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JUNEAU — Four of the Alaska tourist season’s first cruise ship sailings have been canceled amid a worldwide halt by a pair of tour companies due to the coronavirus.
On Wednesday, Viking Cruises announced it would suspend all sailings until May 1. Princess Cruises followed suit Thursday, saying it will cancel all sailings between March 12 and May 10.
Other ships are still scheduled to arrive in Alaska during that period, but local officials expect cancellations to spread. Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced the first positive case of coronavirus in Alaska on Thursday evening.
“That was good of Princess to make an early decision, and I suspect other companies will follow suit,” said Carl Uchytil, director of the Port of Juneau.
Liz Perry, director of Juneau’s tourism and marketing bureau, said it’s too early to tell if more cruise ships will cancel sailings, and if so, how many.
“This is such a moving target that it’s very hard to predict any outcome,” she said.
Alaska is a major destination for cruise ship tourism. Last year, industry officials estimated 1.44 million tourists would visit the state via cruise ships this year, a new record.
The most common trips are along the inside passage, with stops in Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and Glacier Bay.
In Alaska, cancellations so far affect four ships:
• The Viking Orion was scheduled to arrive in Ketchikan on April 28, with subsequent stops in Sitka, Juneau, Glacier Bay, Skagway, Valdez and Seward.
• The Ruby Princess was scheduled to leave Los Angeles on May 2 and make several stops on the West Coast before arriving in Alaska.
• The Star Princess would have left San Francisco on May 3, arriving in Juneau three days later and stopping in Ketchikan before leaving the state.
• The Grand Princess would have left Vancouver on May 9, arriving in Ketchikan on May 11.
Officials at Princess and Viking confirmed the cancellations. The Viking Orion was scheduled to disembark passengers in Seward and sail a southbound version of its voyage after May 1, but a company official said he was unable to answer whether that will take place.
Princess Cruises is a subsidiary of Miami-based Carnival Corp., which also owns Carnival Cruise Lines and Holland America Line.
Carnival’s first ship is scheduled to arrive April 23 in Skagway, April 24 in Juneau and April 25 in Skagway. Holland America’s first ship is expected to reach Juneau on April 28.
Norwegian Cruise Line, unaffiliated with Carnival, is scheduled to have its first ship arrive in Ketchikan on April 27.
UnCruise Adventures, which operates small cruise ships marketed to adventure tourists, is the earliest arrival in Southeast Alaska, with voyages scheduled to start as early as April 18.
“We are still moving forward with all of our plans,” said Liz Galloway with UnCruise.
Her company is taking extra steps to prevent disease spread, she said, including extra rounds of disinfectant and using disposable glasses instead of reusable ones. Smaller ships also don’t have the same conditions as larger ships.
“The smaller ones are uncrowded and we go to very remote places that are pristine and uncrowded,” she said.