City and cruise lines agree to conceptual cruise visitor limits in Juneau

a cruise ship
A cruise ship in Juneau’s Gastineau Channel in July 2023. (Clarise Larson/KTOO)

The City and Borough of Juneau has negotiated a conceptual agreement with cruise lines that could limit the number of daily passengers that come off their ships and into Juneau. 

At an Assembly meeting Monday night, City Tourism Manager Alix Pierce said the agreement is still far from final. If approved, the limits would go into effect during the 2026 season.

“We do not have a preliminary agreement on an MOA with specific numbers yet but we have agreed to the concept of a daily limit MOA, which is an important step in the right direction,” she said. 

Last season, a record 1.6 million cruise ship passengers visited Juneau. Next Tuesday, the arrival of the Norwegian Bliss will mark the start of the 2024 season. 

This year will be Juneau’s first with a limit of five large ships per day, but the overall number of passengers is expected to remain about the same.

Pierce said when the city and cruise lines met last week to negotiate the future limits, they did not settle on a specific number for the daily limit. But, she said it would likely be a decrease from the status quo and would make Saturdays the least trafficked day of the week.   

“They knew this conversation was coming, they knew this was the purpose of the meeting and we had asked them to come ready to discuss daily limits and the issues and challenges around that,” she said. 

She said the city is also in discussion with cruise lines about addressing the challenges with hot berthing – when one ship leaves and another takes its place later that day – and downtown congestion. 

This isn’t the first attempt to limit the number of cruise ship passengers visiting Southeast communities. Last summer, city officials in Sitka denied a citizen’s petition to put a visitor cap on the ballot. And in 2021, Juneau resident Karla Hart proposed a ballot initiative to set a ship size limit, no-ship days and no-ship hours. That initiative didn’t get enough signatures to go to voters.

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