The Norwegian Sun and the Norwegian Encore were the last two cruise ships of the 2023 season for Alaska, leaving Ward Cove in Ketchikan on Friday, Oct. 27 on a beautiful, crisp fall day, heading south, where the Encore has reached Victoria and the Sun has docked in Elliott Bay.
More than half of Alaska’s summer visitors arrive via a cruise ship, with direct visitor spending at around $2.2 billion annually, excluding fares for air travel and cruise travel, according to the Cruise Lines International Association of Alaska.
The spending figure increases to $3.7 billion when labor income from visitor industry jobs is factored in, bringing the total economic output to $4.5 billion for Alaska.
While many appreciate the influx of activity and jobs, some in Southeast Alaska would prefer to return to a sleepier time. In Sitka, a petition is being circulated to limit the number of cruise ships that can come to that port. The petition sponsors say 500,000 visitors is too many, and that this year broke last year’s record, which was already too much for them.
“So what this initiative is about is giving citizens relief from the high numbers we’ve had and getting things back to the normal we had back in the period of 2001 to 2009, when we had a period of high tourism that was very controversial, but was stable. It was at a level that was good for business,” Larry Edwards told KCAW. “So I think that’s a good place to start for looking at what the right size for cruise tourism is in Sitka.”
It’s the second petition to be filed — the last one was denied because it would have established a port district, something that is not allowed to be created via petition.
Juneau had the most cruise visitors, at over 1.64 million (preliminary.