by Bryan Darrow | April 01, 2007

The Diamond Princess

Making nice:
Princess Cruises’
Diamond Princess
in Alaskan waters

Last February, in an effort to improve relations with Alaska, eight cruise lines joined forces to work with the state’s political and business leaders. The creation of the Alaska Cruise Association was prompted by an initiative, upheld last August, in which Alaskans voted to impose new taxes and environmental regulations on the major cruise lines that sail to the state, including a $50-a-head tax on every passenger.

Heading the group is former state senator John Binkley. Among the ACA’s tasks, he said, is to promote the cruise lines’ charitable efforts and forge new business partnerships. “A lot of communities that don’t physically have ships coming to port still enjoy a positive economic impact” from sailings, Bink-ley noted. “We are looking for opportunities to include more businesses and communities in the economics of this billion-dollar industry.”

The eight ACA members are Carnival Cruise Lines, Celebrity Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Radisson Seven Seas Cruises and Royal Caribbean International.

Better relations with the cruise lines can only help the meetings industry, said Deb Hickok, president and CEO of the Fairbanks Convention and Visitors Bureau. “By increasing the channels of communication with the major cruise lines, we expect even more business travelers in our neck of the woods,” she said.

However, not everyone is convinced that the ACA can accomplish much. “If [the cruise lines] want to try to improve relations with Alaskans, that’s great,” said Karen Jettmar, director of Equinox Wilderness Expeditions, based in Anchorage. “But I’m a little suspicious that this is just a PR effort with no teeth.”