Local News

Two ships make Sitka debuts

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SITKA, ALASKA
Such presentations are customary in communities around the world whenever a passenger vessel visits a port for the first time.

Sitka Mayor Cheryl Westover says it’s important for the city to let ships know they’re welcome here. And she said any time a new ship visits Sitka, it’s worth celebrating.

“They’ve got almost 2,000 passengers,” Westover said. “Before we boarded we could see them all coming in to town. They’re excited, and they’re smiling as they’re heading back. They’ll tell their friends and hopefully we’ll get more visitors and more sales tax revenue.”

That sales tax revenue comes in part from passengers coming ashore and spending money at local businesses. The number of passengers visiting Sitka has declined in recent years. In 2008, Sitka had about 280,000 passengers. This year that number is about 130,000.

“Next year, 2012 will be about the same as 2011, and then we haven’t seen 2013 yet,” said Fred Reeder, of Cruise Line Agencies of Alaska.

This journey marks the first time the six-year-old Arcadia visited Alaskan waters. The ship is on a 72-day cruise from the United Kingdom up to Alaska and back. It next heads to British Columbia, Los Angeles, the Carribbean, the eastern seaboard of the United States and then back to England. The Arcadia is operated by P & O cruises.

Captain Kevin Oprey says a little more than half of the ship’s nearly 1,900 passengers are aboard for the entire 72-day cruise.

“Once we get back to the U.K. and they start to analyze it and see how popular it really was, if everything works out, then they’ll probably plan for another one in 2013,” Oprey said. “But that’s only a possibility.”

The Arcadia is the second vessel making its Sitka debut this season. On Monday, city officials presented a plaque to the captain of the 600-foot Regatta, operated by Miami-based Oceania Cruises.
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