First cruise ship of the season arrives at Port of Anchorage

Published: May. 30, 2016 at 7:37 PM AKDT
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Anchorage's first cruise ship of the season, as part of a 9-trip series, arrived for its maiden docking at the Port of Anchorage Monday morning.

Holland America's 720-foot Maasdam landed in town with more than 1250 passengers and 500 crew members aboard. Along with helping show off the beauty of one of Alaska's largest cities, the ship brings in curious travelers and a big day's boost to the economy, too.

"It's a big summertime boost, to say the least," said Steve Ribuffo, Port of Anchorage Director. "And to have these guys here for 18 hours is pretty exciting."

Ribuffo said the impact of tourists like those disembarking from the Maasdam amounts to millions of dollars. Especially because of this, he said, it's important for the Port of Anchorage to be able to handle cruise ship business at the same time as regular commerce.

"It's nice to be able to have it on your résumé, that you can manage cruise ships," Ribuffo said. "It helps the economy a lot, and keeps our guys' skill sets pretty sharp."

Many tourists were taking a repeat Anchorage trip via Holland America for the umpteenth year in a row. Judy Hackstaff, who originally left from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, has taken the Anchorage route multiple times. It's her first time, however, on the Maasdam.

"I've been going for more than 30 days," she said. "It's the exact same cruise because I liked it so much."

Others were stepping on Anchorage grounds for the first time ever.

"We are really excited," said Marilyn Mercer, who's visiting the Last Frontier for the first time. "We've been wanting to go to Alaska for a long time."

Even the industrial nature of the Port of Anchorage couldn't get in the way for eager tourists visiting town. Some barely even noticed a difference.

"I sleep till the boat docks, then I'm fine," said Charles Goebel, who's visited previously and is planning on hitting Kincaid Park this time around. "But it's not like you walk off the ship and you're in town."

The Port of Anchorage is certainly different from the white sands and wildlife that many other cruise ship docking locations offer, but in many ways, that makes it all the more impressive. Planes will even be launching from base while ships are docking more often than not.

"You're coming into a port that does much more commerce more than it does cruise ships," Ribuffo said. "It's fascinating for people to see that kind of business. And the way this place is configured, you're right next to where everything is going on."