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The Southeast Alaska community of Sitka today welcomed Royal Caribbean International’s Ovation of the Seas, marking completion of the Sitka Sound Cruise Terminal dock expansion—phase one of a significant port development project set to position Sitka as a premier port of call for Alaska.  

The expanded dock will soon be joined by completion of a new terminal facility built with features designed to provide an enhanced and seamless arrival experience for cruise visitors. The dock is built to accommodate the largest ships traveling to Alaska. It can also accommodate two large cruise ships at one time, as seen earlier this season when Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas and Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam both docked in Sitka simultaneously.

The dock is majority owned by Halibut Point Marine Services, a Sitka family-owned business, with financing support and minority ownership by Royal Caribbean Group and Ceres Terminals Inc.

“The expanded dock and terminal positions Sitka as a premier destination in Alaska, opening up additional opportunity for our community,” said dock owner Chris McGraw in a press release statement. “Tourism has always been a staple of our economy—from retail to guided excursions and dining on the freshest Alaska seafood; and now, we’ll be able to share what makes Sitka special with guests aboard the newest, largest ships visiting Alaska.”

As we look beyond this year’s partial Alaska season, we are more optimistic than ever that our guests will absolutely love the authentic experiences Sitka offers with its rich culture and awe-inspiring wilderness,” said Joshua Carroll, v.p., Destination Development, Royal Caribbean Group. “This partnership exemplifies our strategy to support sustainable development that is majority-owned by Alaskans to bring maximum economic impact to the local community.”  

The partnership investment extends beyond enhancements at the port to extensive and thoughtful community planning efforts in collaboration with local stakeholders and industry experts. Plans will focus on transportation capacity, visitor traffic flow and opportunities for more tours and destination experiences that will benefit both residents and visitors alike. New kayak tours and the introduction of Alaska Coach Tours to manage land transportation are key examples of the work of community partnerships. 

Norwegian Encore cruising in Alaska.

At Icy Strait Point, celebrations took place last week during a double ribbon cutting that marked the opening of the new Wilderness Landing pier and the first of two gondola systems to be completed as part of a joint investment between Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. (NCLH) and the Huna Totem Corporation. The new Wilderness Landing provides additional forest and beach areas for visitors to explore the natural wonders of the destination. With the opening of the new high-speed Transporter Gondola, guests have easy access to Icy Strait Point’s first pier, Adventure Landing, where the Historic Salmon Cannery dating back to 1912 and other local attractions are located. Once completed later this summer, the Mountain Top Gondola will take guests to the top of Hoonah Mountain at 1,600 ft. of elevation, where miles of new hiking trails and scenic vistas await.

Additionally, last week Norwegian Encore docked for the first time at The Mill at Ward Cove in Ketchikan. The Mill at Ward Cove is a development by Ward Cove Dock Group, LLC in partnership with NCLH to build a 2-berth cruise ship dock and corresponding Welcome Center and Passenger Transit Facility.

“The past week was filled with firsts: Not only was it Norwegian Encore’s Alaskan debut and our first sailing out of the U.S. in 17 months, but we also officially opened two new docks, developed with our local partners in Icy Strait Point and Ward Cove in Ketchikan,” said Harry Sommer, Norwegian Cruise Line president and chief executive officer, in a press release statement.