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Large Cruise Ships Officially Welcomed Back Into Southeast Alaska

Tourism is finally getting some long-awaited relief since the global pandemic began almost two years ago. Not only is it a leading contributor to Alaska’s economy, but according to Cruising.org, 60% of mainland visitors to Alaska are cruise passengers. Alaskan business owners that have always relied on tourists are rejoicing with the reopening of the cruise industry.

The good news is the economic devastation the suspension of large cruise ships has caused to Alaskan business owners is coming to an end. On July 9, 2021, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), along with the city of Ketchikan, welcomed the first large cruise ship, Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas, back into Alaskan waters.

Insidertravelreport.com cited in 2019; tourism generated more than $4.5 billion for Alaska’s economy and 52,000 jobs for locals, the highest percentage for any state in the country. “Proud, resourceful Alaskan communities, which have endured almost two seasons without cruising, will once again welcome cruise visitors to this magnificent destination, and I’m sure Alaskan business owners look forward to reigniting the tourism economy and providing for their families,” announced Russell Benford, Vice President of Government Relations Americas, Royal Caribbean Group.

So far, nine cruise ships are scheduled to make seventy-eight sailings by October 2021. While this is still a small number compared to pre-pandemic seasons, the industry isn’t taking any of this lightly. In strict accordance with the CDC, all cruise lines are taking extraordinary measures to ensure the safety of passengers, some even requiring proof of vaccination. COVID-19 testing, mask-wearing indoors, and advanced cleaning protocols are in place. Federal, state, and local governments are working together with the promise of bringing tourists back to Alaska with much-anticipated determination.

Roberto Martinoli, President and CEO of Silversea Cruises, told Forbes.com, “We have very strong bookings for 2022 and for 2023 as there is a lot of consumer confidence for cruising next year. We are now seeing better than normal booking trends because people have a great desire to go back to their cruising experiences.” Silversea is one of eight large-ship cruise lines that are sailing through late summer and early fall, with more dates coming to meet increased demand.

Ketchikan is not the only Alaskan port receiving large ships. Both Sitka and Juneau, the state’s biggest cruise port, also have cruise ships arriving. The Anchorage Daily News reported they’l be expecting 170,000 to 175,000 cruise passengers to visit Alaska during this abbreviated season, with ships operating at limited capacity.

Needless to say, the state of Alaska is filled with optimism and hope for the future. Not only are they eager to share their majestic landscape with people all over the world again, but the small businesses that once thrived will be successful again. “The cruise ships are back, and we look forward to many more to come. This is the boost Alaska needs for our economy and businesses.” Said Alaska Lieutenant Governor Kevin Meyer.