Two of the largest cruise ships visiting Alaska this season, Royal Caribbean International’s Ovation of the Seas and Princess Cruises’ Royal Princess, have made their first appearances at the popular port of Sitka, enjoying the new Sitka Sound Cruise Terminal and its updated facilities.
The new terminal is one of the most updated in the state, and positions Sitka as a premier destination for cruise travelers.
New Terminal Debuts
The Sitka Sound Cruise Terminal is a 40,000-square-foot timber-framed facility featuring local retail shops and restaurants, an outdoor covered terrace, and a departure point for land- and water-based shore excursions.
Attached to a 1,300-foot dock, the facility is designed to accommodate two 1,000-foot neo-Panamax-class cruise ships at once, with a total capacity of 8,000 daily guests.
“We’re thrilled to welcome summer 2022 cruise passengers with this state-of-the-art dock and facility,” said Chris McGraw, owner of Sitka Sound Cruise Terminal.
The terminal has six retail stores and two restaurants, all locally owned. A shuttle for cruise guests between the terminal and downtown Sitka is designed to load up to four 60-passenger motor coaches at a time.
“The dock and terminal are located about five miles outside of downtown Sitka; not only does this create a more seamless departure for water- and land-based tours, it keeps the ships mostly out of locals’ day-to-day views and eases downtown traffic,” said McGraw.
The facility is majority-owned by the McGraw family of Sitka, which first purchased the waterfront property in 2005. The first phase of the dock was constructed in 2011 and welcomed its first ship, Celebrity Century, on September 18, 2012. Today, the facility shares minority investments with Royal Caribbean Group and Ceres Terminals Holding LLC, a Royal Caribbean Group partner.
Many Ships to Visit This Season
In addition to Royal Caribbean International and Princess Cruises, ships from Holland America Line, Viking, Norwegian Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Silversea Cruises, and Oceania Cruises are scheduled to visit the new terminal just this month.
“More than half of all visitors coming to Alaska arrive by cruise ship. Here in Sitka, the revenue generated from cruise ship travel benefits every level of our local economy, supporting retail and tour operators, restaurant owners, and local government, as well as fuel companies, grocery stores, property rentals, and even seafood processors,” said McGraw.
“A thriving travel economy allows Sitka to continue to be a vibrant city with every opportunity for families to live, work, and play.”
Later in the Alaska season, ships from Windstar Cruises, Cunard Line, Carnival Cruise Line, and Seabourn Cruises will also use the facility. The last scheduled visits are by Silversea’s Silver Wind and Oceania Cruises’ Oceania Regatta in early October at the end of the cruise season.
New Developments in Alaska
The opening of the new Sitka Sound Cruise Terminal is the latest in a trend of new and updated facilities designed to support cruise tourism throughout Alaska.
In recent years, Norwegian Cruise Line has developed Icy Strait Point in partnership with the Alaskan native community of Hoonah, creating a unique destination that celebrates and supports local history and culture.
Additional communities have sought to leverage their unique Alaskan cultures and are offering more and more opportunities for cruise travelers, with popular options such as glacier treks, sled dog experiences, salmon fishing, lumberjack shows, historical train rides, and much more.
Keenly aware of how vital cruise tourism is to the region, particularly after the loss of the 2020 season and the abbreviated 2021 season, many Alaskan communities are eager to welcome cruise passengers back again, but to do so in a way that is sustainable and preserves the unique natural beauty and culture of the region.
Cruise lines are also aware of the tremendous increase in Alaska as a bucket list destination, and are deploying more ships than ever to visit the Last Frontier and bring guests to the region in memorable and amazing ways.