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F-cking crew ships. Bill Burr had it right.

What kind of douchebag goes on a crew ship? Spending all day sitting on the deck, stuffing your gullet with free food and getting blitzed...sniffing glue.

Actually, maybe I'm being too negative. The sniffing glue part sounds interesting.

Cities to Cruise Ships: You’re Bringing Too Many Tourists Here

Ports in the U.S. and Europe are starting to set limits on visitors and ships to reduce crowding

By Allison Pohle, WSJ

Sept. 3, 2023

A record number of passengers are expected to visit Juneau, Alaska, this cruise season.

Cruise passengers can be an area’s top economic driver, and its top source of aggravation.

They descend in the morning and leave in the evening, filling shops, downtown city streets and local tax coffers. Some places complain all cruise visitors do is take pictures and reserve their biggest spending for onboard the ship.

Inspiration and advice for navigating your vacations and business trips, along with the latest travel news.

In U.S. port cities including Juneau, Alaska, and Bar Harbor, Maine, local governments are focusing on how to manage these travelers and the enormous ships they travel on. Residents in such cities as Amsterdam and Barcelona are protesting the effects of cruise pollution and proposing bans on big ships. The debate is also happening in places including Hawaii and Venice, where residents complain about an overreliance on tourism.

“It’s really difficult as a destination to react appropriately,” says Alexandra Pierce, tourism manager for the City and Borough of Juneau.

Cruise itineraries are set years in advance through coordination with local governments and ports. That means travelers aren’t likely to see drastic changes to trips they have already booked this fall and next year. Still, travelers can expect fewer itineraries that dock in places such as Bar Harbor, where the outcome of litigation could further restrict an existing cap on passengers, cruise planners say.

Debate in Alaska

Starting next year, Juneau will allow only five large ships—meaning those carrying more than 950 passengers—in its port each day. Juneau began working on cruise-ship limits in 2019 and formalized an agreement with the cruise industry earlier this year.

The city’s infrastructure can accommodate five ships, but there are days this season when six ships have docked because they can trade places, Pierce says. The city’s population is about 32,000, according to census data. More than 20,000 passengers can descend on the town on those days.

The city has heard more complaints this summer about the tourist crush, Pierce says. This year will set records for cruise passenger traffic in Juneau, with about 1.7 million people expected.

Juneau’s agreement is a win for more-sustainable visitation, says Laura McDonnell, owner of the Caribou Crossings gift shop, where almost all customers are cruise passengers. She has been a member of the Alaska Alliance for Cruise Travel, a group of businesses and individuals who benefit from cruises. She says that many local residents support cruise tourism, especially after struggling without visitors during the pandemic.

Unlike with other domestic cruise destinations, visitors can’t reach the Juneau area by car. It relies heavily on cruise passenger traffic. McDonnell says cruise travel makes visiting Juneau accessible for visitors with smaller budgets.

Ian Kincaid, a 21-year-old who works for a Juneau tour company, says incremental change is important for Juneau, which relies on tourism. But he worries about the long-term environmental effects of large cruise ships entering the community.

Some residents fear the five-ship limit won’t go far enough, as cruise ships get bigger and can accommodate more people. The current agreement sets no passenger limits, though Pierce says the local government could consider negotiating ship-size restrictions in the future.

Maine foliage crowds

Coastal towns in the Northeast see their biggest cruise crowds in the fall.

Two-thirds of Maine’s cruise visitors arrive in September and October, which provides a boost to local economies, says Sarah Flink, executive director of CruiseMaine, part of the state’s tourism office. More than half of cruise visitors are seeing Maine for the first time, and many say they will return.

This year could be the last big cruise season for Bar Harbor. In November, residents passed a citizens’ initiative to limit the number of cruise passengers to 1,000 a day. Several thousand passengers can disembark there now. That move is being challenged in court, with a ruling expected later this year.

Will limiting cruise ships help tourist destinations control crowds? Why or why not? Join the conversation below.

Tourism in the area has exploded since the beginning of the pandemic as people have headed to Acadia National Park. CruiseMaine expects about 452,000 cruise visitors, with about half of those headed to Bar Harbor.

Residents have mixed feelings. Some locals complain that cruise passengers make the small downtown area impossible to navigate, while others say they fuel the local economy. More than half of respondents said cruise-ship tourism had a negative effect on their quality of life, according to a 2021 study commissioned for the town of Bar Harbor. About 26% said it was positive.

The town is working off an agreement it previously negotiated with cruise lines that caps monthly and daily cruise passengers. This season, there will be an 18% reduction in cruise passengers, CruiseMaine says. And there will be about 10 days next fall without cruise ships, says Val Peacock, chair of the Town Council.

European pushback

Activists in Europe have protested the presence of cruise ships in Spain, Italy, France and Norway. Protesters in Norway put up signs calling cruise tourists “parasites” in 2022.

Residents in Europe are focused on the toll of cruise emissions on local communities. In Europe, Amsterdam has voted to move its cruise terminal as part of a broader strategy to control tourist numbers and curb pollution in the city center. No deadline has been set.

Barcelona, which hosts the highest number of cruise passengers in Europe, is closing one of its terminals as part of a yearslong plan to reduce emissions in the populous city center. The city still has numerous operational terminals, with several more under construction, and the closure won’t affect cruise traffic, a spokeswoman for the Port of Barcelona says. Passengers who used to arrive at that terminal will now need to take a bus to the popular La Rambla street.

The industry is focused on working with destination cities to promote sustainable tourism, a Cruise Lines International Association spokeswoman says.

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