Alaska's cruise tourism enjoys great interest not least because of its pure, unadulterated nature, and Alaska's capital Juneau is no exception.
From April to October 2023, a total of 702 small and large cruise ships were registered in Juneau, according to CLIA, the world cruise industry association. Five years earlier, “only” 527 ship calls were planned. Even back then, we reported that up to five ships stopped in Juneau's harbor on peak days.
Norwegian Sun and Norwegian Pearl visit Juneau
What’s special about Juneau
Juneau vacationers experience Alaska's remote capital firsthand. The city is located in the Alaska Panhandle at the foot of the 1.164 m high Mount Roberts. A curiosity: Juneau has no land connections to the rest of Alaska or other states in the USA. The city is only accessible by plane and sea. Passenger shipping has been carried out in the Inside Passage since 1881.
Between May and September, the Mount Roberts cable car takes hikers from the cruise ship quay to the mountain station below Mount Roberts. In addition to a restaurant, gift shop and a cinema, the station offers hiking trails, wildflowers and - when visibility is good - impressive views of the Gastineau Channel, a strait. Also located at the height is the Juneau Raptor Center, a rescue center for injured native birds of prey.
View of the Inside Passage
Juneau once owned by the Tsars
Cruise ship passengers and all other guests of the city should know that the region originally belonged to the Russian Empire. In 1867, the United States bought the vast area of land in the far northwest of the continent from the Tsar for $7,2 million. At that time, Alaska's gold reserves had not yet been discovered, and the originally very profitable fur hunt dwindled after the stocks were decimated. From the Russian point of view, administering the territory was too expensive and, moreover, the communication routes at that time were endless.
After the takeover, Alaska remained a “U.S. territory” until the end of 1958. It was subject to the laws of the American federal government without being a federal state. Alaska became the 49th state of the USA on January 3, 1959.
According to current estimates (2022), just over 1,5 people live in the huge area of almost 733.000 million square kilometers. Roughly speaking, there is one resident in Alaska for every two square kilometers. The northernmost US state takes up almost a fifth (exactly 17,5 percent) of the total land area in the USA. Despite its enormous size, Alaska is of little political or economic importance compared to other US states. Alaska is primarily something for lovers of pure nature.
Juneau – City of Gold Mines
Juneau is located in the area of the Inside Passage on the Gastineau Channel, the narrow passage between the offshore island of Douglas Island and the Coast Mountains, which rise steeply to the east of the city.
After gold was discovered in 1880, Juneau's importance grew rapidly. Within a short time the city was the location of two gold mines. Gold was mined until the 1940s. During the Second World War the mines were closed due to wasting and a lack of workers. Projections show that since the first gold discoveries and the end of gold mining, gold worth seven billion US dollars has been mined in Juneau alone - by today's standards.
Juneau in the present
Juneau's alternative to gold is tourism. In particular, the regular visits of cruise ships ensure many seasonal employment relationships. Apart from that, many residents are very critical of the dominance of ships from May to September.
Juneau - Center
The most important and safest employers in Juneau are public administration institutions. The facilities create four out of ten jobs. In addition, the administrations have a 25 percent share of Juneau's economic value creation.
Other economic sectors include fishing, the international airport, the regional airline Alaska Seaplanes, the energy supply and the service industry.
Juneau - Fishing Boats Pier
Juneau – cruise ship destination
More than 700 ship calls in 2023 suggest a large and important city, especially since Juneau is also the capital of a US state. Far from it: In the ranking of Alaska's largest cities, Juneau takes third place after Anchorage and Fairbanks. While almost 290.000 people live in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau each have more than 30.000 residents. What distinguishes Juneau from the other two cities: In 1906, Juneau took over the capital function from Sitka over what was then the Alaska Territory. And it has remained that way to this day
All of this is reason enough to make a detour to Juneau with or without a cruise ship. The usual clothing recommendation is: "Prepare for the worst and hope for the best" (calculate with the worst and hope for the best). Under Juneau Landmarks we show what there is to experience in and around Juneau even in very bad weather.
Update February 2024