Juneau is the capital of Alaska since 1900. It is located in the southeastern part of Alaska, sheltered from the Pacific by a belt of islands 120 km (75 mi) wide. Surrounded by ice, water, forest and rock, Juneau is built on a small strip of land between the Gastineau Channel and towering Mount Juneau at the southern end of Lynn Canal. Although not accessible by road, it's the biggest city in southeast Alaska with 30,000 inhabitants and home to a large fishing fleet. Juneau is also a creator's paradise and home to actors, artists, writers and poets who draw their inspiration from the wilderness.
Residents claim Juneau is the most picturesque capital in the country, while others describe it as the "little San Francisco". 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 Tramway. Out of the city, activities include gold panning, Mendenhall Glacier, Mendenhall Lake (canoeing and rafting), fishing, wildlife viewing (on tour boats), over glacier helicopter tours, Douglas Island (rain forest).
In 1880, for Richard Harris and Joe Juneau, the going was frustrating as they searched for gold with the help of Indians. Finally, after facing countless difficulties, they found nuggets "as large as beans." Three of the biggest gold mines in the world came out of their discoveries. By the end of WW2 (1939-1945), over USD 150 million in gold was mined here. Juneau's mines were eventually closed, the town became Alaska's capital and "gold business" was replaced by tourism.
In early 2017 was announced a proposal by Juneau Assembly ("The City and Borough of 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 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 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 port's busiest ever. As statistics, CLIA revealed a record number of booked cruise passengers - around 1,055 million. The estimated by CLIA cruise passenger spending in Juneau was around 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.
In September 2019, world's 3rd-largest cruise company Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) announced plans to build an additional cruise ship dock at Egan Drive (downtown Juneau). On Sept 9 (2019), NCL 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 NCL in a sealed bid auction. RCCL-Royal Caribbean was the next highest bidder (USD 13 M), followed by Godspeed Inc (USD 12,8 M), Survey Point Holdings Inc (USD 5,255 M) and City of Juneau (USD 4,25 M).
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 doesn'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 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.
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)
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