The small cruise ship season has started in Juneau and the visitor industry is gearing up for it — though it’s not clear how many people are coming.
Dan Blanchard runs a small-ship cruise company called UnCruise. He told members of the Juneau Assembly on Monday that their Alaska season started sooner than they’d expected after Washington state’s COVID-19 protocols interfered with the company’s planned trips.
“You may have heard that we got shut down in Washington State … shut us down and shut every other company down on the Columbia River. A tremendous economic challenge to all of us,” Blanchard said.
Blanchard said the company pivoted and moved its boat — and the guests booked on those sailings — to Juneau.
That boat will be joined by five other UnCruise boats soon. Blanchard said they’ll have six boats operating out of Juneau, each carrying less than 100 passengers. He estimates they’ll bring between 5,000 and 6,000 people to town this year. And all of those people must be vaccinated, according to a company policy.
“When we switched, pivoted to fully vaccinated cruise and passengers the phones went off the hook. So I think that’s just good things to keep in mind when we think about vaccinated businesses,” he said.
There are three other small ship operators planning stops in Juneau this summer. Including the UnCruise boats, there will be more than a dozen vessels making port calls.