The first thing cruise ship passengers see when they disembark in Juneau is a row of little covered booths. They’re made of wood and trimmed with corrugated metal and inside you’ll often find an attractive young person enticing you to book a tour.
Their official title is “dock sales representatives,” but we call them “hawkers” because they frequently yell out as they fight for attention and business from tourists as they get off their ships and plan their day of sightseeing in Juneau.
Sam is here from Utah for the season. It’s her second summer in Juneau. She’s selling glacier tours, whale watching trips, float plane rides and scenic helicopter tours.
In the off season, she works in tourism in Baja California, Mexico. She basically follows the whales.
“I see the exact same ones down there as up here,” she says. “We leave at the same time.”
Sam is one of the thousands of seasonal workers who come to Juneau to work in tourism. A lot of them are college students or college-aged, at least. They can make Juneau feel a lot like a summer camp.
The booth next door is occupied by Natalie from Dallas. She says there’s plenty of competition between sales reps in the booths, but they hang out after hours.
“We all go for drinks together very often,” she says. “We get to go on all the tours. We can go whale watching like, everyday if we wanted to.”
Juneauites are a lot like whales. Some are year-round residents — enduring or even thriving during the cold and wet offseason. But some migrate in for the summer — making a splash when they arrive and then leaving again, chasing prey or love or something else equally magnetic.
On this episode of Cruise Town, we meet some of the people who live here.