The borough assembly voted March 21 to pay for travel by port commission chair Tom Cochran and his wife on the inaugural U.S. voyage of the 3,804-passenger, 1,094-foot-long Norwegian Joy.
The borough will pick up the cost of the ticket for the four-day April cruise from Los Angeles to Vancouver, B.C. for both Cochran and his wife. The ship will start its Alaska cruises on May 4 from Seattle. The assembly has reached out to Norwegian for an invoice, but has not heard back as of the time of publication.
Cochran told the assembly the cruise line had offered to take him for free because of his position on the port commission and his role as a former mayor of Skagway.
The Norwegian Joy, launched from a German shipyard in 2017, sailed in China last year and will call on Alaska ports in 2019 with the same route as the Norwegian Bliss, according to the company’s website.
“I was asked by Norwegian cruise lines for informational purposes only,” Cochran said.
The cruise will include meetings and tours, giving participants a chance to see the larger vessel firsthand, as well as a chance to meet with other port employees from Southeast Alaska, Cochran said.
“(The cruise) will be an opportunity to speak with the mayor and city manager of Ketchikan and inquire as to their challenges and solutions regarding the (cruise) industry,” Cochran said.
Cochran said he wished to avoid impropriety and would cancel if the assembly objected to him accepting the free cruise.
Mark Schaefer, another former mayor, presented a letter to the assembly that said that accepting the free cruise might be something the municipality should avoid.
“Maybe (Norwegian Cruise Lines) would offer to show the Joy here to the community and offer tours and environmental presentations and meetings,” Schaefer said in his letter.
Assemblymember Dave Brena moved that the assembly pay for the cruise to avoid the issue of impropriety.
The assembly discussed whether Cochran’s incidentals and air travel expenses would be reimbursed. Cochran said he wasn’t looking for any payment for any of his personal expenses. He will cover his own travel to and from the ship.
Assemblymember Dan Henry was against paying for the cruise since the company was providing the voyage free for others.
“I don’t think we should burn any Skagway dollars that we don’t need to,” Henry said.
The assembly approved the motion to pay for the cruise in a 5-1 vote, with Henry voting against.