Juneau Takes Steps to Limit Cruise Ship Passengers

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In a move to mitigate the impact of burgeoning cruise ship traffic, Juneau, Alaska, has reached a conceptual agreement with cruise lines to establish a daily passenger limit. The decision aims to safeguard the city’s quality of life while maintaining its status as a key cruise destination.

City and Cruise Lines Reach Tentative Accord

The City and Borough of Juneau and the cruise industry have negotiated a conceptual framework that could set a precedent for managing cruise passenger volumes.

Alaska Public Media reported the news was announced during a city assembly meeting, with Tourism Manager Alix Pierce highlighting the importance of this preliminary step.

“We do not have a preliminary agreement on MOA [Memorandum of Agreement] with specific numbers yet, but we have agreed to the concept of a daily limit MOA, which is an important step in the right direction,” she stated.

Juneau, Alaska Port
Juneau, Alaska Port (Photo Credit: YegoroV)

Juneau’s journey towards limiting cruise ship passenger numbers is in response to the record-breaking influx of 1.6 million visitors in the previous season, a 23% increase over pre-pandemic highs recorded in 2019. There is a projected increase in passenger numbers to reach 1.7 million in 2024, according to Rain Coast Data.

The city and Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) have voluntarily imposed a cap of five ships per day for 2024. However, the negotiations have not pinpointed an exact daily passenger cap. Intentions are to reduce numbers below current figures, with a particular emphasis on making Saturdays the least-trafficked day.

The city is concurrently in discussion with cruise lines to tackle additional issues, such as “hot berthing,” which is the practice of having a ship use a berth for a short period before leaving and immediately being replaced by another ship. Downtown congestion improvements are also being discussed to enhance the visitor experience and resident life.

A Long Road Ahead for Juneau

Southeast Alaska currently has 660 cruises arriving in the 2024 season, which begins with the arrival of Norwegian Cruise Line’s 4,803-passenger Norwegian Bliss in Juneau on April 9. The 7-night “Dawes Glacier, Juneau & Ketchikan” roundtrip voyage from Seattle will also visit Tracy Arm/Endicott Arm, Icy Strait Point, and Ketchikan, Alaska, before continuing to British Columbia.

Read Also: The Best Time to Cruise Alaska – Months to Choose

Other large cruise lines arriving during the season include multiple ships and visits from Carnival Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Silversea, Celebrity Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, Viking Oceans, and Seabourn.

Two ships docked in Juneau port
Two ships docked in Juneau port. (Photo Credit: Jeff Whyte)

The last ship pulling into Juneau in 2024 will be the 2,376-passenger Norwegian Jewel from NCL on October 24.

Juneau is not the first Alaskan city to attempt to cap passengers disembarking from cruise ships. The popular call of Sitka, which has a population of about 8,500 people, attempted to limit passenger capacity to 240,000 per year.

Located 90 miles southeast of Juneau, Sitka received more than 550,000 cruise passengers during the 2023 season. The local government denied the citizen’s petition calling on the limit.

Similarly, across the nation, Bar Harbor, Maine, which has a population of about 5,000 people, fought to limit passenger disembarkation to 1,000 people a day. Residents of the town began working on the cap in 2022, with local businesses filing an appeal to stop the limitations.

In February 2024, the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine upheld the cap, which begins in the 2024 season, set to launch with the arrival of NCL’s 2,394-passenger Norwegian Gem on May 2.

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