Noordam brings 1,664 tourists to Wrangell on 'last minute' change to itinerary

The 935-foot-long Holland America Noordam made a stop in Wrangell last Wednesday, bringing 1,664 passengers and 700 crew members to town.

Curious travelers flooded along Front Street and walked as far down as Peninsula Street and out to the Volunteer Park Nature Trail, stopping in shops and taking as many photos as they could during the seven hours the ship was in port.

The Noordam wasn't originally scheduled to stop in Wrangell; cruise lines typically schedule their routes about two years in advance. The stop was on the ship's final Alaska summer voyage, which took it from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Hubbard Glacier and Misty Fjords. The day before its stop in Wrangell, the Noordam was in Ketchikan and was scheduled to stop in Juneau next.

Fred Angerman, Wrangell port manager for Cruise Line Agencies of Alaska, said the 1,664 count included "revenue and non-revenue passengers." Non-revenue passengers are usually entertainers or others who aren't counted as part of the crew. He said the ship is "pretty much as big as we can get within 50 feet," though it's not the largest ship he can remember Wrangell receiving.

"We had the Serenade of the Seas. It was a 962-foot vessel," Angerman said. That ship, run by Royal Caribbean, came through rough weather in Sitka and was rerouted to Wrangell. "That particular vessel got their butt kicked the week before."

Though the Noordam brought more tourists to town, that didn't necessarily equate to more bookings for local tour operators, said Caitlin Cardinell, executive director of the Stikine River Jet Boat Association.

"We did not get contacted by our ship contact until about a month ago, and that's where a tour operator needs to present her tour pitches," she said. "Since Wrangell was added so late onto their itineraries, I'm sure they were scrambling on their end to get tours available onboard."

Cardinell said many of the passengers she spoke with said Wrangell had "just popped up on their itineraries," making jet boat and other tour bookings more difficult. Two of the jet boats in the SRJBA fleet were booked before the Noordam came to town, but one of those was canceled due to having only three passengers. The other jet boat had 32 and was able to provide a scheduled tour.

She said she didn't think the Noordam would make Wrangell a regular stop on its routes since Wrangell and Sitka were added on "last minute." Despite that, Cardinell said visitors gave her lots of positive feedback, like one couple that said they've been taking cruises for 30 years and Wrangell was easily in their top two favorites.

"There was a different kind of buzz in the air with this ship," Cardinell said. "I had a lot more conversations with people that were more personal than I've had with people off smaller ships. I saw so many locals chatting with tourists. I even saw people from the ship on the nature trail when I was walking my dog."

Angerman said the Noordam wasn't the last of the ships scheduled to visit Wrangell. Those came on Saturday and Sunday.

"We'll have one on Saturday, the Ocean Victory, then the one on Sunday is the Seabourn Odyssey," he said. "Those will be the last two of the year, unless something comes up weather-wise and someone decides to come here. I'm not going to put anything away just because the last ship on the schedule has come and gone."


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