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By BILLY SINGLETON
Daily News Staff Writer
Cruise season is nearly upon us, and this season comes with a number of changes.
For starters, more cruise ship visitors are expected. Ketchikan Port and Harbors Department Director Steve Corporon estimates that we’ll see more than 1.04 million passengers, a steady increase from last year’s roughly 1.01 million.
That growth can be directly attributed to the arrival of the Norwegian Bliss — the biggest, heaviest and highest-capacity cruise ship Ketchikan has ever seen, by far. The brand new ship was officially delivered to Norwegian Cruise Line on Thursday.
According to Corporon, the Bliss’ captain has stated that he expects to regularly arrive with between 4,800 and 4,900 passengers.
“It’s going to be like having two ships at Berth 3 at once,” he said.
If the Bliss were to average 4,800 passengers over its 17 stops, it would bring 81,600 visitors to Ketchikan over the course of the season. That’s nearby double that of the ship it’s replacing in Southeast Alaska, the Norwegian Sun.
The 1,082-foot leviathan is scheduled to dock at Berth 3 on Mondays, starting June 4. The ship is not only very large, but contains a number of unusual attractions — including a multi-story go-kart track.
Corporon said that the ship’s appearance will be “the first real test” of Ketchikan’s ability to deal with the crowds that come with a new generation of megaships.
Port and Harbors is making some immediate changes to the port, intended to ease pedestrian traffic jams.
Modifications of the Berth 3 transfer bridge, which wrapped up this month, will now allow pedestrians to walk on the entire width of the bridge, which will hopefully smooth the embarking and disembarking processes.
Corporon said that the department has further streamlined the Berth 3 area by relocating the vendor booths, which he said had previously dammed up the flow of people. He also expressed interest in putting a crossing guard on Front Street near Berth 3 to keep traffic moving on what he calls “Blissful Mondays.”
He also mentioned taking measures to keep tourists out of the street near Berth 1 and the possibility of additional crossing guards elsewhere in the downtown area.
Asked if he believed that the changes will smooth out the crowding associated with the Bliss, Corporon was hopeful.
“I’m hoping so,” he said. “But we’re going to try and be as prepared as we can.”
Other new additions to Ketchikan’s 2018 cruise schedule are:
• Windstar Cruises’ Star Legend, a 208-passenger luxury cruise ship. The Star Legend will stop in Ketchikan 10 times. The ship was the setting of the 1997 blockbuster Speed 2: Cruise Control. Its first stop in Ketchikan is Sunday, May 27.
• Silver Seas’ Silver Explorer, a 132-passenger expedition ship. It will visit in Ketchikan twice, on June 6 and Sept. 1. Its other summer 2018 destinations include Otaru, Japan and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Russia.
• Carnival Cruise Lines’ Carnival Splendor, a 3,000-passenger ship. It will stop in Ketchikan once, on Sept. 4, as the final stop of a 14-day round-trip cruise from Long Beach, California.
• American Dream Cruises’ American Constellation, a 175-passenger cruise ship. It will stop in Ketchikan twice, on June 14 and 15, and Sept. 15 and 16, as part of its 15-day Inside Passage cruise.
The first ship of the season will the Ruby Princess, arriving May 3.