Nearly 100,000 cruise passengers expected to visit Skagway this summer

Cruise ships and passengers at Skagway’s railroad dock on May 23, 2016. (Photo by Emily Files/KHNS)
Cruise ships and passengers at Skagway’s railroad dock on May 23, 2016. (Photo by Emily Files/KHNS)

A half-dozen large cruise ships are projected to visit Skagway later this summer. But they’ll be running at reduced capacity, and realistic figures for how many passengers they’ll bring on their visits are hard to come by. This week, city officials estimated nearly 100,000 passengers are likely to visit.

Skagway businesses have been scrambling over the last few weeks to respond to the news that there will most likely be a shortened cruise ship season this summer. Some have chosen to ramp up staffing and ordering, while others have chosen to stay shuttered based on the low volume of visitors and the uncertainty of the schedules.

Disney Cruise Lines announced Tuesday that they won’t be visiting Skagway this summer, after publicly announcing that they would be sailing their regular schedule. Additionally, cruise line agencies don’t publish passenger counts for individual vessels. So to try and make a realistic passenger count available for residents to plan around, Skagway Mayor Andrew Cremata released a comprehensive tally based on his own research.

“I was able to contact representatives from Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Celebrity, Carnival and Princess. These are the boats that are coming and get the kind of — when they start, when they end and how many people, more importantly, they’re expecting on cruises,” said Cremata.

Based on the mayor’s math, the projected total number of passengers that will visit this summer is less than a tenth of Skagway’s typical cruise passenger volume.

It’s good to have a realistic perspective about what’s coming our way, especially if you’re a business owner who has to make really hard decisions about when you’re going to open, how you’re going to staff etc.,” said Cremata.

Tuesdays look like the biggest days, with two ships calling for most of August. Skagway could see about 5,400 passengers a day for those dates. But in late July and September, the numbers look to top out in the low three-thousands.

Mondays and Wednesdays will see passenger counts roughly in the 2,500 range, though Wednesdays will start slower in late July and pick up in August.

Fridays will see somewhere near 1,500 passengers calling.

And the American Constellation ships will be visiting all day and overnight on Sundays, from mid-July through August with under a hundred passengers.

But then there’s the lawsuit filed by the State of Florida and recently joined by the State of Texas. Cremata says those states are trying to remove any cruise-related restrictions set forth by the CDC, such as mask regulations. It could invalidate Congress’s workaround of a law that normally requires Alaska-bound foreign-flagged ships to stop in Canada.

If that happens, all but the smaller U.S.-flagged American Constellation would be barred from visiting Alaska ports.

These numbers are projections based on research done by Skagway Borough officials and as such are subject to change. The official calendar is available on the Skagway Borough website and is published by Cruise Line Agencies of Alaska. The mayor’s projections can be found on the Mayor Andrew Cremata Facebook page.

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