July 24, 2024

Juneau Hits the Pause Button

Passengers stroll along Juneau boardwalk.

The city of Juneau has introduced measures to reduce the number of cruise passengers arriving annually at this popular Alaskan port.

Juneau’s harbor fills with ships during busy summer months.

Like other tourist destinations that fell quiet during the pandemic, the ports of Alaska experienced a resurgence of visitors when travel rebounded.

The number of cruise passengers visiting Juneau in 2023 was a record-breaking 1.7 million, up nearly 30% from pre-pandemic numbers. Local business owners and tour operators were overwhelmed at times by the sheer volume of visitors.

At the end of the 2023 season, community leaders held discussions with representatives of the cruise lines and an agreement was struck to cap the number of ships that call on Juneau in 2024 at five per day.

Further restrictions will come into effect in 2026, when no more than 16,000 lower-berth passengers per day will visit Juneau, except on Saturdays, when the limit drops to 12,000. “The goal and the message here is that Juneau is hitting pause on growth,” said Alexandra Pierce, the city’s tourism manager.

Some Juneau residents want the restrictions to go further and are calling for a referendum to ban cruise ships on Saturdays. They cite the noise and congestion from the tour buses and flightseeing helicopters and whalewatching boats that operate in high numbers from May through September. To this end they have launched a petition, but a counter-campaign is already urging locals not to sign it.

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Avatar photo About Anne Vipond

Anne Vipond is the author of several guidebooks to cruising destinations around the world. She draws on an extensive sailing background to impart her enthusiasm for cruise travel. From her home port of Vancouver, she travels by cruise ship to a wide range of destinations to keep her books current and useful for her cruise readers. Her cruising articles have been published in magazines and newspapers throughout North America and over seas.