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By SCOTT BOWLEN
Daily News Staff Writer
Ketchikan looks different from the glass-enclosed bridge of a towering cruise ship.
Aboard the Royal Princess on Thursday to commemorate its inaugural season of visiting the First City, Ketchikan representatives were drawn to the bridge windows perched high above Berth 4, taking in a stunning perspective of a town they all know well.
Seeing Ketchikan from eagle flight height helps explain why more that 1 million passengers are expected to visit here this year. Another attraction is the modern engineering marvels of the conveyances themselves.
Launched in 2012 at Fincantieri Cantieri Navali shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy — and christened by Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge — the 1,083-foot, 19-deck Royal Princess represents the current wave of mainstream cruise industry trends.
It’s huge, with more than 1,780 guest cabins. It’s packed with a dizzying amount of amenities, including its own television studio. And it sparkles. One guesses that many of its 1,350 or so crew members spend a lot of time keeping this ship as shiny as can be.
On Thursday morning, the Ketchikan contingent that included Ketchikan Gateway Borough Mayor David Landis and City of Ketchikan Mayor Bob Sivertsen was met on the Royal Princess’ bridge by its captain, Tony Draper, and hotel manager, Bosco Pires.
Draper is a Princess Cruise Line veteran who noted that 2019 marks the line’s 50th year of operating in Alaska.
As for Draper himself, “I’ve been coming here since the last century,” he said.
“It's always wonderful, regardless of the weather,” Draper continued. “There’s lots to see and lots to do. The passengers love it. They see a little bit of wilderness, the wildlife. Getting that ... fresh Alaska air, and going back invigorated, having seen some wonderful things. It’s been great to be coming here.”
The Royal Princess’ inaugural Alaska season involves sailing one-way voyages between Vancouver, British Columbia, and Whittier this season, a route that includes the Hubbard glacier, Glacier Bay, Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan.
“We’re full most of the time,” said Draper, acknowledging that the term “full” is flexible when the ship’s lower berth count (two people per stateroom) is about 3,500 passengers. A higher passenger-per-stateroom tally can put the guest count past 4,000 on some cruises.
Draper said most of the ship’s provisioning is done in Vancouver. However, the ship does take on local seafood such as salmon, halibut and oysters in Ketchikan, he said.
As is per usual during the onboard ceremony commemorating a cruise ship’s inaugural visit or season in a port, Thursday’s gathering on the Royal Princess’s bridge involved an exchange of gifts.
Landis opened the more formal comments with a quote by George William Hartness.
“It is not the ship so much as the skillful sailing that assures the prosperous voyage,” said Landis, quoting Hartness.
“I thought that was a good quote for the day,” Landis said. “We certainly appreciate this ship, and especially the crew and the passengers and the company that you have. We enjoy every single season having the folks come off the ships and shop here and enjoy what we enjoy here all year round.”
Sivertsen presented a framed image of Creek Street to Draper, who said the print would be displayed aboard the Royal Princess.
In turn, Draper presented a memento from the ship bearing the motto “Omnis Pelagi Maiestas,” which he said translated roughly to “Majesty Across the Oceans.” The plaque will be displayed in the Ketchikan Visitors Bureau.
Draper answered questions about the Royal Princess, noting that he’s been with the vessel since it was being built. He pointed out the original ship’s bell from the original Royal Princess, which was christened by Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1984. The bell is on loan to the current Royal Princess.
The conversation included technical aspects of the ship, including its wastewater processing capabilities and its 10,000-horsepower bow and stern thrusters.
The ship’s propulsion system makes use of a conventional configuration of two propellers and two rudders rather than the 360-degree azipod systems found on some ships.
The length and height of the ship — about 1,080 feet long and 190 feet tall at its highest point — results in about 13,500 square meters (145,300 square feet) of wind surface per side, according to Draper.
As talk on the bridge began to wind down, Draper told the Ketchikan group that it was a real pleasure for the Royal Princess to be in Ketchikan.
“We get great comments from all of the passengers, particularly when it’s weather like this — but also when it’s not weather like this,” he said.
Draper also touched upon a difficult subject on Thursday.
On May 13, two floatplanes carrying 15 passengers who were visiting Ketchikan aboard the Royal Princess were involved in a mid-air collision that resulted in the deaths of five passengers, in addition to one of the pilots.
“I’d like to thank the community as well for their support following the incident during our first cruise,” Draper said, adding that “we feel for the community here.”
He was thanked for the gracious remark.
“We appreciate you saying that,” Landis said.
Following the event, members of the Ketchikan group toured the ship, taking in the sights within the ship and the views of the Ketchikan area available from its many windows and upper deck. One of the highest areas on the ship featured curved walkways that extended out over the edge of the ship. The flooring was clear, so the pedestrian could look down past his or her feet, all the way to the sparkling surface of the water far below.
From there, it took a journey of many steps and a change in the altitude of several decks to reach the gangway leading back to the floating dock of Berth 4. Passengers returning from their excursions, shopping and other activities in Ketchikan were making their way back to the ship that would soon be taking them south through the Canadian Inside Passage to Vancouver.
The Royal Princess is scheduled to continue its 2019 Alaska season through mid-September before heading to Los Angeles for its next season of cruises along the Mexican Riviera and California coast.
Draper said the Royal Princess is scheduled to return to Alaska in 2020 and 2021.