Stormy Weather Diverts Sitka Cruise Ships

By ,   September 23, 2016 ,   Cruise Industry

High seas and gale-force winds on the outer coast are keeping around 4,500 cruise ship passengers from seeing Sitka this week.

MS Amsterdam, ms Maasdam and ms Westerdam, three of Holland America Line's ships, have canceled their port visits.

MS Amsterdam

Sherry Aitken, director of tourism for Visit Sitka, part of the Greater Sitka Chamber of Commerce, said:

“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.” 

The cruise ships were scheduled for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

Two vessels are still scheduled to call at Sitka before the end of the month. Norwegian Jewel is slated to visit Sitka on Saturday, Sept 24, and ms Westerdam next Wednesday, Sept 28.

Aitken hopes that the weather will allow them to bring passengers to Sitka tours and shops.

“September is a time when you’ve probably made your costs for the season and you’re looking at expanding your margin of profitably.”

Weather cancellations are not unusual in Sitka this time of year. Storms kept 380-passenger Silver Shadow from visiting on September 10, and 3 years ago, two of the bigger ships also skipped Sitka.

“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.

This season Alaska is seeing just more than 1 million cruise ship passengers, but only 12% of them (120,000) visit Sitka. Tourism officials expect the number to climb in 2017 when Celebrity Cruises and Holland America have planned additional calls in the town.