New Bid to Limit Cruisers in Key Alaskan Port Hits a Snag

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An attempt by some residents of Juneau, Alaska, to enact a law prohibiting large cruise ships from calling at the port on Saturdays hit a roadblock on June 9, 2024, at least temporarily.

The group leading the so-called “ship-free Saturdays” campaign filed a petition that would place the option before voters during municipal elections on October 1, 2024, seeking to ban all cruise ships carrying more than 250 guests from the port on Saturdays and on July 4 each year.

Juneau Alaska Port
Juneau Alaska Port (Photo Credit: Allen.G)

However, the effort fell short of the required local signatures needed to secure the petition’s placement on the local ballot. In a June 9, 2024 letter to anti-cruise activist and group leader Karla Hart, the Juneau Municipal Clerk’s Office said that 2,069 signatures were received, which was 290 short of the 2,359 signatures required to certify the ballot initiative.

The petition committee needed to collect the number of signatures equal to twenty-five percent of the votes cast in the preceding municipal election, which came out to a minimum of 2,359 signatures are required for Clerk staff to certify this petition,the Juneau municipal clerk explained in a letter.

The group has 10 days to gather and submit the missing signatures, the clerk’s letter added.

The move to ban cruise ships on Saturdays follows an agreement that Juneau entered into with the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) on May 4, 2024, capping the daily number of cruise guests who can disembark from cruise ships. 

The pact, which came in the form of a Memorandum of Agreement between the city and the trade group, limits the number to 16,000 per day from Sundays to Fridays and to 12,000 on Saturdays. The daily caps are slated to take effect in 2026.

Juneau, one of Southeast Alaska’s most popular ports and the one nearest to Glacier Bay National Park, moved to implement the cruise guest limit after 1.6 million arrivals visited the destination in 2023, a 23% spike versus the pre-pandemic record in 2019.

The 2024 cruise season in Juneau is poised to break records, with 660 port calls scheduled through September. Passenger numbers were projected to reach 1.7 million in 2024.

Proposed Limit Is Based on Cruise Ship Capacity

The petition seeking to suspend all cruise ship visits on Saturdays would set a limit based on ship size, with vessels accommodating more than 250 passengers prohibited. That effectively knocks all of the major cruise lines out of the running but still enables small ships to call.

Some small lines, such as Alaskan Dream Cruises, for instance, would still be able to call at Juneau. It operates a five-ship fleet with the largest capacity being just 80 guests.

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

Also, Uncruise, another small ship line with nine vessels, carries just 84 guests in its largest ship. These are niche market lines that attract cruisers looking for a small-ship experience.

Virtually every major cruise line serving the Alaska market calls at Juneau as part of their Southeast Alaska itineraries. Indeed, the region is scheduled to host some 660 cruises during the 2024 season.

Cruise lines operating in Alaska in 2024, many with multiple ships deployed, include Carnival Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Silversea, Celebrity Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, Viking, and Seabourn.

Read Also: Your Guide to the Best Alaska Cruise Ports

The citizens of Juneau are not the first Alaskans to try to limit passengers disembarking from cruise ships. Residents in Sitka 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 a petition seeking to implement the limit.

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