Ketchikan is expecting nearly 1.5 million cruise passengers to visit this summer. If the projections hold, it would be the community’s biggest cruise season to date.
According to the latest draft schedule, Ketchikan’s cruise season kicks off April 20 with the arrival of the Norwegian Bliss in Ward Cove. That’s one of the largest cruise ships that sail in Alaska waters – carrying up to 4,000 passengers. About a quarter of the season’s passengers are scheduled to arrive at Ward Cove, the private terminal eight miles north of downtown.
The first port call at Ketchikan’s downtown docks is scheduled for May 2 when the Carnival Miracle ties up at Berth 2. The season is scheduled to ramp up quickly from there, with the community’s first six-ship day expected on May 18.
Some Fridays during the summer months will see a total of seven large cruise ships tie up in the Ketchikan area, though only six are scheduled to be in town at any one time.
Some 1.1 million people are expected to arrive at the city’s downtown docks over the course of the season. They’ll be split fairly evenly among the city’s four berths, with about 21% at Berth 1, 26% at Berth 2, 29% at Berth 3 and 24% at Berth 4.
Altogether, Ketchikan is expecting 632 port calls throughout the season. The last call downtown is scheduled for Oct. 5, but ships will continue to dock in Ward Cove at least two days a week through the end of the season on Oct. 27.
Ketchikan city leaders are soliciting feedback ahead of the cruise season. The city is taking online comments about the cruise ship calendar through March 31. Those will be shared with Cruise Line Agencies of Alaska, the company that handles scheduling.
City officials are also soliciting comments on downtown traffic, parking, pedestrian access and more with a separate online form. City Manager Delilah Walsh said Thursday that the city is not considering any major traffic changes in the immediate future but is open to suggestions.
“If there’s something that we can incorporate for ‘23, that’s great. If not, I plan to do something similar in September or sometime post-season in order to get feedback for real changes that we can make in 2024, when we’re not in this crunch-time schedule,” she said at the March 16 Ketchikan City Council meeting.
She said the city’s biggest traffic priority is ensuring that loading and unloading zones are designated. There’s a public meeting scheduled at the Ted Ferry Civic Center from 4 to 6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 21.