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Cruise company Carnival will buy Southeast Alaska’s historic White Pass railroad

  • Author: Annie Zak
  • Updated: June 7, 2018
  • Published June 7, 2018

White Pass & Yukon Route railroad. (Photo provided by White Pass & Yukon Route)

One of the world's largest cruise companies will soon be an owner of the White Pass & Yukon Route railroad, which stretches nearly 70 miles from Skagway into Canada.

Miami-based Carnival Corp. is set to buy the rail, port and retail operations from Canadian company TWC Enterprises Ltd. in a $290 million deal, according to a Wednesday statement.

Carnival will buy the operations through a subsidiary, Holland America Princess Alaska Tours. The deal is scheduled to close July 31.

At the same time the Carnival sale is set to close, a group of three companies is set to purchase a majority share of the White Pass & Yukon Route, through a memorandum with Holland America Princess Alaska Tours. Carnival will retain a minority interest.

Those three companies are Survey Point Holdings, based in Ketchikan, Rail Management Services, and the shareholders of a port operator company called Progeny 3 Inc., according to a statement from Survey Point. The statement doesn't note where the two other companies are based.

Survey Point Holdings will manage day-to-day operations for the White Pass & Yukon Route. Bob Berto, chairman of Survey Point, would not disclose specific figures for the stakes each company will have.

The White Pass & Yukon Route is a tourist railway than winds 67.5 miles from the Southeast Alaska town of Skagway through a corner of British Columbia to Carcross, Yukon.

The railway was built during the Klondike Gold Rush in 1898 and is billed on its website as the "gateway to the Yukon." It "reinvented itself" as a tourist attraction in 1988, according to its website.

In addition to the railroad, White Pass operations include three docks in Skagway.

"Carnival Corporation has a strong interest in maintaining and enhancing the attractiveness of Skagway as a cruise and shore excursion destination," Roger Frizzell, Carnival's chief communications officer, said in an emailed statement. He also said the company is excited "to maintain and enhance the Skagway port."

Carnival also plans to make investments in the business, Frizzell said, including expanding dock facilities to accommodate the "newest generation" of cruise ships.

"It is a little premature to announce anything more specific," Frizzell said, "but we'll be sharing details in the future, and we remain committed to making sure Skagway and the region continues to be a thriving and welcoming port of call."

The White Pass Railroad train returns to the rail yard after dropping off cruise ship passengers alongside the Coral Princess in 2105. (Anne Raup / ADN)

Alaska's cruise industry has been growing in recent years. Companies have added more voyages to the Last Frontier and replaced smaller ships with larger ones, increasing passenger capacity.

TWC Enterprises, the railroad's current owner, is Canada's largest owner of golf clubs, with locations in Ontario, Quebec and Florida.

The $290 million deal includes debt and other liabilities, according to the Carnival statement.

Editor's note: This story was updated Thursday afternoon to clarify the ownership stake Carnival and other companies will have in the railroad.

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