Skagway is one of the busiest cruise ports in Alaska; many cruise lines dock there so passengers can enjoy the area’s history and culture. The forward berth of Scagway’s Railroad Dock recently closed so that engineers can study a rockslide that occurred late last week.
The rockslide is posing a substantial danger to the cruise ships and people staying in the immediate area alongside the entire dock. As a result, cruise lines that usually dock there are making other plans. Most have not yet made these alternatives known.
The forward berth is the primary location for Princess Cruises’ Royal-class ships in Skagway, and Princess said it was adjusting itineraries for several vessels. Alternatives could include Icy Strait Point or Sitka.
Princess said it was working with officials from Skagway and the dock’s owner, White Pass & Yukon Route Railway, to determine when scheduled calls can return to the forward berth on the Railroad Dock. Interestingly, the dock itself is owned by Carnival Cruises, which bought the entire White Pass & Yukon Railroad, including the dock, several years ago for $290 million.
The Royal Caribbean Quantum of the Seas, which can hold nearly 5,000 passengers, diverted from Skagway. The Discovery Princess, with a maximum capacity of about 4,600, planned to transport passengers to the small-boat harbor by tender. Other major cruise lines that typically dock in Skagway include Norwegian, Holland America, and Royal Caribbean.
What Makes Skagway Unique?
Here’s a little background on Skagway, in case you’d like to know what you might miss should your itinerary change.
Skagway is the northernmost point in Alaska’s Inside Passage. Its streets were once crowded with feverish gold miners looking to strike it rich in The Klondike. Those streets are now crowded with thousands of visitors arriving by cruise ship every day.
Skagway is home to the White Pass & Yukon Route Railway, the “Scenic Railway of the World.” It is one of Alaska’s most popular visitor attractions. The Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park honors the stampeders of The Klondike. The park protects the historic buildings and trails of the Gold Rush era.
Are You Booked On A Cruise That Stops At Skagway?
About a dozen cruise ships use the dock every week. Most of them have not yet published any changes to their itineraries. If you are booked on a cruise that stops at Skagway, or even if you are planning such a cruise, you should contact the cruise line to see what itinerary changes might be in store.
Here is contact information for the major cruise lines that stop at Skagway:
- Princess Cruises, call (800) 338-4962. They are available Monday-Friday from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. U.S. Central time.
- Carnival Cruises, call (800) 338-4962. They are open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. U.S. Central Time.
- Royal Caribbean, call (866) 562-7625. They are available 7 days a week, from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. US Eastern time.
- Holland America Line, fill out this Contact Form, and a cruise specialist will contact you.
- Norwegian Cruise Line, call (866) 234-7350. They are available Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. to midnight and Saturday-Sunday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. U.S. Eastern Time.
What Happens Next?
Skagway faces a major dilemma with its busiest cruise dock as the adjacent mountain is unstable, and there have already been minor rock slides. Earlier this month, geotechnical engineering firm Shannon & Wilson prepared a report for the City of Skagway about the slope conditions of the cliff above the Railroad Dock.
They concluded that the slide mass above the forward berth “will eventually fail, and the consequences of such failure will be catastrophic in nature with significant risks to life and property.” Shannon & Wilson recommended a “controlled excavation to reshape the slope.” The city and the dock owners (essentially, Carnival Corporation) are currently at odds over the best way to proceed.
The cruise lines may have to decide if they want to pull out from Skagway dockings, continue using the Railroad Dock under these conditions, or request another dock/tender option.
You now know that the docking situation in Skagway is “fluid” (translation: You might not get an answer about your itinerary from your cruise line right away). Just hold tight and know that Alaska offers lots of alternative adventures for your enjoyment.