Disney to Enter Alaskan Waters


There may be some happy news for Alaska’s struggling cruise industry—courtesy of the folks from the “happiest place on Earth.”

Disney Cruise Line announced last month it would send Disney Wonder to the region in summer 2011, offering seven-night sailings. The first cruise will depart Vancouver on May 3 and call in such ports as Juneau, Ketchikan and Skagway, while the last cruise of the season is scheduled for August 30.

Still, all is not calm on the Alaska cruise front. The Alaska Cruise Association, which represents major lines such as Carnival and Royal Caribbean, filed a lawsuit against the state, seeking to overturn the passenger head tax. The lawsuit argues that $46 of the state’s $50-per-passenger head tax violates the U.S. Constitution by unduly interfering with maritime and interstate commerce.

“We feel the entry fee, as implemented, is illegal. Alaskans are being hurt by the tax,” says John Binkley, president of the association. The tax was imposed as part of a cruise-ship initiative passed by Alaska voters in 2006.

Alaska has attracted about 1 million cruise passengers each summer in recent years. However, the announcement by some cruise lines that they are moving ships out of the Alaska trade next summer could result in a 140,000-person drop in passengers visiting the state in 2010.

Hopefully, Disney can bring some of its famous magic to the region.