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Join Date: Aug 2008
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Cruise ship makes first of nine Anchorage calls
By ELIZABETH BLUEMINK
Published: May 24th, 2010 10:27 PM
Last Modified: May 24th, 2010 10:28 PM
The first cruise ship in a quarter century to make regular port calls in Anchorage made its inaugural visit on Monday.
Read more: http://www.adn.com/2010/05/24/129246...#ixzz1Z3rxYhfj
The Holland America Amsterdam docked at the Port of Anchorage at roughly 6 a.m., disgorging nearly 1,400 passengers who spent the day touring the city or day tripping as far away as Talkeetna and Whittier.
The Amsterdam will visit the city nine times this summer and that makes it a bright spot for local tourism businesses in a year when the number of cruise-ship passengers expected to spend time in the city has plummeted.
At its peak a few years ago, the cruise industry brought 1 million passengers to Alaska each year. This year, the ships are expected to bring 860,000 passengers as cruise companies have deployed ships to other parts of the world.
The reduced sailings this year prompted Gov. Sean Parnell and the Alaska Legislature to reduce the state's $46 passenger tax enacted by voters in 2006.
At a reception Monday morning, local tourism industry boosters and city leaders praised Holland America Line for sending the Amsterdam to Anchorage.
SOUVENIRS AND DAY TRIPS
On Monday morning, the Amsterdam's mostly gray-haired passengers lined up at the port's massive dock to wait for shuttle buses and cabs or to get on a train. The ship will dock for 16 hours before heading south, giving its guests enough time to take flightseeing trips to Mount McKinley or a day cruise in Prince William Sound.
Nearly 500 passengers on the Amsterdam pre-booked a major excursion, Saupe said.
Among those who decided to stay the day in town were Carolyn and Jim Bob Gibbs of Macon, Ga. They spent Monday morning strolling through the downtown Anchorage area, picking up trinkets and T-shirts at gift shops. The two said they had no major plans for the day and they didn't book any tours outside the city because the trips seemed "pretty expensive."
The ship was scheduled to leave the port at 11 p.m.
KEEPING VISITORS BUSY
Two other Alaska cities -- Kodiak and Homer -- are also getting a new influx of cruise passengers this year due to the Amsterdam's new itinerary. The ship leaves from Seattle on a two-week trip with stops at Ketchikan, Sitka, Skagway, Glacier Bay, Anchorage, Homer, Kodiak, Hubbard Glacier, Juneau and Victoria, British Columbia. Passenger tickets range from $1,399 to $6,279.
Before launching the new itinerary this year, Holland America Line said, it had not been able to offer day trips to Mount McKinley.
Business owners from Anchorage to Talkeetna hope to cash in on the Amsterdam sailings.
Anchorage art gallery owner Katie Sevigny teamed up with Anchorage Trolley Tours to enable the ship's passengers to pre-book a trolley tour of Anchorage followed by a watercolor painting session with Sevigny at her studio.
The tourists who participate in the art tour can print out their own photos or use ones already at the studio to paint watercolor scenes of town. "It's a way to capture your trip," Sevigny said.
At least three tourism companies with ties to Talkeetna teamed up with the ship for pre-booked tours -- K2 Aviation, CIRI Alaska Tourism and Mahay's Riverboat Services.
The ship's passengers can either book a river boat tour or a Mount McKinley flightseeing trip in Talkeetna, with lunch at CIRI's Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge.
Suzanne Rust, a co-owner of K2, said that the flightseeing company is seeing bookings on par with 2008 despite the overall reduction in cruise passengers this year. Bookings were down for her company and many other tour operators last year because the severe national recession kept many people from shelling out for expensive side trips, tourism experts say.
A NEW MARKET?
The new ship will not make up for the loss in Alaska sailings that is hurting many tour operators this year. But the Amsterdam seems to be breaking open a new market for the cruise industry and local businesses, said DeeDee Kay, sales manager for CIRI Alaska Tourism. Her company runs several lodges in Southcentral and offers day cruises in Prince William Sound and Kenai Fjords National Park.
"A lot of guests have sailed to Alaska in the past, but since (the Amsterdam) offers Homer and Kodiak, it's very intriguing to them," Kay said.
"This allows them to experience a little more of Alaska," she said.
That seemed to ring true for Amsterdam passengers Rita Clark and her mother, Sarah Erickson, who are both repeat cruise passengers to Alaska.
Clark said she had already sailed four times on seven-day trips to Alaska but had never been to Anchorage. They decided to book the trip on the Amsterdam to see some new places.
"My mom wanted me to see Skagway," Clark said.
Disclaimer: I am not sexist, racist, or prejudiced in any way or form. I hate everyone equally.