There are more cruise ships and passengers scheduled to visit Petersburg this coming tourist season than last year. As Angela Denning reports, there will be less larger ships and more smaller ones coming to town.

Petersburg doesn’t get tens of thousands of visitors each tourist season like some other Southeast towns. Only smaller cruise ships can reach Petersburg through nearby shallow waterways.

At this time of year, last year, there were 112 crew ship calls scheduled for Petersburg for the upcoming visitors’ season and this year it’s up to 130.

While a few of the bigger ships aren’t scheduled there are still more passengers overall.

Dave Berg is the cofounder of the local travel agency, Viking Travel in Petersburg. They plan vacations for tourists visiting Alaska and work with cruise companies. He says there are “some things that are happening that haven’t happened before.”

Berg says one of the biggest differences this coming season will be a ship that will be “turning” its passengers in Petersburg. In other words, the passengers will start and end their cruises here. A ship from the company Uncruise named The Safari Quest will be picking up and dropping off passengers in Petersburg every Friday for 12 weeks. Passengers will arrive in town on Thursday, stay overnight, and start their cruise on Friday. Berg says a week later, they’ll return to town, sometimes staying overnight before flying out.

“So what that means to the community is that not only will we have passengers staying in local hotels but we will also benefit by having them rent space in the harbor for a container with supplies that they have that they need on a week to week basis,” Berg said. “We’ll be seeing an increase number of shipments that arrive into Petersburg on Alaska Marine Lines or other carriers. And we’re likely to see more purchases in local stores.”

Uncruise’s Safari Quest carries 20 passengers on each voyage. Berg says if Uncruise has a successful experience turning passengers in Petersburg than they could consider turning other vessels here in the future.

He says other vessels from Uncruise will also stop in Petersburg in the spring and fall when they are coming and going from the region.

More passengers will also be coming to Petersburg from Lindblad Expeditions, which operates the National Geographic boats. It brings three larger ships to Petersburg each season. The ship, The National Geographic Quest, with 100 passengers on board, will be visiting more than in the past, from the first week in May through the first week in September. The two other boats are The Sea Lion and The Sea Bird.

Another regular visiting cruise company, American Cruise Lines, will bring in more passengers than usual this season because they’ll be using a larger ship. They’re bringing in The American Constellation which carries 175 passengers instead of the ship that they’ve used in the past, The American Spirit, which carries 100.

Alaska Dream Cruises will also be bringing several ships to town as usual. Berg says they will be on varying schedules spread throughout the week.

The first cruise ship is scheduled to visit April 16. That’s earlier than normal, says Berg.

“April is the new May,” said Berg. “As you know, the days are getting quite long by then. And sure we might have a little snow in piles around town, the days are certainly nicer in April and May and June than in late August and through September. So, we may see our season changing.”

Besides helping the cruise lines with logistics, Berg’s business also gives local tours for tourists who want them. He says Viking Travel is hiring local people to help.

“Guides for dock walks and also historical guides for people when they’re walking around in town,” Berg said. “Generally, about an hour with a group of ten or 15 people,” Berg said. “American Constellation has requested six guides in the morning, three guides on the docks and three in town and also six in the afternoon.”

Berg says to contact Viking Travel if you are interested in working as a guide this summer.

For more information you can call 772-3818.