Sitka Dock welcomed Royal Caribbean International’s Ovation of the Seas and Princess Cruises’ Royal Princess, two of the largest cruise ships to visit Alaska, to port on Saturday, May 7, marking the start of a full cruise season after two years of pandemic interruptions. Ready to greet this season’s cruise travelers is the newly constructed Sitka Sound Cruise Terminal, a 40,000-square-foot timber-framed facility featuring local retail shops and restaurants, an outdoor covered terrace and a departure point for land- and water-based shore excursions.
Five years in the making, the completion of this dock expansion positions Sitka as the premier port-of-call for Alaska. The 1,300-foot dock is designed to accommodate two 1,000-foot neo-Panamax-class cruise ships, with a total capacity of 8,000 guests.
“We’re thrilled to welcome summer 2022 cruise passengers with this state-of-the-art dock and facility,” said Chris McGraw, owner of Sitka Sound Cruise Terminal. “The dock and terminal are located about five miles outside of downtown Sitka; not only does this create a more seamless departure for water- and land-based tours, it keeps the ships mostly out of locals’ day-to-day views and eases downtown traffic.”
The terminal has six retail stores and two restaurants, all locally owned. A shuttle for cruise guests between the terminal and downtown Sitka is designed to load up to four 60-passenger motor coaches at a time.
“More than half of all visitors coming to Alaska arrive by cruise ship. Here in Sitka, the revenue generated from cruise ship travel benefits every level of our local economy, supporting retail and tour operators, restaurant owners and local government, as well as fuel companies, grocery stores, property rentals and even seafood processors,” said McGraw. “A thriving travel economy allows Sitka to continue to be a vibrant city with every opportunity for families to live, work and play.”
“The Sitka community has worked incredibly hard to prepare its residents and destination partners to accommodate the arrival of cruise guests who are seeking special Alaska vacation memories in one of the world’s top destinations,” said Royal Caribbean Group Director of Destination Development, Alaska and West Coast, Preston Carnahan. “The Sitka Sound Cruise Terminal is a testament to how business alliances and community engagement can result in sustainable development of first-class marine and guest experience infrastructure. Sitkans, elected officials and tour operators have diligently planned for this season and I am excited for our guests to experience the beauty and uniqueness Sitka offers.”
We celebrate the opening of the Sitka Sound Cruise Terminal, knowing the importance of our business in Alaska as well as that of the port communities and small businesses,” said Robert Morgenstern, senior vice president of shore excursions, port operations serving Princess Cruises, Holland America Line and Seabourn. “This is our 75th year taking visitors to Alaska and we love everything about this great state. Holland America Line, Princess and Seabourn ships will make over 50 calls to Sitka this 2022 season, part of the itineraries of our Alaska sailings that are central to our brands.”
Sitka Sound Cruise Terminal is majority-owned by the McGraw family of Sitka, with minority investments from Royal Caribbean Group and Ceres Terminals Holding LLC. The McGraw family purchased the waterfront property where the cruise terminal is located in 2005. They constructed the first phase of the cruise ship dock in 2011 and welcomed its first ship the Celebrity Century on Sept. 18, 2012. In the 10 years that have passed since the first ship, the facility has been expanded to help the growth of cruise ship visitors to Sitka by welcoming some
of the newest and largest ships in the State of Alaska.