Princess Cruises plans to shorten port time in Juneau

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SEATTLE -- Princess Cruises will shorten the time its ships spend in Juneau next summer. The company stressed that the change was an "itinerary adjustment" and not a retaliatory response to the port's recent decision to impose a $5 a head tax on arriving cruise passengers.

Shortened ports of call at Juneau, Alaska will give Princess passengers less time to visit attractions such as the Mount Roberts Tramway, above, and less time to shop. Two of Princess' vessels will reduce their stops in the Alaska capital by three hours, departing at 8 p.m. instead of 11 p.m., as in the past. One ship will leave at 9 p.m. rather than 11 p.m., and two others will leave at 5 p.m. instead of 6 p.m.

The earlier getaway is likely to hurt Juneau businesses, which tend to benefit most from passengers' late, post-shore-excursion purchases.

"This is something we were working on long before the head tax issue arose," said Dean Brown, president of the company's tour division.

"It's an adjustment that will allow us to spend more time in the next ports -- Ketchikan, southbound and Skagway, northbound. It will put us in both of those ports earlier," he said. "We believe that that's what our passengers want, based on what they've told us."

Princess lands some 170,000 cruise passengers in Juneau each year. The schedule tweaking could cost merchants millions of dollars as a result of the 340,000 peak shopping hours lost.

As reported, citizens voted for the head tax in response to concerns about the effect of cruise passengers on the city's services, environment and traffic patterns.

Brown said Princess was totally responsive to Juneau's concerns -- to the point that it moved its motorcoach maintenance yard from one side of town to the other, thereby cutting out as many as 7,000 coach passages through downtown on the busiest cruise days.

"It was not unusual for a driver to take a coach from the yard in the morning before a shore excursion, drive it back through town empty at lunchtime, then repeat the process in the afternoon," Brown said.

"That represents four trips through town. Now, by having our motorcoaches on the other side of Juneau, near the pier, we've eliminated an awful lot of that traffic," he added.

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