More tourists are expected to visit Petersburg this year. Cruise ship stops and interest from independent travelers are up in 2022. That follows a shortened season in 2021 and no visits by cruise lines the year before at the start of the pandemic.
Cruise companies plan around 110 stops in Petersburg in 2022. That would be 31 more than last year. If those ships are filled that would mean around 11,869 passengers disembarking here this summer. It’s not the highest Petersburg has seen, but it is a rebound from zero stops in 2020 and around 80 last year.
Dave Berg is co-owner of travel agency Viking Travel and coordinates port calls for cruise companies.
“At one point we had almost I think it was close to 18,000 passengers that came one year but that was when Cruise West was still operating and there was the steam wheeler was coming into Petersburg too on a real regular basis on that year,” Berg said. “I think it was 2007 or 2008 where we had that big influx that bumped our numbers up quite a bit. What we’re seeing now is a steady growth of more expedition ships that are coming and they like Petersburg because of its location and availability of berthing.”
Not all ships planning stops in Petersburg will be seeking a berth in the harbors though. Some larger vessels plan to anchor in deeper waters nearby and transport passengers to town on smaller boats. That was a regular occurrence prior to the COVID pandemic.
One of those is the 342-foot ship Ocean Victory, launched last year by American Queen Voyages. With capacity for up to 146 passengers it plans 13 port calls. Another is the 459-foot Hurtigruten ship the Roald Amundsen. It’s an electric hybrid with capacity for up to 500 passengers. It has three port calls planned in May and June. Both those ships expected to visit last year but canceled because of a cruise ship travel ban in Canada.
Two others are also planning to anchor out and lighter in passengers. The 453-foot Hanseatic Inspiration and 337-foot Swan Hellenic ship Minerva also plan several stops.
During the pandemic, Canada’s cruise ship ban and US law requiring a stop in a foreign port torpedoed voyages by foreign-flagged vessels like these. US lawmakers last year allowed a temporary exemption to that requirement. Canada ended its ban last November however Berg says he’s still not certain those voyages out of Vancouver will be allowed to proceed this year.
Other ships have been frequent visitors in the past.
American Cruise Lines plans 11 port calls with the American Constellation, with capacity for up to 175 guests. That’s the company that cut one voyage short in Petersburg last summer and canceled another following a COVID outbreak. Companies are requiring COVID vaccination for passengers and crew in 2022.
The National Geographic and Lindblad ships Quest and Venture will be disembarking passengers in town this year. That company kept visitors away from the community while still offering cruises last year.
The cruise line’s older and smaller ships the Sea Bird and Sea Lion used to be regular visitors in Petersburg but have only one stop each planned this year. They’ll be stopping in Thomas Bay and LeConte Bay during Southeast voyages but making port calls in other towns.
The Sitka-based Alaskan Dream Cruises also will be a frequent visitor as well.
Berg notes there are also some smaller overnight companies continuing to operate.
“Alaska Sea Adventures with the Northern Song, you know they’re owned here locally and they operate all year, although some of these vessels, most of these smaller vessels only take 10 or 12 passengers,” Berg said. “Custom Alaska Cruises operating the Sikumi and Golden Eagle will be in and out of here all summer and they’re not on the schedule as such. And Bluewater Adventures, an operator out of Vancouver BC operates the Island Roamer and the Snow Goose that will be in here a few times too that are not on the schedule.”
Another company UnCruise will bring ships to Thomas Bay, Ideal Cove and the LeConte Glacier but doesn’t plan stops in Petersburg.
Berg said interest is up for independent visitors to Petersburg and Alaska.
“Which is good for the town and better I think for local communities than even cruise ship passengers because they spend more money in town, they spend time in local hotels and restaurants,” Berg said. “The come and leave some tax dollars, they leave some money in the community and then they go on. So I think it’s a good thing for our community to have independents and those calls seem to be up as far as comparison to our last couple years which were down quite a bit.”
Berg says the cruise companies are looking for shore excursions along with boat and plane trips for their passengers. He says several local companies are planning to offer tours but there’s opportunity for others.
The first ship last year didn’t arrive until early June. This year the schedule shows dockings from early May through the middle of September.