The Oosterdam cruise ship docked in Haines. (Emily Files)

The Oosterdam cruise ship docked in Haines in May 2015. (Emily Files)

Haines will see a drop in cruise ship visitors this summer. But the tourism department says traffic will increase next summer, partly because of docking fee waivers.

Last year, two especially large cruise ships visited Haines – the Golden Princess and the Celebrity Infinity. This summer, the Infinity will not return. But a different, slightly smaller Princess ship – the Grand Princess – will make one port call on July 5.

“So the difference this year, we’re getting about 38,000 [cruise ship passengers] this year compared to 41,000 last year,” said Haines Tourism Director Leslie Ross.

Those 38,000 passengers will be joined by about 17,000 crew, for a total of roughly 55,000 visitors. Holland America’s Zaandam and Noordam rotate on Wednesdays. Five smaller ships with between 40 and 700 passengers are also on the schedule. That’s a total of eight ships making 39 port calls throughout the season.

It’s the smaller ships that Ross says have been attracted by a new incentive the borough assembly approved last year. Haines has agreed to discount moorage fees for all cruise ships for a three-year time period starting in 2017.

So far, Ross says two new cruise lines have agreed to come to Haines partly because of the waiver incentive. Seabourn Cruise Line is one of them.

“We so far have seven stops from them, so that’ll be a nice, new addition to Haines. And they’re the smaller, high end ships that make stops in places that the larger ships do not. So it’s kind of the perfect fit for Haines.”

Silversea Cruises is the other, although Ross says she’s still waiting on a confirmation from them.

“Both of those are directly in response to the waiver program. I’d say the wavier program and also in our meetings with the cruise lines we did a really big push on the arts and culture of Haines.”

The upcoming opening of the Jilkaat Kwaan Heritage Center in Klukwan and the Art on Main Street initiative are major selling points, Ross says.

“You pretty much need to start having these discussions with the cruise line industry two years in advance. So we are hoping that there’ll be some success with it in 2017 and more interest in it in 2018.”

While cruise ship visitors will be slightly down this summer, Ross thinks road travelers could increase.

“The prediction is that we’re gonna have really good rubber tire traffic this year with lower fuel rates down south, going on the second year of that. I think even with the restrictions in the ferry schedule, there’ll be some adjustment, but I think we’ll have a good season with drivers coming up.”

Ross says reductions to summer ferry sailings between Haines and Skagway will make travel plans more difficult for summer visitors. Budget cuts have reduced sailings between the two ports from daily to around five days a week in the summer.

Ross says her goals for summer tourism are to use the moorage fee waivers to encourage more cruise ship traffic and do everything the borough can to support Haines’ major summer events. The first cruise ship is the Zaandam on May 18.