A cruise ship that got hammered by Typhoon Merbok found refuge in Homer on Sunday from another North Pacific Ocean storm. The 515-foot, 274-passenger Silversea Silver Wind made a docking on short notice on its way from Nome to Vancouver, British Columbia.
The Silver Wind marks the second cruise ship to visit Homer since the summer of 2019 and the COVID-19 pandemic, and the first to actually dock at the Deep Water Dock. About 175 passengers visited Homer on the Silver Sea, said Deputy Harbormaster Matt Clarke.
On Sept. 11 the Scenic Eclipse made a scheduled stop, but because of an extreme low tide, could not dock and passengers had to be lightered to shore by one of the ship’s lifeboats. The Sept. 25 docking is the latest for the season by a cruise ship that Clarke said he can recall. Except for icons like the Salty Dawg, most stores and restaurants on the Spit close after Labor Day. A few tourist shops were open Sunday.
Clarke said they only got notice last Wednesday that the Silver Wind wanted to dock in Homer.
“It had gone through and weathered that larger storm (Merbok) that impacted Nome,” he said.
From Nome the Silver Sea had planned to visit the western Aleutian Islands. Another North Pacific storm had been forecast for the Aleutians.
“They didn’t want any part of that after their prior experience with that storm that pushed through Western Alaska,” Clarke said. “… They could have done business in Kodiak or Seward. I don’t know why they chose Homer.”
According to Silversea’s website, the Nome cruise is an adventure trip that visits more remote areas of Alaska. For the 2023 season, in early September it goes from Nome to St. Matthew and St. Paul Islands, through the Aleutian chain and on to Southeast Alaska and British Columbia. Fares start at about $12,450 per passenger.
Sunday’s visit caught the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center by surprise, said Visitor Center Manager Jan Knutson. For the Scenic Eclipse visit, chamber staff and volunteers greeted visitors.
“We were prepared,” she said of the Sept. 11 visit. “This time, nothing.”
Knutson said if the chamber had been notified of the Silver Wind visit, they would have been there.
“It was too late to come out,” she said. “We always welcome the cruise ships when they disembark.”
The Pratt Museum & Park opened up for the day, Museum Director Jennifer Gibbins wrote in a text. They had about 100 visitors from 22 countries and were especially interested in both the indoor exhibits and the botanical gardens.
“We really appreciated the opportunity, and it was a great way to close out the summer season,” she wrote.
Clarke said dock bookings usually start being made in December for the following season. Last year they had three bookings, not including the Silver Wind, but two canceled. In talks with cruise ship booking agents, Clarke said more adventure-cruise companies with smaller ships have shown interest in Homer. They’re attracted by the adventures on land and shore Homer has to offer, he said.
“Homer, they believe, is well positioned to accommodate this kind of activity,” Clarke said. “It may be the kind of change for the future.”