Friday marked the last day of a very-busy 2023 cruise season in Alaska

Norwegian Sun and Norwegian Encore at Ward Cove in Ketchikan. Photo credit: Alaska State Troopers

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.


  1. You better check your source. Juneau predicted twice that many at the start of the season. I believe we ended up around 1.6. Ketchikan and the others probably had proportionate disparities.

  2. I really hope Alaska is getting their proverbial “ fair share” from the cruise industry ( stab at senator B.W. I’m sure a few thousand barrels of diesel fuel were spewed into the air of the land that has always been……… if I remember correctly, for some reason that escapes m. I believe it’s the cruise ship industry lobbyist that keeps Alaska from doing away with the mess called “ daylight saving time “
    All the “LED light therapy” for our winter darkness can’t compare to the wellness achieved just by leaving our clocks where they are currently on

  3. “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”. That’s not very neighborly. The Trick is to keep them from moving here, which will become increasingly more difficult.

  4. Coming out of Covid, when Juneau was in economic shock, one of our local Karen’s got it up for a vote to essentially cut our cruise visitors by about 2/3s.

    I guess she prefers a boarded up downtown with homeless in every doorway to people spending money in shops.

    The initiative got beaten like a rented mule. Without the cruise industry SE will be a sea level rust belt.

      • Not in a meaningful way. Why waste their sweet, sweet per diem?

        The bars and restaurants do ok. The rest of the community? Not really. Never seen one at Breeze Inn buying donuts or getting a sandwich at Freddy.

  5. Everybody will need to think about the Whittier tunnel and the new cruise dock that will hold 2 ships. I have talked with some of the Whittier locals and nobody knows how they are going to move thousands of people through the tunnel. Then the DOT commissioner has said that he doesn’t care about the slow traffic and people trying to pass all the trucks and buses that get to go through the tunnel first. That is increasing the risk of major crashes on the Seward highway.

    • What a great way to wash out thousands of people. If there were a landslide in the PWS’s Barry Arm or College Fjord, would it could cause a tsunami that could hit Whittier and other places in the PWS (there was a report on this several years back)? So, stack up those people in Whittier.

      • Ginny the landslide won’t be as big as you want. The water depth at the site is not deep and then there is a maurine the wave would have to go over. The real issue is the safety of the Seward highway and the increase of slow moving busses.

        • I would not want a landslide. I was being sarcastic. The reports started out at 30+ feet high waves and were adjusted to about 8 foot waves in 2022 I believe. Look up Barry Arm landslide (again). I have learned that if the evil warns about something, it usually is going to happen. Seeing that the state is now planning to allow more cruise ships into Whittier really makes me wonder if this “landslide” is going to happen soon than later. With only one road to Whittier and a bunch of tour buses and vehicles, how are people going to be able to get out of Whittier in a timely fashion. Get a few targeted earthquakes happening around the area to get some slipping and sliding starting; maybe this is going to be a mass murder event like what happened in Lahaina, but with water this time instead of directed energy weapons?

    • Nothing against Whittier, I worked there for a time when I was younger. Liked its quirkiness.

      Still, they have no business hosting cruise ships outside the ones that feed the train to Denali. It’s too small with little to nothing to offer tourists. And limited ways out to Portage or the Wildlife Refuge.

  6. “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.” Tourism is big up in the Interior too. They like to brag about the huge positive economic impact. Jobs, jobs, jobs! The tourists are coming from out of state, even out of the country with the majority of their spending going into the coffers of mostly out of state corporations who hire a big percentage of their summer staff from out of state also. When I worked for a concessionaire in McKinley Park I was one of the few Alaskans. So how much of those billions actually stays in the state and how much leave in corporate or worker pockets? When I drive around Ketchikan in the off season all the tourist traps are shut down and the town, in general, doesn’t look like it’s getting rich off cruises. Speaking as someone who isn’t involved with servicing tourists I get absolutely zero benefit from these hundreds of thousands of outsiders who flood up here every summer. I’d be happier to never see another ugly cruise ship go past my beach ever again.

  7. Having been a Motorcoach driver for the first time this season-I didn’t think Whittier was crowded with one ship on either of the two weekend days or every other Wednesday, except maybe 4th of July. Coaches are not hogging the roads-they are very conscientious of regular motorists. And the tunnel crew/security folks are a well-oiled machine. Just don’t be like the 8 or 9 cars that jumped to the head of the line one weekend and got a ticket for your brain not working correctly!

    • NLSL, motorcoach drivers may be conscientious of regular motorists on the Seward Highway, but I still shudder to recall an insanely dangerous encounter I had last July on the Glenn Highway with an Anchorage-based New World Tours bus driver.

      While driving towards Anchorage on the Glenn Highway between Lake Louise and Eureka, in very light traffic, I saw a HUGE bus (I thought it was a large semi from a distance) coming up rapidly behind me, driving at least 80 mph, and probably faster than that. The bus proceeded to approach my vehicle recklessly close, then rode my ass no further than 20 feet behind me for a number of miles, until it pulled off at the Matanuska Glacier Overlook State Rec. Area. I circled back, drove into the rec. area, and got the license plate # of the bus, and reported it to the head office of New World Tours in Anchorage — the owner of which did not seem particularly concerned.

      Any driver of a bus filled with passengers, as that one was (all Koreans, in this case), who drives so recklessly as to put himself, his passengers, and other drivers in severe jeopardy, deserves to not only lose his driver’s license for life, but to be put in jail for attempted homicide.

  8. Love them or hate them, the cruise ships have converted Southeast Alaska to a Disneyland. Many of us remember SEAK before they came, and it was better in many ways. As usual, mankind loves all of the good places on Earth to death.

  9. The reason so many people come up to SEAK and other parts of Alaska is that it is one of the last least unspoiled places on Earth. It reminds a lot of people who grew up in small towns what it used to be like for them, and they miss it. The lower 48 gets more covered in concrete every day. And I won’t go into the taxes and the way the states are run down there. For people stuck in the lower 48 the two weeks or so they spend up where there is natural beauty with only two cities (Anchorage and Fairbanks) encroaching is the only way they can cope with the lower 48 mess.

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