August 29, 2013 | Volume 43, Number 34

Last cruise opts for Skagway

The Sept. 18 docking of the Statendam, the last cruise ship scheduled to stop in Haines this season, will be heading to Skagway instead due to construction on the Port Chilkoot Dock.

Tourism director Tanya Carlson said Holland America representatives recently told the borough they will likely head to Skagway instead of docking in Haines Sept. 18.

Initially the company had planned to anchor the ship offshore and lighter passengers into port via smaller boats called tenders, but representatives decided inclement weather could make the process difficult and unpleasant.

“People would get seasick. They don’t want to do the tenders,” Carlson said.

Construction at the Port Chilkoot Dock was originally scheduled for Aug. 16, meaning five ships would have had to anchor offshore and lighter in. Contractor Pacific Pile and Marine, though, postponed the start date to mid-September.

Demolition of the dock will be under way during the Sept. 11 docking of the Zaandam, but won’t be widespread enough to prevent the cruise ship from tying up as usual.

“They’re going to be taking out some handrails, but it’s not in an area that will affect the passengers. We just need to barricade it off,” Carlson said.

Public facilities director Carlos Jimenez said the construction also will disable power on the dock for the Zaandam, so the borough will have to install temporary lights.

Jimenez said local tour operators asked the borough to postpone construction until the end of the cruise ship season, but Jimenez said doing so would only further cut into the beginning of the 2014 season. The substantial completion date for the project is June 2, so dockings will still be affected, he said.

Holland America is still planning to anchor in the harbor and lighter in at the beginning of the 2014 season, Jimenez said.

“There’s always the chance that they’ll pull out like they’re doing now, but we can’t change that contract schedule,” he said.

Chilkat Guides owner Bart Henderson said the cancelled Sept. 18 docking will obviously hurt business, but he understands why the company made the decision to go to Skagway instead.

“It was a bit of a surprise to everybody, but I can understand why. It’s very awkward and difficult to tender people from the ship to the shore. It’s dangerous... They took the sure bet; you can’t blame them for that. But it definitely hurt our business and will hurt business in Haines,” Henderson said.

The last docking of the season is usually the least profitable, which is a consolation, Henderson said.