Cruise Town This year, cruise ship passengers to Juneau, Alaska, outnumbered local residents 35 to 1. Cruise Town is a podcast from KTOO News. It's about how Juneau became a Cruise Town, what it's like to live in a Cruise Town and what the city's future holds in light of the industry's explosive growth.
Cruise Town

Cruise Town

From KTOO

This year, cruise ship passengers to Juneau, Alaska, outnumbered local residents 35 to 1. Cruise Town is a podcast from KTOO News. It's about how Juneau became a Cruise Town, what it's like to live in a Cruise Town and what the city's future holds in light of the industry's explosive growth.

Most Recent Episodes

Season 3, Episode 1: 'Cruise ships are back, baby!'

There were two giant hurdles preventing cruise ships from coming back to Alaska in April when they usually start showing up. For one, the Canadian border is still closed. Also, the CDC banned cruises last year. And even though it lifted that ban, it was replaced with a Conditional Sailing Order that came with a long list of hoops that cruise companies and ports have to jump through before ships can operate in the U.S. again. For more than six months, Alaska' cruise towns have been staying hopeful but also realistic about the fact that getting around Canada and the CDC seemed pretty much impossible. We're back with a new season of Cruise Town because — spoiler alert — large cruise ships are coming back to Alaska in July.

Season 2, Episode 4: The season that wasn't

This summer was slated to be Juneau's biggest ever for cruise ship visitors. Instead, 1.4 million cruise ship passengers and hundreds of millions of dollars never arrived in port. In May, we couldn't imagine what an entire year of off-season would be like. It ended up feeling like summer never came. But, how bad was it? Will the industry bounce back? Will Juneau bounce back? We discuss the cruise season that wasn't and what Cruise Towns might expect for next year.

Season 2, Episode 3: Uncruise

Since this spring, we've been following along as the biggest cruise season in Juneau's history got canceled. In August, Juneau did see some cruise visitors after all. But it was a far cry from the 1.4 million visitors we were expecting — it was 36 to be exact. The first and only cruise ship to sail in Southeast Alaska during the pandemic left Juneau on Aug. 1st and returned to Juneau just four days later, after a passenger on the ship received a call that he had tested positive for COVID-19.

Season 2, Episode 2: What's in a plan?

For the past several months, it's been a lot of "will they or won't they" with regard to the cruise industry coming to Alaska this year. And now that it's clear that they won't, cruise towns in southeast Alaska are thinking about next year. The hope is that by the time April rolls around, the pandemic will be on its way out or cruise ship companies will at least have figured out how to operate safely despite it.

Season 2, Episode 1: They're Not Coming

A lot about Juneau's future is up in the air still, but one thing is certain now: more than a million cruise ship passengers will not be coming to town this summer. Local businesses are already struggling to get by without tourists. By next year, Juneau could look like a very different place. It all depends on how the industry, and the world, recovers from COVID-19 and its economic fallout. On this episode Adelyn Baxter catches us up on the last 3 months. How did we get here — to the point where Alaska's biggest tourism season ever just vanished?

Episode 6: Five Stars

An Alaska cruise is all about the scenery. And Juneau doesn't disappoint. There's a glacier in town and some of the best whale-watching in the world. But, this episode is about how Alaska can make some people squirm. Because climate change is so in-your-face here. And at some point, tourism is just going to be too much, but no one knows when exactly that's going to happen. And some people worry that we're not going to know that it's happened until it's way too late to stop it.

Episode 5: We Almost Lost Yanni

Safety at sea is serious business. And as the industry continues its explosive growth in Juneau, safety concerns are at the top of everyone's list. In this episode, we ask what's the worst thing that could happen? And we talk to the people who have thought about how to prepare for it.

Episode 4: The Weight of the World

What we know as Juneau has been the home of the Aak'w Kwaan since time immemorial. Some cruise ship tourists are curious about the people who were here long before Cruise Town and long before Juneau. In this episode, we'll meet the cultural interpreters with the difficult task of explaining their history, their culture, their art — their existence — to someone who just got off a cruise ship.

Episode 3: Camp Cruise Town

Juneauites are a lot like whales. Some are year-round residents — enduring or even thriving during the cold and wet off-season. But some migrate in for the summer — making a splash when they arrive and then leaving again, chasing prey or love or something else equally magnetic. On this episode, we'll meet some of the year-round and part-time residents of Cruise Town.

Episode 2: The Whale and the Head Tax

Juneau has a new park featuring a life-size statue of a humpback whale breaching from a reflecting pool, complete with water works. The statue was privately funded, but the park where it lives was almost entirely paid for by a controversial per-person tax on cruise ship passengers. It was one of the first taxes of its kind and the cruise industry actually sued the city over it.