This summer marked the return of the largest cruise ships to Juneau, Alaska since the early 2000s. The four-story, 600 passenger, Serenade of the Seas, began its summer schedule on May 6, 2016.
The very first cruise ship arrived in Juneau, Alaska, in 1969 when the Serenade of the Seas docked at the Juneau docks. The ship served as a floating hotel and cruise terminal for many years before converting into a floating casino in 2002, and then again into a floating museum in 2014. After years of neglect, the ship was finally returned to its original state in early June of 2015, and is now ready for its once-again-a-month cruise.
Cruise ships are back in Juneau on a seasonal basis and it’s back to business as usual in the capital city. The large ocean liner Serenade of the Seas arrived at Herschel Walker Terminal on Monday, May 14. The ship is scheduled to be in Juneau through August 17, departing on the first Sunday of each week.. Read more about us cruises and let us know what you think.
The Serenade of the Seas has the distinction of becoming the first large-scale cruise ship to resume Alaska trips. She’s also finished her first port of call on a trip, Juneau. The ship landed at 7 a.m. on Friday, and inhabitants were welcomed with three brief blasts on the ship’s horn.
Her itinerary, which began only a few days ago on July 20, will take her to famous Alaskan cities including Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, and Icy Strait Point, as well as the jaw-dropping Endicott Arm fjord and Dawes Glacier.
While the reintroduction of cruising was not universally welcomed, it was good news for many local tour operators, restaurants, pubs, and tourist stores selling local art.
Juneau Welcomes the First Cruise Ship Passengers
Serenade of the Seas docked in Juneau with approximately 650 passengers and 800 staff members, much less than a ship of its size would have come with prior to the epidemic. Locals said there was a lot of foot activity in the port area, as well as the city’s stores, pubs, restaurants, and tour operators. It comes after the ship’s recent simulated voyage, which included the first stop in Ketchikan.
Today, the Serenade of the Seas arrived in the Capital City to a rousing welcome. Juneau has a plethora of interesting sites, excursions, restaurants, and stores to visit. It’s great to see you again! pic.twitter.com/LXJ5K0YKEz
— July 23, 2023, CLIA Alaska (@CLIA Alaska)
Also see: The Best Ways to Enjoy Juneau, Alaska While Cruising
While the arrival of the first cruise ship in Juneau in two years did not bring the anticipated rush, it did enable residents to ease back into their jobs. Greg Pilcher, a local tour sales agent, informed AlaskaPublic.org the following:
“It’s a little sluggish since there aren’t many passengers aboard the ship, but I believe we performed better than we anticipated. We were able to write a few of tickets, which was fantastic. I guess we just wanted to come out here and rehearse and remember how to do things, and it feels great to see everybody again because it’s been a long two years.”
Royal Caribbean provided this image.
Local pubs and restaurants were operating under a local level two COVID alert, which meant they had to operate with fewer customers inside and exercise social distance wherever feasible. Nonetheless, the spirits of the restaurateurs were not dampened, as many were pleased to see cruise liner guests return to their establishments, such as the Alaskan Brewing Depot, which told the Juneau Empire:
“There are a lot of people and a lot of traffic,” says the narrator. We’re a bit taken aback. It was busier than we had anticipated. We’re delighted to see so many people.”
The First in a Series
The Serenade of the Seas is the first cruise ship to visit Juneau, but she won’t be the last. Locals will be kept busy enough with plans for Holland America, Carnival, Princess Cruises, and Norwegian Cruise Line to begin operations in Alaska.
One local employee at The Bear’s Lair, a downtown gift store, said:
“I’m happy it’s beginning slowly because I wouldn’t want to see five vessels all at once in the port. This is an excellent start. I’ve been in this line of work for approximately four or five years. It can become a little busy at times, but today has been very stress-free.”
However, there is opposition, as not everyone is pleased to see cruise ships return after a two-year hiatus. Karla Hart, a vocal critic of the cruise industry, campaigned to restrict ship traffic near Juneau earlier this year. The votes, however, were never put to a vote as public support for cruise ships returning grew, particularly after the two-year hiatus.
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