Rockslide Risk Forces Princess Cruises’ Alaska Itinerary Changes

Four Princess Cruises ships must make changes due to a dock closure in Skagway, and more changes may be on the way for other cruise lines.

Multiple Princess Cruises’ itineraries in Alaska for several ships must be adjusted due to dock closure in Skagway. The White Pass & Yukon Route Railway, which owns one of the largest docks in the popular port of call, has determined a grave rockslide risk to the dock, requiring immediate closure to safeguard cruise ships and visitors.

This closure of the Railroad Dock’s forward berth impacts several Princess Cruises ships’ itineraries, as this dock is the only one capable of supporting larger ship visits.

With the Railroad Dock now fully closed – the second berth was closed earlier last month after a small rockslide which caused minor damage to Discovery Princess – the cruise line’s Royal-class vessels, the largest in the Princess Cruises’ fleet, will need to make itinerary adjustments.

“The health and safety of our guests and crew are always our top priority and we appreciate and support this decision,” Princess Cruises said in a statement released to the Travel Market Report on Tuesday.

While schedules are still being arranged, several current changes have already been confirmed. This includes the current sailing of Majestic Princess, a roundtrip 14-night “Voyage of the Glaciers Grand Adventure” itinerary, which will no longer call on Skagway on Tuesday, July 26. Instead, the ship will visit Icy Strait Point.

Princess Cruise Ship in Alaska
Photo Credit: illuminaphoto / Shutterstock

Crown Princess, which is also scheduled to visit Skagway on July 26, will still be able to visit the port, as the smaller Grand-class (or Crown-class) vessel docks at a different pier, which remains open.

Upcoming Skagway visits on Royal Princess (July 27), Discovery Princess (July 28), and Grand Princess (July 30) are all being adjusted, but details have not yet been finalized.

With the risk to the dock described as “significant” for future failure and rockslides that may threaten the dock, it is likely that additional cruise itineraries may be impacted as well.

“Princess will continue to work with officials from Skagway and the White Pass Rail Road to determine when scheduled calls can return,” the cruise line said.

Princess Cruise Ships Docked in Skagway, Alaska
Photo Credit: Ruth Peterkin / Shutterstock

As other cruise lines also use the dock, any travelers with upcoming cruises from any line that visit Skagway should stay alert for possible itinerary changes.

Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Carnival Cruise Line all use the Railroad Dock and are likely to need changes either to where they dock in Skagway or to remove the port of call altogether, but such decisions will be up to the individual cruise lines.

Smaller ships from Holland America Line, Viking, Disney Cruise Line, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, and Silversea also have port visits scheduled for Skagway through the end of July, but are not planned to use the Railroad Dock.

What Is the Risk?

The decision to close the dock comes after a report by geotechnical and environmental consultants Shannon & Wilson, the firm which was asked to examine the area adjacent to the dock after June’s rockslide. Their conclusions were also based on past events as well as current mitigation efforts.

Both the north and south ends of the dock are at risk, though the hazards associated with the north end of the dock are considerably greater. The south end of the dock was damaged in the earlier rockslide.

Cruise Ships in Skagway, Alaska
Cruise Ships in Skagway, Alaska (Photo Credit: SebZet / Shutterstock)

To support the north slope and protect the dock, the firm recommends “a controlled excavation to re-shape the slope” as well as “installing real-time monitoring tied to an alarm system” to alert to any slope movement and facilitate evacuation of the dock if necessary.

It is recommended that these steps be taken as soon as possible, but no timeline has been decided and it is not known how long such measures may take to fully implement.

A variety of temporary measures are also recommended to help keep the dock open and safely operating while more permanent solutions are designed and constructed.

The report does note that additional evaluations should be made to confirm their conclusions and develop the most effective measures to protect the dock and mitigate future risks.

Skagway is a stunning port filled with rich Alaskan heritage, and the closure of the Railroad Dock is sure to have an impact on the community, as there are still more than two months remaining in the popular Alaska cruise season.

Hopefully, mitigation efforts can be put in place quickly and only a few itineraries will be adjusted; stay tuned to Cruise Hive for updates on these changes.


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