Holland America’s 781-foot Zaandam will pull into the Port Chilkoot Dock May 22, the first large cruise ship docking of the summer season.
The Zaandam, which can carry 2,087 passengers and crew, is scheduled to make nine visits to Haines between May and September. Holland America’s 719-foot Statendam will also make nine dockings, bearing a projected 16,613 people over the entire season.
Tourism director Tanya Carlson said 40 dockings are projected for the coming season, five more than Carlson projected last year. In 2012, dockings included 22 by large ships and 11 by small vessels.
About 44,800 people are anticipated to come to Haines via cruise ship this year.
Alaskan Dream Cruises is upping their dockings from three to eight, and American Spirit is also increasing from 10 to 11.
Princess Cruise Lines, which brings the biggest ships, is dropping dockings from three to two this year, Carlson said.
Un-Cruise Adventures will make an appearance in Haines for the first time with two dockings of the 192-foot Safari Legacy. Championing its trips as “unique” and “an alternative to your typical cruise,” Un-Cruise Adventures’ arrival in Haines is likely attributable to the “Backroads Alaska” initiative, a partnership between Haines and Sitka to promote the benefits of docking in ports less traveled.
“We can only take one ship at a time, so the cruise passengers get the port to themselves for the day. It’s not shoulder-to-shoulder like it is in other areas. They get a real rural Alaska town. It’s not all commercialized like some of the other ports,” Carlson said.
While cruise ships are an important component of tourism in Haines, Carlson said she spends the majority of the tourism department’s marketing dollars on attracting independent travelers through advertising, membership in various organizations, and interviews with magazines and radio stations.
As part of next year’s budget, Carlson decided to drop $1,375 in membership fees in the U.S. Travel Association and the American Bus Association and picked up a $2,000 membership in the Gay & Lesbian Convention and Visitors Bureau (GLCVB). The gay and lesbian population is largely an untapped market in Alaska; Haines would be the first city in the state to partner with the GLCVB, she said.
“It’s a sector that is really, I would say, past up-and-coming. They’re present. They have a lot of money to spend, and they actually charter entire ships that come to Alaska, usually once a year,” Carlson said.
Carlson has also been working with the tourism advisory group on several issues, including getting groomed, marked and mapped cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails. It’s hard to advertise trails and entice people to come use them without having a hard document, like a brochure with a map, to point to.
“Although we have some (trails), they’re not formalized. So it’s hard for me to send people and say, ‘Yeah, if you go to 25 Mile, there’s groomed trail there, just follow it.’ We don’t have anything mapped out. So that’s where there’s a little bit of a difficulty,” Carlson said.
Carlson has also set aside $1,950 for the Jilkaat Kwaan dancers to perform on the dock when large cruise ships pull in. (An additional $1,050 via a budget amendment for the present fiscal year is also being pursued).
“People want something different when they come to Alaska and they don’t get that anywhere else... This just gets them an up-close, personal experience with one of the cultures in Alaska,” she said.