A dreary Monday didn’t dampen spirits, as Juneau welcomed a once-familiar sight to town once more, as the Norwegian Bliss, first large-deck cruise ship 2022, pulled into port.
Members of many aspects of the Juneau community turned out to greet passengers back to their shores.
“We’re very excited. It’s a huge impact to the economy,” said Mayor Beth Weldon in an interview. “Hopefully (the ship) is full and hopefully they bring more ships with ‘em.”
The 2022 cruise season, the first full season scheduled since 2019, will hopefully be a shot in the arm for industries brought low by two seasons of wounded or entirely nonexistent cruise traffic, said city officials and members of the business community.
“We’re all just a ball of nervous energy and we’re like, ‘We did it, we made it,’” said Alex Vrabec, director of the Downtown Business Association, in an interview. “We’re so excited. I can’t think of a single business that’s not excited.”
Members of the DBA, Greater Juneau Chamber of Commerce, Travel and Juneau and the University of Alaska Southeast mascot, Spike, all came out to greet visitors as they spilled off the pier into the lines to mount the fleet of buses that will once again run circuits between the harbor and Juneau’s tourist attractions.
“We’re here to welcome the first ship,” Vrabec said. “Our main goal was to be here, to be present.”
Hundreds of passengers disembarked and queued for tours that would scatter them across the city, while others headed on foot into town. For some tourists, this was a voyage long awaited.
“We booked back in 2019. Everything just got pushed back,” said Micki Young, an Ohio resident who came on the cruise with her family. “We were just like, ‘We just need to get there.’ We’re here, we’re finally here.”
The weather, cool and drizzly, didn’t slow down the family and their plans one bit, said Eric Young.
“This doesn’t phase us,” he said. “We’re doing the helicopter tour and the whale watching tour.”
Several tourists got an early glimpse of Juneau when their flight from Phoenix to Seattle was delayed and they missed the sailing, including Garrett DeSpain. Those passengers who missed the sailing arrived in Juneau ahead of the ship, linking up when the Bliss arrived.
“We did get to enjoy it yesterday without the tourists,” said Isaac Bonds, who was on the same flight and arrived in Juneau over the weekend.
Bonds said they had checked out the Mendenhall Glacier while they waited for the ship to arrive.
The arrival wasn’t entirely without incident, as Capital City Fire/Rescue personnel transported a passenger requiring medical attention to a private medevac company to be airlifted.
“We got our first cruise ship and our first patient,” said Assistant Chief Ed Quinto in a phone interview.
Quinto said he couldn’t comment on the patient’s condition, including whether it was COVID-related, according to department policy.