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Large Cruise Ships Return to Alaska for First Time in 21 Months

Jul 9, 2021 | Featured, News, Tourism

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The first large cruise ship of the 2021 Alaska cruise season has called on Ketchikan. Royal Caribbean Cruise’s Serenade of the Seas is the first large cruise ship to sail into Alaska waters and officially end the state’s cruise drought after nearly two years.

“It’s a happy day for Alaska’s tourism industry and communities that rely on tourism in Alaska,” says Alaska Travel Industry Association President and CEO Sarah Leonard. “This short cruise season means the difference between reopening or closing for good for so many small, locally owned businesses. We are grateful to our congressional delegation, governor, and legislators for their hard work to bring cruise ships back to the state this year. We are really proud that we could fight alongside them on behalf of our members and all of the statewide tourism businesses and support them in this recovery period.”

In 2019, more than 52,000 Alaskans depended on tourism for their income and 1 in 10 jobs was attributed to Alaska tourism. The industry was responsible for injecting $4.5 billion in economic activity in the state.

Typically, cruise lines bring more than half of Alaska’s annual visitors, and the visitor industry was on track to becoming Southeast Alaska’s largest economic sector in 2020, with an estimated 1.44 million visitors traveling by cruise and spending nearly $800 million in the region, according to Southeast by the Numbers 2019, an economic survey of the region prepared by Rain Coast Data.

Current Issue

Alaska Business December 2021 Cover

December 2021

This year, nine large cruise ships will be operating seventy-eight sailings at reduced capacity with a gradual ramp up through October, according to CLIA Alaska. Carnival Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean Cruises, and Silversea Cruises are all sailing this summer, in addition to the small cruise ship companies.

“We’re seeing an increase in independent travelers already this summer and that’s excellent news for a lot of businesses, however, we know large cruise ship travelers are also an important part to our tourism recovery,” says Leonard.

Alaska Business Magazine December 2021 cover

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"I think there’s been a change in culture, and I think Alaska has been a little bit more progressive in promoting women,” says Ella Goss, CEO of Providence Alaska Medical Center (PAMC). Goss started working at Anchorage’s largest hospital in 1997 as an ER nurse and rose through the ranks of management. Providence has intentionally promoted female leaders from within, she says, developing their potential because the talent pool in Alaska is so small due to the state’s population.

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