By Melinda Munson
May 9 marked the first day that two ships tied up to Railroad Dock since Summer 2022 landslides forced the closure of the forward berth. The Municipality of Skagway spent around $3 million on short-term mitigation in the hopes of regaining full ship capacity.
“Everything seems to be functioning like it should,” Borough Manager Brad Ryan said. According to Ryan, two natural landslides occurred that were “equivalent to official testing,” negating the need for formal testing. Mitigation measures include attenuators (fencing that redirects and deflects debris), prisms and lasers to detect ground movement, constant electronic monitoring and spotters who watch the site from above.
The Royal Princess (3,560 guest capacity) took the front Railroad berth with passengers tendering to the Small Boat Harbor. The Majestic Princess (3,560 guest capacity) claimed the aft position with visitors disembarking and being bused past the restrooms.
Ryan said he spoke to a captain with Princess. “He was really happy with the tenders and bussing,” Ryan reported. Around 5 p.m. the tendering line stretched to Smokehouse but moved forward steadily.
Cruise Line Agencies of Alaska (CLAA) informed Port Director Cody Jennings April 29 that Royal Caribbean’s Quantum (4,905 guest capacity) canceled its Skagway calls for the season. In correspondence to customers, Royal Caribbean cited safety concerns regarding the rockslides. “While repairs have been ongoing, they won’t be ready for two large ships visiting simultaneously,” the notice said.
Jennings tempered the bad news with welcome information.
“However, with that loss, we are going to be able to keep the hot berthing days to a minimum, in fact, possibly not at all,” Jennings said.
Hot berthing is the practice of staying in port for just part of a day, allowing two ships to berth in the same spot, cutting down on potential tourist spending.
According to Jennings, the Norwegian Encore (3,998 guest capacity) is “going to do a trial run on May 17 to make sure that they can get ships tied up and everything goes smoothly. That is the hope and the expectation right now,” she said.
The current CLAA 2023 schedule shows around 1.1 million visitors to Skagway if all goes well. The Skagway Visitor Department is waiting for the May 17 trial run before it publishes its schedule which includes passenger numbers. Interested parties can visit skagway.com to sign up for the Visitor Department email list for ship schedule changes.
Unlike most early tourists, this year’s pre-summer cruisers are spending generously when they step off the ship.
Mike Healy, owner of Skagway Brewing Company, measures success in fish and chips, one of the more expensive items on his menu. So far, sales of the entree are averaging closer to mid-season/peak numbers.
“Visitors are spending very well,” he said.