Hauppauge, NY (Vocus) March 30, 2010
Some say that global warming may eventually melt the polar ice caps, but Alaska seems to have started thawing out already, at least with regard to its government’s position on the cruise industry.
Following an announcement last week by Alaska’s Governor Sean Parnell, cruise stock prices rose significantly and cruise line executives once again began sounding “bullish” on Alaska. To the casual observer, Alaska’s announcement of a pending reduction in their controversial cruise passenger “head tax” (from $46.00 to $34.50) might not warrant that kind of reaction. But, to cruise industry insiders, the announcement may ultimately remove an obstacle the size of a glacier.
In August of 2006, Alaska’s voters approved (by a fairly narrow margin) a state government proposal to impose a $46.00 per person “head tax” on passengers visiting Alaska via cruise ship. Almost immediately after enactment of the proposal into law, several cruise line executives announced plans for their cruise line to reduce (and in some cases eliminate) the number of ships they would deploy to Alaska. This included Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) and the entire Carnival Cruise Line family (which includes Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America and Princess Cruises). As it turned out, these were not just “idle threats” and, for the past four years, the number of ships cruising to Alaska has rapidly dwindled.
Perhaps Alaskan’s (long-known for their intense desire to preserve America’s “last frontier”) got exactly what they wanted. That would include less crowding of their cities by cruise ship passengers and less potential pollution of their waters by an industry that has admittedly made some mistakes in the past (which have long since been rectified). But, as always, independence (or isolation in this case) has a price.
Tom Coiro, Vice President of Direct Line Cruises, speculates that, “With the Governor’s announcement, it seems that the citizens of Alaska may have come to realize that, barring another ‘gold rush’, many people would never visit their state if they can’t go there with the comfort and convenience of a cruise ship. So Alaskan tourism has suffered greatly as a result of far fewer visits by cruise ships and the economy of the entire state has been negatively affected.” “Conversely”, Tom continued, “the cruise lines simply moved their ships to other places that welcomed them”.
According to Tom, “Alaska is one of the best places to visit on a cruise because you can witness its natural beauty without ‘freezing your butt off’. So, for the sake of all parties concerned, I sincerely hope that they repeal this ill-conceived tax altogether.”