For the people who live in Juneau, there’s a lot to love. It’s a small cosmopolitan capital city with a backdrop of almost-cliche scenery. We see whales and orca from our front porches and mountain goats and glaciers out the back. There are salmon swimming through town — bringing the bears with them.
But sometime in the 1980s, Juneau decided to become a Cruise Town — a destination that would open its port and its heart to what was then a hundred thousand people a year and is now… well over a million.
This year, cruise ship passengers outnumbered local residents 35 to 1.
Juneau was the first place in the world to let cruise ships turn off their diesel engines in port and plug into our municipal power supply — and use renewable hydropower. It was also one of the first places in the world to charge a per person tax on cruise ship visitors.
Juneau’s trying to get out ahead of this wave of tourists, but the fact of the matter is the community is dwarfed by the cruise industry. We can have up to six giant ships a day — each with thousands of passengers and crew. They’re taller than almost every single building in town and bring crowds of people that almost double the city’s population for the day.
The KTOO news team is excited to bring you Cruise Town, a podcast about how Juneau became a Cruise Town, what it’s like to live here and what the city’s future holds in light of the industry’s explosive growth.