Petersburg could see a small increase in cruise ships passengers this year, with one new boat scheduled to visit and some larger boats returning. Local harbor users can also expect several days this summer with as many as four cruise ships anchored or docked in the area. Tour boats will also be tying up to Petersburg’s new drive down dock for the first time.
The visitor season is still a few months off but the schedule has taken shape for boats that plan stops in Petersburg. Dave Berg works with smaller cruise companies through his travel agency Viking Travel and larger ships as an agent for Cruise Line Agencies of Alaska. He explained Petersburg will not be seeing the largest ship that visited town last year.
“Ponant is not returning this year, the French vessel, which had about 240 passengers on it on a regular basis,” Berg said. “They’ll be back again next year. But we do have a couple of new ships that are coming this year that have not been around for a couple years. So generally I think that our numbers are going to be just a little bit up from where they were last year.”
Among the boats that have stopped here in the past but did not last year is the Hapag-Lloyd ship Bremen. That vessel is 365 feet long and can handle up to 155 passengers. It’s on the schedule twice in late July and early August.
And the Silverseas ship the Silver Discoverer is 338 feet long and can accommodate up to 120 guests. It also has just one scheduled stop in August. Those larger boats will all be anchoring near Petersburg and lightering, or ferrying guests into town in smaller boats.
As in past seasons, the smaller vessels operated by Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic, the Sea Bird and Sea Lion are regular visitors to Petersburg and the surrounding area.
National Geographic is adding another vessel to its fleet this year, while still stopping here with the Sea Bird and Sea Lion. “National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions is bringing in a new vessel called the Quest, National Geographic Quest and that is capable of carrying about 100 passengers,” Berg said. “It’ll be docking out at Petro Marine because of its size. It cannot be accommodated in the South Harbor loading zone. So we’re excited about that. It’s a brand new that’ll be coming out of the yard and joining us sometime in late June on weekly sailings through Southeast.”
That cruise line will also be adding a second new vessel in 2018. Berg said Lindblad also has a new fleet of bikes for the passengers to use in town. His company, Viking Travel will be using a new 12 passenger van to shuttle visitors to and from the Petro Marine dock. Viking Travel is still looking for locals to lead dock walks and other tours for visitors this summer.
Another cruise company, Alaskan Dream Cruises is expanding its schedule with the Alaska, Chichagof, Baranof and Admiralty Dreams all making stops in Petersburg. Those ships can carry around 40-70 passengers. American Cruise Lines 100-passenger American Spirit has stops scheduled here in June, July and August. Fantasy Cruises’s small ship the Island Spirit with capacity for up to 32 passengers also visits here throughout the summer.
Overall there are 112 scheduled cruise ship stops. And there are a couple of days on the summer schedule with four boats either tied up at the dock or anchored near Petersburg.
For the first time this season, some of the cruise ships will be tying up to the outside of Petersburg’s new drive down dock once a week. Berg explained that’s needed to juggle some of the larger boats that normally tie up and refuel at the Petro Marine dock. “We found that because of the cruise ship schedules that the ships were overlapping on the Petro Marine dock, the only dock they can feasibly sit at. Well there’s only two, the drive down dock and Petro Marine. Since these vessels both wanna take on fuel here then it makes sense to have the American Spirit move off the Petro Marine dock and go to the drive down dock for the afternoon cause they stay, typically they stay longer, they stay about 24 hours.”
Most of the use of the drive down dock is scheduled for Wednesday, Thursday or Fridays this summer. That could help avoid some conflict with fishing boats also using the dock if fleets are out fishing in the mid-week. The first scheduled use of that drive down dock is Saturday, June 17.
National Geographic’s ship the Sea Lion has the first scheduled stop in town kicking off the cruise season May 9th. Boats will be visiting until mid-September.