The largest ship in Norwegian Cruise Line’s fleet, Norwegian Encore, has changed many of its remaining 2022 Alaska season itineraries to drop the visit to Skagway, instead substituting Icy Strait Point.
While no official explanation for the change has been offered, the switch is likely due to the continued closure of the White Pass Railroad Dock, the only dock in Skagway able to conveniently accommodate a ship the size of Norwegian Encore.
Norwegian Encore is sailing round-trip 7-night itineraries from Seattle, visiting a variety of popular Last Frontier destinations. Each cruise visits Juneau, Ketchikan, and Victoria, as well as spends time cruising the stunningly scenic Glacier Bay.
Depending on the sailing date, the ship’s original itineraries have included either Skagway or Sitka, but now it appears that all sailings scheduled for Skagway will instead be calling on Icy Strait Point near Hoonah, Alaska.
Icy Strait Point is roughly 90 miles south of Skagway, and offers a range of options for guests to explore wild Alaska through nature trails, wildlife tours, and outstanding views from an electric gondola to the mountaintop. Unique Alaskan-made crafts, arts, and more are also available at Icy Strait Point.
Booked guests have reported this itinerary change for Norwegian Encore‘s September 25 and October 2 sailings, as well as previous sailings in August.
According to published itineraries, the ship will visit Icy Strait Point on the same day as previously scheduled for Skagway, with only a short change in time docked. In Skagway, the ship was scheduled to be docked from 7 a.m. to 8:15 p.m., while in Icy Strait Point the time is shortened by just 15 minutes, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
No other port times, visit days, or destinations have been changed on the relevant itineraries.
The ship’s last Alaska sailing for 2022 departs Seattle on October 16. After that sailing, the ship will reposition to Miami to offer Caribbean itineraries through mid-April, and Norwegian Encore will return to Alaska for the 2023 season.
Dock Remains Closed
Earlier this summer, multiple rockslides damaged the White Pass Railroad Dock in Skagway. The first notable slide occurred on June 23, and cause minor cosmetic damage to Princess Cruise Line’s Discovery Princess, which was docked at the time.
The dock was quickly closed while the adjacent slope could be assessed and mitigation measures put in place to stabilize the rock face.
Ultimately, the emergency measures were not entirely effective and smaller rockslides occurred on August 3 and again on August 5. Additional damage to dock structures was noted, and it was decided that the dock was to remain closed for the remainder of the 2022 cruise season so more extensive repairs and slope corrections could be made.
No injuries were reported with any of the rockslides.
The subsequent dock closure has required scheduled ships to switch to different docking arrangements in Skagway, or arrange to tender guests instead of permitting gangway access to docked ships.
This can be challenging for larger vessels carrying thousands of passengers, and more than 30 cruise ship visits have been rerouted away from Skagway this year because of the difficulties.
This dramatically impacts the local economy for the port community. Skagway’s mayor, Andrew Cremata, has declared an emergency to help procure state and federal assistance to mitigate the risk and stabilize the mountainside.
“It’s a tremendous problem,” Cremata said at a public meeting on Saturday, August 6. “I guarantee you, it is one we’re going to solve before next season because we don’t have any other choice.”
The Breakaway-Plus-class Norwegian Encore is the largest ship in the cruise line’s fleet and one of the largest to visit Skagway, weighing 169,145 gross tons and measuring 1,094 feet in length. The ship can welcome as many as 3,998 guests at double occupancy, with 2,100 crew members providing superior service.