Alaska's capital Juneau is located in the state's southeastern part, sheltered from the Pacific Ocean by a belt of islands 120 km (75 mi) wide. The town is built on a small land strip between Gastineau Channel (separating mainland Alaska from Douglas Island) and Mount Juneau (approx 2,5 km / 1,5 mi east of downtown) at Lynn Canal's southern end.
Port Juneau (locode USJNU) is a major Alaskan cruise port and also a major fishing port. Cruise ships dock right in downtown (at Egan Drive) and you can explore on foot popular among tourists places like Red Dog Saloon, State Capitol, Governor's Mansion, Cultural Arts Park, Mount Roberts Goldbelt Tramway. Out-of-the-city recreational activities include gold panning, hiking (Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area via the East Glacier Loop), trailing (Nugget Falls/near the Glacier), canoeing and rafting (Mendenhall Lake), sports fishing, boat tours (wildlife viewing, whales), helicopter tours (Mendenhall Glacier), floatplane excursions (brown bears, glaciers, waterfalls, forests), dog sledding, kayaking (Smuggler’s Cove, Mendenhall Lake), Douglas Island (rain forest), Goldbelt Tram.
In early 2017 was announced a proposal by Juneau Assembly to exempt cruise companies from sales tax for goods and services sold onboard while their vessels are in port. On January 11, 2017, the city's finance committee voted 7-1 to approve a motion by the Mayor to amend the tax code and formalize the exemption. The proposed ordinance has to be drafted and brought to public hearing before being enacted. The Mayor's initiative was welcomed by the cruise industry, which customers pay nearly USD 8 million in sales tax while ships are docked in Juneau. However, it has historically not paid sales tax for any merchandise or services sold onboard the cruise ships while in port. A similar exemption exists in Port Ketchikan AK created as an incentive for cruise vessels to dock there longer. Cruise ships close all onboard shops while in port.
- A long-standing agreement requires cruise ship operators to pay sales tax. That would not change. In mid-April 2016, in US federal court in Anchorage AK a lawsuit against the Borough of Juneau was filed by CLIA ("Cruise Lines International Association"). It is over the spending of USD 5 per pax tax. Cruise ships collect port fees and pass them on the city. Juneau receives USD 5 entry fee per passenger ("marine passenger fee") in addition to a port development fee of USD 3 per passenger plus USD 5 (state head tax) to a total of $13 pp.
- CLIA's Alaska-based cruise liners pay USD 34,50 pp head tax to the state, which tax is inclusive of Juneau's $8 (5+3). CLIA estimated it has given Juneau over USD 35 million in entry fees in the period 2011-2015. CLIA represents 12 cruise line companies, among which are Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Holland America, Princess, NCL-Norwegian, Disney. They contend Juneau has used portions of the fees on projects that don't benefit cruise passengers, thus violating federal restrictions on entry fee taxes. The lawsuit remains pending.
- To defend itself in this lawsuit, the Assembly spent (as of 2017) over USD 0,38 million. CLIA also argues that the coastal park on Gastineau Channel has a bronze whale sculpture that is an illegal use of the cruise funds. In April 2017, Juneau Assembly approved a change in small boats charging rates for potable water at public docks and harbors. The new rate is 150% of the utility rates for commercial customers. The new rate replaces the old (USD 4,67 per 1000 gallons) rate.
- On December 6, 2018, US District Court ruled that Juneau can collect the fees, but their use must constitute an exclusive (ship only) service and not general public-accessible facilities or amenities.
Season 2017 (summer) was the port's busiest ever. As statistics, CLIA revealed a record number of booked cruise passengers (~1,055 million). The estimated by CLIA cruise passenger spending in Juneau was ~USD 183 million. The statistics showed that in the period May 1 through September 30, the cruise port receives an average of USD 1,233 million per day.
Port Juneau provides shore-to-ship power capabilities. The technology (by Nidec Corporation, Japan) enables docked vessels to receive electricity from the city's power grid. From the berth, vessels can plug-in directly to the grid which allows full onboard operations without using the diesel engines (being shut down right after docking). The Japanese company has installed such shore-power systems in ports Los Angeles CA, San Francisco CA, Goteborg, Travemunde, Livorno, Genoa.
- On Sept 9th (2019), NCLH purchased (for USD 20 million) a 2,9-acres/1,2-hectares land area at Egan Drive (across from Juneau Arts and Culture Center and adjacent to the USCG Juneau station).
- The land was owned by Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority and sold to NCLH in a sealed bid auction.
- RCG-Royal Caribbean Group was the next highest bidder (USD 13M), followed by Godspeed Inc (USD 12,8M), Survey Point Holdings Inc (USD 5,255M) and City of Juneau (USD 4,25M).
- On August 23, 2022, NCLH announced that it donates the undeveloped waterfront parcel to Huna Totem Corporation (native-owned/by 1450+ aboriginal shareholders). Huna Totem will now has to develop the new cruise pier and the ship dock-related infrastructure on the former NCLH property. The donation deal was signed by Dan Farkas (NCLH's Executive VP) and Russell Dick (Huna Totem Corporation's President and CEO).
The town was named after the Canadian prospector Joseph Juneau (1836-99) who together with the Irish-American prospector Richard Tighe Harris (1833-1907) co-founded "Juneau City" in 1881. The town was incorporated in 1900 and became Alaska's capital in 1906, Greater Juneau Borough in 1963, and City and Borough of Juneau in 1970. Gold mining here started in 1880, when Joe Juneau and Richard Harris (helped by the Indians) finally found large nuggets of gold and, eventually, three of the world's biggest gold mines.
The current-day city's economy is based on services (state-federal-municipal governments), but mainly on tourism. During the summer season (May through September) the cruise shipping industry alone brings ~1 million tourists to the city. The fishing industry is another major contributor to Juneau's economy. Other industries include real estate, road construction, mining. There are no direct road connections to Juneau, so the access is either by sea (Alaska Marine Highway's ferries and cruise ships) or by air (Juneau International Airport).
Cars and trucks access the city either via cargo barges or via the ferryboats serving the Alaska Marine Highway. The Juneau-Douglas Bridge (length 189 m / 620 ft, over Gastineau Channel) connects to Douglas Island (which is part of the city and west of downtown, and has two communities/settlements - Douglas, and West Juneau).
Juneau Airport is approx 13 km (8 mi) northwest of downtown and handles both cargo and passenger aircraft. Cargo flights (by the airlines Alaska Air Cargo, Empire Airlines, Alaska Central Express) link to Anchorage, Ketchikan, Seattle. Regularly scheduled passenger flights (by Alaska Airlines, Alaska Seaplanes, Harris Air) link to Petersburg/Mitkof Island, Seattle, Sitka, Anchorage, Ketchikan, Yakutat, Gustavus. Seaplanes/floatplanes interlink Juneau with Admiralty Island (Angoon), Chichagof Island (Elfin Cove, Pelican, Tenakee Springs), Baranof Island (Sitka), as well as with seaplane bases on mainland Alaska (Excursion Inlet, Gustavus, Haines, Hoonah/Icy Strait Point, Kake, Skagway) and with Yukon Canada (Whitehorse).
Juneau cruise terminal
Cruise ships to Juneau AK dock at one of the port's 3 cruise terminals, with all 4 docking berths. The terminals are named Marine Park (2 berths / largest), Ferry Terminal, and South Franklin Dock. If all the 3 berths are occupied, additional ships anchor in the harbour and passengers are transported via the ship's tender boats.
There is a shuttle bus line operating between the cruise port and the Mt Robert Tram station. Its port station is located at the privately-owned AJ Dock. Daily bus pass costs USD 3 PP, with buses running every 15 min. The cruise port is located at a short walking distance from the town. Juneau International Airport is located approx 8 ml / 13 km northwest from downtown.
- On January 25, 2017, Port Juneau announced the begining of construction works for a new (4th) cruise berth (located close to the Marine Park terminal) with completion scheduled for early April 2017. The USD 54 million project's works were done by the Seattle-based company Manson Construction. The project was funded with state grants and revenue bonds backed by a surcharge levied on cruise passengers.
- The new berth is the port's biggest (pier length 1100 ft / 335 m), allowing docking of larger cruise vessels.
This new "north berth" looks similar to the Marine Park's "south berth" (length 1000 ft / 305 m) located near Mount Roberts Tram. Both berths are connected via catwalk (accessible to stevedores only / waterfront manual laborers). Unlike the port's other 2 (smaller / old) berths, the new cruise ship berths offer both water and sewage services. South Berth's sewage piping was installed in 2016.
Both new berths don't provide (for now) shore-to-ship power as Alaska Electric Light and Power (Juneau's power utility) currently can't supply visiting vessels. The amount of money needed for such future project is around USD 12 million per berth.
Before the new berths, Port Juneau had capacity to handle simultaneously 2 ships - one smaller (max LOA length 800 ft / 244 m) and one bigger (max LOA length 960 ft / 293 m, berthed at Alaska Steamship Dock).
Both new berths are the closest to downtown. Previously, only AJ Dock (privately owned facility) could accommodate larger vessels.
The NCL-Norwegian's newest cruise berth (at Egan Drive in downtown Juneau) will have a newbuild passenger terminal (multi-story building), bus parking (underneath the building) and a new dock/wharf positioned perpendicular to the shore. A green space will extend down to the waterfront. Incorporated in the complex will be also Juneau's new Alaska Ocean Center. Shoreside power supply (for vessels docked at the berth) is also planned. NCL also plans to extend the seawalk/esplanade from Gold Creek to a new connection to the existing docks.
Juneau tours, shore excursions, hotels
City Tours and Shore Excursions
- Alaska State Museum (native and historical artifacts)
- Sealaska Heritage (Native nonprofit, authentic house and an exhibition, Native-made souvenirs)
- Mount Roberts Tramway (an aerial tram ascending 1745 ft / 532 m up to Mt Roberts; this attraction provides great panoramic views of Juneau City and the nearby located glaciers)
- Mendenhall Glacier (width 1,5 ml / 2,4 km, length over 12 ml / 19 km to Mendenhall Lake; Info Center, exhibitions, viewing platform)
Port Juneau cruise ship schedule shows timetable calendars of all arrival and departure dates by month. The port's schedule lists all ships (in links) with cruises going to or leaving from Juneau, Alaska. To see the full itineraries (ports of call dates and arrival / departure times) and their lowest rates – just follow the corresponding ship-link.
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