The City of Juneau – Alaska’s state capital – has approved plans to limit the number of cruise ships permitted to visit the popular port city in a single day, a limit that some residents say is not strong enough.
The measure, which will allow no more than five ships per day, is intended to curb crowding, pollution, and other negative impacts that arise when thousands of tourists visit the city at once.
Juneau May Limit Cruise Ships
At a meeting on Tuesday, January 31, 2023, the Juneau Assembly approved a variety of policy objectives covering tourism in the city, including a proposed limit on cruise ship visits.
According to Alaska Public Media, the limitation on cruise ships is a strong measure to minimize crowding and pollution generated by massive ships and the thousands of tourists they bring to the city’s downtown area.
“We’ve got too many people in too small an area,” said Juneau resident Steven Krall. “Downtown hasn’t gotten any bigger, the sidewalks aren’t bigger, the roads aren’t bigger. We’re at the point where capacity really is the issue.”
Juneau has a population of just 32,255 (according to 2020 census data), but on a busy port day, ships can bring 10,000, 15,000, or even more passengers to the city.
During the peak of the Alaskan cruise season in June and July, when the weather is at its finest, wildlife viewing is ideal, and family vacations are most popular because of school holidays, cruise ships are often booked beyond double occupancy with third, fourth, and fifth berths filled, bringing even more guests to each port.
On Tuesday, July 4, 2023, for example, six ships are planned to be in Juneau: Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth, Princess Cruises’ Grand Princess, Royal Caribbean International’s Ovation of the Seas, Holland American Line’s Westerdam, and two Norwegian Cruise Line ships, Norwegian Bliss and Norwegian Encore.
If all six vessels are booked only to double capacity, they will bring 18,500 guests to the city. If the ships are fully booked with all berths filled, however, more than 22,500 passengers would be onboard.
Too High a Limit?
The proposed limit of no more than five cruise ships in port on any one day would curb a number of ship visits, depending on the ultimate definitions adopted for which vessels would qualify as cruise ships.
In addition to visits from mainstream cruise lines such as Carnival, Norwegian, Princess, Royal Caribbean, Holland America, and Celebrity, Juneau also welcomes a variety of ships from smaller, more regional and expedition lines such as UnCruise Adventures, American Cruise Lines, and Lindblad Expeditions. Luxury lines such as Silversea and Regent Seven Seas also call on the city.
Some local residents, however, have emailed the Juneau Assembly asking for tighter limits of just three or four ships per day, but the city is reluctant to be that strict due to the possibility of lawsuits from the cruise lines.
“Some people will say it’s not a big enough step. I would say at least it’s a step,” said Beth Weldon, mayor of Juneau. “We’re going to be the first Assembly that has actually tried to tackle some of these issues, so give us some time to ease into it.”
Other communities that have worked to limit cruise ship visits have implemented much stricter guidelines. Venice, for example, has banned cruise ships altogether, which forces ships to dock at distant port communities and use shuttles to bring cruise guests to the amazing city.
Bar Harbor, Maine, on the other hand has used the approach of not limiting vessels, but limiting the number of passengers that can visit to a maximum of 1,000 per day. Effectively, this restricts most larger ships from calling on the community altogether. This strict ordinance is being legally challenged by local businesses, and may yet be amended or overturned.
How Will This Impact Cruises?
Because Juneau’s proposed limit is still quite generous, it is not likely to have an immediate, strong impact on Alaskan cruise itineraries for 2023, though some cruise lines may investigate adapting itineraries to other ports of call depending on how the measure is implemented.
Similarly, future sailings in 2024, 2025, and beyond may also be adjusted if the limitation does go into effect, but Juneau will always remain a popular and enjoyable port of call in the Last Frontier.