photos by Peter Segall / Juneau Empire
The Serenade of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, berths in Hoonah on Thursday. The ship is scheduled to arrive in Juneau Friday morning.

photos by Peter Segall / Juneau Empire The Serenade of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, berths in Hoonah on Thursday. The ship is scheduled to arrive in Juneau Friday morning.

They’re back: Large cruise ships return to Southeast Alaska

Juneau’s first large cruise ship since start of the pandemic arrived today.

Three short blasts of the horn alerted downtown Juneau’s residents that the Royal Caribbean Serenade of the Seas had pulled into the dock around 7 a.m. Friday morning — the first large-deck ship to call on Juneau since the pandemic began.

A light mist and cloudy skies greeted the ship as it pulled in a few minutes ahead of schedule. A handful of people gathered on the pier to take pictures, and a few prepared to offer passengers shore excursions.

Greg Pilcher prepared a dock-side booth to greet passengers and sell tours. “We heard there’s hardly anyone on board,” he said.

Nearby, representatives from Alaska Galore tours said they were expecting eight to 12 passengers who had signed up for halibut and salmon fishing charters.

“It feels amazing to be back on the dock,” said Jamie Letterman, manager of the group.

After a quick cheer from the gangway, passengers slowly started to emerge from the ship.

Passenger Randy Vance of Pueblo, Colorado, said that he was having a “great time” and looked forward to a full day of whale watching, glacier viewing and wilderness touring.

Fellow passenger Christine Keehan, of West Palm Beach, Florida, offered a more muted report.

“The voyage has been OK,” she said as she walked off the dock with her young daughter, Riley. She said that because her daughter is not yet vaccinated, they were navigating onboard restrictions — including the types of excursions they could take and rules about visiting the dining room.

On the brighter side, Keehan said her family had a great view of the scenery from the deck and they were enjoying a break from Florida’s heat.

“So far, so good,” said Robert Barr, incoming deputy city manager for the City and Borough of Juneau, who was on the dock as passengers disembarked.

Tyler Hickman, senior vice president of Icy Strait Point, greets members of the Nambiar family from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the first visitors to Hoonah to come off a cruise ship in over a year. Alaska Native singers and dancers met passengers as they disembarked. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Tyler Hickman, senior vice president of Icy Strait Point, greets members of the Nambiar family from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the first visitors to Hoonah to come off a cruise ship in over a year. Alaska Native singers and dancers met passengers as they disembarked. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Dana Zigmund / Juneau Empire
The Serenade of the Seas arrives in Juneau early Friday morning. The Royal Caribbean cruise ship is the first large cruise ship to come to Juneau since the pandemic caused the cancellation of the 2020 cruise ship season and delayed the 2021 season.

Dana Zigmund / Juneau Empire The Serenade of the Seas arrives in Juneau early Friday morning. The Royal Caribbean cruise ship is the first large cruise ship to come to Juneau since the pandemic caused the cancellation of the 2020 cruise ship season and delayed the 2021 season.

The Serenade of the Seas arrived in Juneau early Friday morning, seen here moored downtown. The Royal Caribbean cruise ship is the first large cruise ship to come to Juneau since the pandemic caused the cancellation of the 2020 cruise ship season and delayed the 2021 season. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

The Serenade of the Seas arrived in Juneau early Friday morning, seen here moored downtown. The Royal Caribbean cruise ship is the first large cruise ship to come to Juneau since the pandemic caused the cancellation of the 2020 cruise ship season and delayed the 2021 season. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

Peter Segall / Juneau Empire
Representatives from Icy Strait Point, Royal Caribbean, the City of Hoonah and Alaska Native dancers greeted the Serenade of the Seas as it arrived in Hoonah on Thursday, July 22, 2021. According to Tyler Hickman, senior vice president of Icy Strait Point, it had been 562 days since a cruise ship had arrived in Hoonah.

Peter Segall / Juneau Empire Representatives from Icy Strait Point, Royal Caribbean, the City of Hoonah and Alaska Native dancers greeted the Serenade of the Seas as it arrived in Hoonah on Thursday, July 22, 2021. According to Tyler Hickman, senior vice president of Icy Strait Point, it had been 562 days since a cruise ship had arrived in Hoonah.

Construction on the gondola system at Icy Strait Point in Hoonah was able to continue during the pandemic, and when cruise ship visitors returned on Thursday, July 22, 2021, guests were able to take the first rides. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Construction on the gondola system at Icy Strait Point in Hoonah was able to continue during the pandemic, and when cruise ship visitors returned on Thursday, July 22, 2021, guests were able to take the first rides. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas pulls into Icy Point Strait in Hoonah, on Thursday, July 22, 2021, the first large cruise ship to arrive in over a year. Delegates from the Hoonah Totem Corporation, Royal Caribbean and the City of Hoonah greeted guests as they came off the boat. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas pulls into Icy Point Strait in Hoonah, on Thursday, July 22, 2021, the first large cruise ship to arrive in over a year. Delegates from the Hoonah Totem Corporation, Royal Caribbean and the City of Hoonah greeted guests as they came off the boat. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Crew members were getting ready to tie up Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas at Icy Strait Point in Hoonah on Thursday, July 22, 2021, the first large cruise ship to arrive in Southeast Alaska in over a year. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Crew members were getting ready to tie up Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas at Icy Strait Point in Hoonah on Thursday, July 22, 2021, the first large cruise ship to arrive in Southeast Alaska in over a year. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

The Serenade of the Seas arrives in Juneau early Friday morning. The Royal Caribbean cruise ship is the first large cruise ship to come to Juneau since the pandemic caused the cancellation of the 2020 cruise ship season and delayed the 2021 season. (Dana Zigmund / Juneau Empire)

The Serenade of the Seas arrives in Juneau early Friday morning. The Royal Caribbean cruise ship is the first large cruise ship to come to Juneau since the pandemic caused the cancellation of the 2020 cruise ship season and delayed the 2021 season. (Dana Zigmund / Juneau Empire)

Tourists congregate in front of the Serenade of the Seas, seen here moored downtown, on Friday morning. The Royal Caribbean cruise ship is the first large cruise ship to come to Juneau since the pandemic caused the cancellation of the 2020 cruise ship season and delayed the 2021 season. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

The Serenade of the Seas arrives in Juneau early Friday morning. The Royal Caribbean cruise ship is the first large cruise ship to come to Juneau since the pandemic caused the cancellation of the 2020 cruise ship season and delayed the 2021 season. (Dana Zigmund / Juneau Empire)

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