|Celebrity Cruises' Mercury made history this week, as the first cruise ship to call on the newly completed Alaskan port of Icy Strait Point. The port is a bit of a history-maker itself -- not only is it Alaska's newest port, but it's also the first in the state's history to be purpose-built for cruise ship passengers.|
Located on Chichagof Island in Port Frederick Bay, Icy Strait Point is 50 miles west of Juneau, 22 miles from the entrance to Glacier Bay, and one mile away from the town of Hoonah -- home to the largest population of indigenous Tlingit people in southeastern Alaska. A flotilla of Tlingits greeted the Mercury when she pulled into port on May 23rd.
Tlingit culture, plus an array of nature and wildlife activities, are the central themes of the new port -- cruise passengers were treated to a selection of ceremonial dances on the pier. Icy Strait Point's main attraction is a refurbished, 1930's era cannery, which now serves as a "living museum," cultural center, and retail center showcasing native arts and crafts. Tour operators will offer brown bear and whale watching excursions, salmon fishing expeditions, and flightseeing trips over Glacier Bay, to name a few options. Cruise passengers can also meander through a Tlingit heritage trail in the new growth forest surrounding the port.
Icy Strait Point was designed to accommodate one ship per day, and there are no present plans for expansion. "We didn't want it to be like the other busy ports in Alaska, where cruise ship passengers are bumping into each other," says a spokesperson for the port's developer, Miami-based Global Destinations Development.
A total of 32 cruise ship visits are expected this year from Celebrity and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas will make its first call at Icy Strait on June 2. The Mercury is scheduled to return to the port on June 8, followed the next day by Celebrity's Summit.