Huna Totem Corporation and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings have officially broken ground on a new dock and cruise ship facility in Whittier, Alaska, a project that will open more opportunities not only for travelers to visit the Last Frontier, but also for native Alaskans to enjoy greater economic benefits cruise ships will bring to the region.
Port Project Begins
The new port project, a privately funded, $80 million partnership venture between the Alaskan native Huna Totem Corporation and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings that had been announced in late March, officially broke ground on October 10, 2022.
The choice to begin the collaboration on Indigenous Peoples’ Day was deliberate, and marks the great hope both parties have in the benefits such a project will bring.
“The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act happened over 50 years ago, and when you consider its vision, it was about the opportunity for Alaska Native corporations to work collaboratively with the State of Alaska and municipalities to build economic opportunities for communities, for our shareholders, and for all Alaskans,” said Russell Dick, Huna Totem Corporation CEO and President.
Executives and authorities from Huna Totem Corporation, the Whittier community, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, and the government of Alaska were all on hand to celebrate the momentous occasion and what it represents for the region.
“Huna Totem is an Alaska company that understands the values that Alaskans hold, and they’ve done a good job working to understand the complicated issues that we here in the city of Whittier are trying to overcome,” said Dave Dickason, mayor of Whittier. “This project is good for the city of Whittier and good for the State of Alaska.”
Whittier is located 50 miles southeast of Anchorage, and is an embarkation or debarkation point for many one-way Alaska cruise itineraries. Currently, Princess Cruises and Holland America Line both visit Whittier.
About the New Facility
While few details of the overall project have been released, this first phase will likely feature a double-sided cruise ship dock and terminal, as well as arrival areas for tour buses and options for local retail establishments.
Ships from all three of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings’ brands – Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, and Regent Seven Seas Cruises – will be able to dock at the new facility. This gives travelers great options for visiting the area and experiencing all Alaska has to offer.
“This is one of the best arrival experiences you’ll have in Alaska,” Dick said. According to Alaska News Source, the first phase is expected to be completed by spring of 2024.
Further phases of the project are likely to expand the space with additional retail opportunities, hotel rooms, housing, a cultural center and locally-focused museum, amphitheater, playgrounds, boat launches, and more.
“This 80-million-dollar project will create jobs, economic activity and revenue for the great city of Whitter,” said Mike Dunleavy, Alaska’s governor. “This makes Whittier more than just a destination, not just for our outside guests, but for folks like us that live here all year long.”
The Whittier project is not the first time Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings has partnered with the Huna Totem Corporation to develop facilities with native Alaskans in mind.
“Norwegian Cruise Line’s commitment to Alaska goes back decades,” said Juan Kuryla, Norwegian Cruise Line Senior Vice President. “We were the first cruise line to sail to Alaska from Seattle. That commitment continues today here in Whittier and we could not be prouder to once again partner with Huna Totem.”
The two organizations partnered together to create Icy Strait Point near Hoonah, Alaska, a destination that focuses on authentic Alaskan experiences and showcases local artwork, handicrafts, and history. The popular port of call opened in 2021.
In August 2022, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings also donated waterfront property in Juneau for the development of a new pier and adjacent facilities, also in partnership with Huna Totem Corporation.
These new developments represent significant investment in cruise tourism for Alaska, which is one of the most popular cruise destinations in the world.