The Serenade of the Seas in Sitka on July 21, 2021, the first port call of the curtailed 2021 cruise season. With a 2500 passenger capacity, the ship is close in size to the 2100 passenger Radiance of the Seas, which damaged a mooring dolphin while backing into its berth earlier this week.(Tash Kimmell/KCAW)

The newly expanded Sitka Sound Cruise Ship terminal welcomed its first seven sailings last week, commencing what’s expected to be a record breaking year in cruise travel. While a majority of dockings went without a hitch, the terminal sustained damage to its inside berth on Monday (5-9-22), after a cruise ship struck an outer mooring dolphin. 

A mooring dolphin is an off-shore steel structure that large boats can tie up to. In an interview with KCAW on Wednesday (5-11-22) owner and terminal manger, Chris McGraw says the 2100 passenger Radiance of the Seas hit the dolphin, damaging all four pilings, while backing into its berth Monday morning. The damage to the inside berth means the dock can no longer safely accommodate two ships, effectively cutting the dock’s capacity in half. McGraw says they’re currently working to notify incoming cruise lines. McGraw says the damage will affect future dates where two ships were scheduled.

While it’s still unclear exactly what the damage means for future cruise dates, McGraw says tendering passengers directly into town is a possibility in the meantime. McGraw says, some ships this year have already begun doing this when the dock is full.

A contractor from Anchorage based construction company Turnagain Marine will begin repairing the damaged dolphin over the weekend. McGraw says the timeline on repairs is unclear, but it could be anywhere from weeks to months before the berth is functional again. 

“Right now, it’s a lot of unknown. We’re going to try to figure out schedule changes and repairs. Who pays for it? You know, all of that is in process,” said McGraw.

Despite damaging the berth, the ship was left unscathed. McGraw says they successfully had 4000 passengers move through the facility on Monday, and the ship was able to moor and leave safely.