big cruising season next year. Like, really big.
Why the Growth?
With Holland America putting larger ships on the southeast Alaska run, and other lines adding Sitka stops, the town is expecting a 20 percent increase in visitors.
Chris McGraw, manager of the Old Sitka dock, said he heard that Amsterdam would be replaced on some runs by the larger Oosterdam. “It’s a good thing for Sitka, and it’s a large ship – 2,000 passengers.” he said.
The news is good for not only Chris’ company, but other businesses as well. Shops, tour companies, and transportation services will also see better business from cruise passengers during Alaska’s season next year.
Most of the large ships that come to the small town are operated by Holland America, and tie up at the Old Sitka dock unless there’s another ship there. Celebrity Cruises will also be stopping in Sitka – a total of six times, up from two. Seabourn is also adding the town as a stop during their voyages.
The final numbers are still coming in, but it’s estimated that 125,000 to 130,000 visitors came to Sitka this year. The increase next year will set the number at around 150,000 guests.
McGraw said he doesn’t know why Sitka is growing in popularity, with a 70 percent increase since 2014. But whatever it is, he’s happy to see the increase. He noted that cruise guests are rating Sitka well as a cruise destination; Cruise Critic ranked the town as the #2 destination in Alaska, after Glacier Bay. Even with the increase in ships though, there shouldn’t be more than one large cruise ship each day for the majority of the season.
Sherry Aitken, director of tourism for Visit Sitka-Chamber of Commerce, said that they’re “thrilled with any increase in visitors…we know how important having a varied economy can be to a town of our size, and we’re happy Sitka is top of mind for cruise companies.”
Information via the Daily Sitka Sentinel and Juneau Empire.