Haines stands to lose half its cruise traffic
September 19, 2019
Holland America will not be porting at least two large vessels in Haines in 2020, borough manager Debra Schnabel said after a conversation with company spokesperson Ralph Samuels on Sept. 13. The company has not confirmed the information and did not return calls for comment.
“He explained the company’s decision as a ‘domino effect,’” Schnabel said. “Apparently, Norwegian Cruise Lines is pulling out of Skagway to port in Icy Straits. This opens dockage up in Skagway. Holland America ‘crunched the numbers’ and determined that it was more lucrative for them to port in Skagway.”
For the past decade, Holland America, owned by Carnival Corp., has consistently served the Haines community with large ships on Wednesdays. Their vessels include the Westerdam, Noordam-- both with capacities for about 1,900 passengers-- and the Maasdam, that holds 1,200 passengers.
According to interim tourism director Tammy Piper (who stressed that nothing is in writing yet), the service cuts would only apply for the Westerdam and Noordam, which each docked in Haines nine times in 2019. The Maasdam docked three times.
Local tour operators and businesses don’t know what to make of the unconfirmed news, but they agree on one thing: If the two vessels skip Haines in 2020, businesses will feel it.
According to 2019 data, 64,152 total passengers visited Haines by cruise ship this summer. Of that, about half of them were from Holland America ships. Without the two vessels, Haines stands to lose an estimated 30,580 passengers (based on full capacity), representing the fewest number of passengers in Haines since 2011.
Brewery owner Paul Wheeler said he spoke with an itinerary creator on the Wednesday Westerdam ship who said as far as they know, the vessel is coming next season. “
Joe Ordóñez, owner of Rainbow Glacier Adventures tour company said that the shift will send ripple effects through the community. “Wednesday has been the mainstay for a long long time,” he said. “It’s going to be a significant hit, but it’s not going to shut us down.” Ordóñez said certain tours his company only runs Wednesdays brings customers to the Hammer Museum, Sheldon Museum, and John Svenson’s art studio Extreme Dreams on Mud Bay Road, likely won’t run if the cuts go through.
Doug Olerud of Oleruds Market said that his business will likely be affected like everybody else’s, though maybe indirectly.
“We don’t sell a ton directly to cruise ship passengers, but to the tour companies that feed the cruise ship passengers,” he said. “This is going to negatively affect a number of businesses next year. It’s very difficult to replace something that brings 2,000 people to your community once a week for five months.”
Magpie Gallery owner Laura Rogers said that 25 to 30 percent of her store’s revenue comes from Wednesdays. “I’m going to have to get creative about how I make up the lost income,” she said, mentioning business sales outside of Haines.
Piper said that she expects to discuss soliciting other large vessels to fill the Wednesday gap at Thursday’s Tourism Advisory Board meeting, but it might be challenging this late in the game.
Schnabel said she sees the news as an opportunity for Haines to decide what it wants. “How do we want to fill a Wednesday slot?” she said. “Do we want to replace them with more large cruise ships or more small cruise ships? This is an opportunity for us to stop look and listen and assess where we are and where we want to be.”