Alaska cruises have long been a popular item, but indications are they will show a huge increase in 2019.

Cruise-ship tourism to Alaska this year is expected to increase by about 16 percent over the numbers reported for 2018, according to projections issued by Cruise Line International Association, the cruise lines’ marketing agency.

In raw numbers, notes the Alaska Journal of Commerce, that translates to about 1.3 million tourists arriving by cruise ship to destinations including Juneau, Sitka, Skagway, Seward and Valdez, which are Alaska’s major ports.

The 16 percent boost in passenger totals would increase the 2018 total by 175,000 more people.

The cruise industry is adding more port calls and more passengers per port call. Not only are there more ships coming to Alaska, but they are getting larger, notes the Journal of Commerce article.

Three new ships — the Norwegian Joy, Royal Princess and Ovation of the Seas, all of which carry more than 3,000 passengers each — join the Norwegian Bliss, which carries 4,000 passengers, in Alaskan waters, according to CLIA.

With one exception, the ships are new to the trade or larger than the ships they replace, notes CLIA.

Although scheduled cruises can take passengers everywhere from Nome to Ketchikan, the vast majority of cruise ships will dock in Southeast Alaska.

Juneau is expecting nearly 1.3 million passengers, with at least one cruise ship docked there every day from the end of April through the beginning of October.

Juneau has been building out its dock infrastructure for cruise ships for the past several years. The trend is toward larger ships in the cruise industry and Juneau is trying to accommodate that need, reports the Journal of Commerce.

Over the past decade, cruise-ship tourism has increased by about 50 percent in Juneau. On a heavy ship day, the city can host some 15,000 visitors in a town of about 32,000. As ships become larger, that figure may increase to 20,000 on a heavy day, officials predict. When passengers disembark, they frequently head out of the city on excursions.

Cruise ship passengers who arrive in Alaskan ports often eat at local restaurants, buy souvenirs and go on local tours, thereby contributing heavily to the local economy. Tourism businesses to serve them have multiplied in Juneau and elsewhere in the past two decades.

We’ve cruised to Alaska a half-dozen times and can recommend it as a prime summer vacation. Best time to travel there, we have found, is from mid-July to mid-August. Temperatures are very mild then and rainfall is usually not a big problem.

Bob Retzlaff has written the Travel Scene column for the Post Bulletin since 1983. He has traveled to about 100 countries and cruised some 35 times.

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