Ketchikan welcomes the Norwegian Joy

Captain Carl-Gunnar Hammerin accepts a painting by Ketchikan artist Terry Pyles from Ketchikan Gateway Borough mayor David Landis and city council member Dick Coose, left, on May 13 during a tour of the Norwegian Joy while moored at Berth 3. Hammerin has worked at sea for 47 years. Staff photo by Dustin Safranek

The Ketchikan Visitors Bureau and about half a dozen community representatives welcomed the 3,800-passenger Norwegian Joy cruise ship in its inaugural visit to Ketchikan Monday morning.

The Joy, with its sister ship, the Norwegian Bliss, are the two largest cruise ships with home ports on the West Coast of the United States. They both have multiple trips to Alaska this summer.

This marks a shift in the cruise industry towards larger ships. Because of this, Ketchikan city officials are strategizing how to increase the size of Ketchikan's berths.

During a brief ceremony on the ship's deck, Ketchikan Gateway Borough Mayor Dave Landis handed Captain Carl-Gunnar Hammerin a framed art-print of the Ketchikan waterfront with the Norwegian Joy in it. The portrait was created by local artist Terry Pyles. In return, Hammerin offered a plaque from the ship. The Ketchikan Visitors Bureau displays all the inaugural plaques that the city receives from cruise ships at the Berth 2 visitor center.

Hammerin said the first time he was in Ketchikan, he asked a local boy why it rained so much. The boy responded, "I don't know, I'm only 12 years old."

Shauna Lee, co-owner at My Alaska Tours, told Hammerin about the drought-like conditions in Ketchikan. She asked jokingly if the city could hook up to the Joy's power to help.

"Yeah, if you lower the docking fees maybe we can have a deal." Hammerin said.

The nearly 1,100 foot ship was nestled less than a hundred feet from a Princess Cruises ship at Berth 4. To the left of it was a red buoy marking a submerged rock pinnacle 27 feet below the water's surface.

The city allocated $8.6 million for its removal in its 2019 budget. Permitting is ongoing and removal is on track to take place next winter.

Hammerin described the rock formation as a "pain in the neck" and said, "it should have been removed a long time ago."

The ship is powered by 5 MAN diesel engines and 2 ABB Azipod XO electric propulsion systems.

"It's a power plant," said Hammerin.

Two members from the four to five member pilot team said they felt comfortable maneuvering the ship in winds up to 30 knots, or 35 mph.

A tour of some of the ships 20-decks followed the ceremony. Attractions on the ship include a laser tag course, a two-tiered go-kart track, mini golf and a casino.

The ship, built in 2017 for the Asian market, underwent more than $50 million in renovations before this summer season. Flooring was replaced, light fixtures upgraded. Two teahouses were replaced with espresso cafes. A barbeque restaurant was added. Three of the four casinos were replaced with luxury suites with optional 24-hr butler service, a ship-with-a-ship concept called "The Haven."

Joy tour guide Jun Sumatra has been with Norwegian Cruise Lines for several years. He said his favorite ship besides the Joy that he's worked on is the Norwegian Spirit. "It's small and beautiful."

Ketchikan Mayor Bob Sivertsen and City Manager Karl Amylon were not present Monday, but took a free cruise on the Joy courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Lines from Vancouver to Los Angeles last month.

The Joy is scheduled to dock in Ketchikan every Monday until Sept. 16.