Gale-force winds and high seas on the outer coast are keeping about 4,500 cruise ship travelers from seeing Sitka this week.
Three Holland America Line ships – the Westerdam, the Amsterdam and the Maasdam – have canceled their port calls.
Sherry Aitken is director of tourism for Visit Sitka, which is part of the Greater Sitka Chamber of Commerce.
“Largely, it’s because they have to go on the outside of Baranof Island. They cannot take the path of the ferries, through the interisland areas. And so, they’re exposed to any type of heavy seas and right now it’s tremendously heavy seas,” she said.
The ships were scheduled for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of this week.
Two ships are still scheduled to call in Sitka before the end of this month. The Norwegian Jewel is slated to stop on Saturday (9-24-16) and the Westerdam next Wednesday (9-28-16).
Aitken hopes the weather will allow them to sail and bring passengers to Sitka shops and tours.
“September is a time when you’ve probably made your costs for the season and you’re looking at expanding your margin of profitably.,” she said.
Weather cancellations aren’t all that unusual this time of year in Sitka. Storms kept the 380-passenger Silver Shadow from calling on Sept. 10. Three years ago, two of the larger ships also skipped Sitka at the end of the season.
“I think it’s always disappointing that we don’t have the potential guests here. And it’s great when we can finish up September strong. But for Sitka, it is really weather dependent,” she said.
Alaska is seeing just over 1 million cruise ship passengers this season. But only 12 percent of them — or 120,000 — visit Sitka. Tourism officials expect that number to climb next year when Holland America and Celebrity have planned additional calls in Sitka.