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Skagway struggles as it deals with second straight summer of no major cruise ships

Updated: May. 16, 2021 at 9:18 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) -Alaska is facing a second straight summer without major cruise ships. That’s not what the communities that rely on them want to hear. Skagway Mayor Andrew Cremata says any cruises this season are welcomed.

“We’ll take whatever we can get at this point,” said Cremata. “Even if it would be a handful of ships coming in for six or seven weeks, towards what would typically be the tail end of the season, that’s positive.”

The U.S. Senate renewed hope of at least a shortened season last week when it approved the Alaska Tourism Recovery Act. The Bill, which now goes to the House of Representatives, would temporarily pause the requirement that all foreign-flagged cruise ships dock in Canada before they sail for Alaska.

The people of Skagway, including Cremata, want to see the cruise ships. Part of his job now is to temper the optimism, especially among business owners.

“Are they going to be able to get employees to come here with an abbreviated season where the cost of living is pretty high?” Cremata said.

Governor Mike Dunleavy feared the state could lose more than $3 billion with the loss of the cruise ships for a second straight year.

“96% of the economy here in Skagway relies on cruise ships,” said Cremata.

Skagway has so far weathered the loss of what Cremata called his city’s major industry.

“As a municipality, we’ve had money to fall back on,” Cremata said. “We haven’t had to cut employees’ wages. We haven’t had to cut benefits.”

Plus, Cremata pointed out no city workers have lost their jobs, while the city has held off on hiring some seasonal workers.

Folks in Skagway did have a reason to celebrate last year. Cremata said the city gave everyone who lives there $1,000. The funds came from federal CARES money to help stimulate the economy.

Plus, Skagway used some reserve funds for business grants. The city will have more money for them this summer, as Cremata said the city will get $2 million from Norwegian Cruise Line. The company donated $10 million to Skagaway and five other Southeast areas to help them while ships can’t sail.

But, there’s something Skagway wants to see even more to help cure its financial woes, the returns of cruise ships.

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