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Cruising Anchorage

‘A cloud with a silver lining’


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In mid-April, I attended an Anchorage Chamber of Commerce luncheon to hear about Holland America Line coming to Anchorage as a port of call for the 2010-2011 tourism season. I was excited at the news, as it’s been a long time since Anchorage has seen a major cruise ship at its docks.

I thought this would be big news for Anchorage and big news to the economy.

I was partly right.

SUNSHINE AND RAIN

“It’s a cloud with a silver lining,” explained Rod Pfleiger, community relations for the Alaska Cruise Association. “This ship previously did a turn port in Seward with 1,400 passengers who got off and were headed to Denali, Anchorage, the Kenai Peninsula or the Mat-Su Valley. They overnighted it, and at the same time another 1,400 passengers started their cruise.”

That meant money to B&Bs, hotels and bed tax income into the city’s coffers to help pay for such things as our convention centers.

“It will help in the long run, but in the short-run it will have a negative impact on the economy,” Pfleiger added.

NEW LAST MONTH

Holland America Line came to Anchorage first on May 24 as part of a 14-day cruise departing from and returning to Seattle. It will continue Anchorage dockings on Mondays through the summer into September on a regular basis: June 7, June 21, July 5, July 19, Aug. 2, Aug. 16, Aug. 30 and Sept. 13. 

Other ports of call include Ketchikan, Skagway, Sitka, Homer, Kodiak, Juneau and Victoria, British Columbia. Each docking of the Amsterdam will bring 1,380 cruise passengers from all over the world to the ship’s lengthiest Alaska port stop, the Port of Anchorage and downtown areas where passengers can leave the ship at 7 a.m. and return at 11 p.m. They will be able to take shuttles or taxis from the port to explore Anchorage.

There will also be a crew of 615, who can depart the ship to load up on supplies, visit retail stores, Internet cafes and other places. “It will have an economic impact,” said Pfleiger.

That means dollars for downtown cafes and restaurants, for gift shops and malls, for adventure companies, other local attractions and much more, stated Jack Bonney, public relations manager of the Anchorage Convention and Visitors Bureau, in an e-mail.

Passengers will visit our museums, take the downtown trolley, and attend Music in the Park, which is extended to Mondays just for the cruise passengers, Bonney added.

They will bring with them spending money, which already, statewide, inflects about $1 billion into the economy, based on 2008 and 2009 figures. 2010 expectations are $878,000, or about $950 per person. This could be higher due to the longer cruise (14 days instead of seven), Bonney stated.

The ACVB will be ambassadors to this port of call, making sure passengers are welcomed, helping to coordinate between Holland America Line, the port and Anchorage as a whole, and seeing that travel throughout Anchorage goes smoothly.

LEGISLATURE DESERVES APPLAUSE

On a side note, kudos go to the State Legislature, which on April 18, voted to lower State head tax from $46 a passenger to $34.50. It may give incentives for those who left Alaska because of the head tax, such as Norwegian Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean Cruises, reason to return. It also settles a State lawsuit filed by the Alaska Cruise Association over the tax that voters approved in 2006 to help fund infrastructure projects.

“The recent Senate Bill 312 really sends a positive message to the cruise industry,” said Pfleiger. “Alaska made adjustments downward of cost of doing business here in Alaska to be competitive in the world market.”

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