Haines’ cruise ship season started Wednesday with Holland America’s Oosterdam. About 2,000 passengers received an unusual welcome when their cruise ship docked.
“When everyone was first getting off [the ship] with the low, low tide, the school kids were on a field trip swimming in the water. So people were asking where the wildlife was, and we were all looking over the side at the kids swimming in the water,” said borough tourism director Leslie Ross.
Texan tourist Gregor Mashar was one of the passengers who saw the local kids swimming in the ocean. He described what he hoped to do while in town:
“I would like to go to the Hammer Museum, then I’d like to go to the Eagle Preserve Museum, and then I’d like to get an ice cold beer because it’s the hottest day in Haines.”
Californians Bob and Diane Landwher are on their second Alaska visit. But it’s their first time stopping in Haines.
“We’d have missed Alaska, I think, if we didn’t see Haines,” said Bob. It’s a very nice town. It’s so quaint. It’s the Cabot Cove of the east coast in Alaska.”
“Yes, I’m glad we stayed here and didn’t take a trip somewhere else. We just love it here,” said Diane.
The Landwehrs say Haines is different than the other Alaska towns the cruise ship stops in.
“We’re seeing more of the scenery instead of going shop, to shop, to shop,” said Diane. “It’s much less commercial, which we like,” added Bob.
Back at the cruise ship dock, volunteer Michael Marks is greeting passengers. He comes down here bright and early on cruise ship days to hand out brochures and give directions.
“Well it’s kind of fun, you’re always hoping you might see someone you know, and say, ‘hey how’s it doing Joe? Can you believe you’re in Haines Alaska?’ But they’re all excited and they have no idea what’s really going on, and we can tell them the great features of our community, the Fort just up the block, the three museums.
For tourists who want to explore outside of the downtown and the Fort areas, there is a new business in town.
“I’m renting some scooters,” said Alex Stock, who owns Tour de Scooter. “I’m actually I’m filling up Julia Roberts right now. All my scooters are named after famous actresses. Kiera Knightly, Nicole Kidman, Scarlett Johansson.”
Stock rents out scooters for $15/hour or $60/day. On Wednesday morning, he rented five scooters to visitors from the ship and from Whitehorse. He came up with the idea last summer.
“It was my third year up here and I was sitting here and watching all the tourists come off the boat,” Stock said. “You know, there’s quite a bit to do in Haines, but there’s things outside the limits of walking. I was thinking, ‘man it would be expensive to rent a car, or get the taxi.’ So I was wondering, hey I wonder what it would take to bring scooters up here.”
Stock got the necessary permits from the borough and bought 11 scooters.
“Next year maybe I’ll add to the arsenal, expand the fleet,” Stock said. “Maybe I’ll name those for famous actors or musicians.”
Stock will find out in the next few months how many visitors prefer to scoot their way around Haines. Between one and three cruise ships will dock in town each week until mid-September.