This year, cruise ship passengers to Juneau, Alaska, outnumbered local residents 35 to 1. Cruise Town is a podcast from KTOO News. It’s about how Juneau became a Cruise Town, what it’s like to live in a Cruise Town and what the city’s future holds in light of the industry’s explosive growth.
'Cruise ships are back, baby!'
There were two giant hurdles preventing cruise ships from coming back to Alaska in April when they usually start showing up. For one, the Canadian border is still closed. Also, the CDC banned cruises last year. And even though it lifted that ban, it was replaced with a Conditional Sailing Order that came with a long list of hoops that cruise companies and ports have to jump through before ships can operate in the U.S. again. For more than six months, Alaska’ cruise towns have been staying hopeful but also realistic about the fact that getting around Canada and the CDC seemed pretty much impossible. We're back with a new season of Cruise Town because -- spoiler alert -- large cruise ships are coming back to Alaska in July.
The season that wasn't
This summer was slated to be Juneau’s biggest ever for cruise ship visitors. Instead, 1.4 million cruise ship passengers and hundreds of millions of dollars never arrived in port. In May, we couldn’t imagine what an entire year of off-season would be like. It ended up feeling like summer never came. But, how bad was it? Will the industry bounce back? Will Juneau bounce back? We discuss the cruise season that wasn’t and what Cruise Towns might expect for next year.
Since this spring, we’ve been following along as the biggest cruise season in Juneau’s history got canceled. In August, Juneau did see some cruise visitors after all. But it was a far cry from the 1.4 million visitors we were expecting -- it was 36 to be exact.
The first and only cruise ship to sail in Southeast Alaska during the pandemic left Juneau on Aug. 1st and returned to Juneau just four days later, after a passenger on the ship received a call that he had tested positive for COVID-19.
What's in a plan?
For the past several months, it’s been a lot of “will they or won’t they” with regard to the cruise industry coming to Alaska this year. And now that it’s clear that they won’t, cruise towns in southeast Alaska are thinking about next year. The hope is that by the time April rolls around, the pandemic will be on its way out or cruise ship companies will at least have figured out how to operate safely despite it.
They're Not Coming
A lot about Juneau’s future is up in the air still, but one thing is certain now: more than a million cruise ship passengers will not be coming to town this summer. Local businesses are already struggling to get by without tourists. By next year, Juneau could look like a very different place. It all depends on how the industry, and the world, recovers from COVID-19 and its economic fallout.
On this episode Adelyn Baxter catches us up on the last 3 months. How did we get here -- to the point where Alaska’s biggest tourism season ever just vanished?
An Alaska cruise is all about the scenery. And Juneau doesn’t disappoint. There’s a glacier in town and some of the best whale-watching in the world. But, this episode is about how Alaska can make some people squirm. Because climate change is so in-your-face here. And at some point, tourism is just going to be too much, but no one knows when exactly that’s going to happen. And some people worry that we’re not going to know that it’s happened until it’s way too late to stop it.
Great job, and thank you for continuing this story during the pandemic.
I really should have started listening before my cruise! Great insights !
Even more important now
Since the whole worldwide cruise industry was upset by Covid this year, this podcast offers an even more important perspective on what is happening in the affected ports of call. Keep it up! It is interesting and worthwhile.