By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News
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Port of Port Angeles commissioners learned at their regular meeting Monday that the Guilford, Conn.-based company’s 200-foot American Spirit, built in 2005, will berth at Port Angeles City Pier.
The vessel, which offers seven-night cruises for $3,750-$4,985 a person depending on accommodations — $712 a night at the top end — will make 12 trips that depart from Seattle between April 27 and Oct. 19, a company spokeswoman said.
Passengers will cruise Puget Sound the second day and then, on successive days, will go to Anacortes, Friday Harbor, Port Townsend, Poulsbo and Port Angeles before returning to Seattle on the eighth day, according to the company’s website, www.americancruiselines.com.
Port staff will participate in visit-planning meetings with the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce, city of Port Angeles, Port Angeles Business Association and the Olympic Peninsula Visitors Bureau, port Marine Terminal Manager Mike Nimmo said.
Port Angeles Mayor Cherie Kidd said Monday that planning already is under way.
“We are excited they are coming into the heart of our downtown, and we are preparing to welcome them,” she said.
“We’re planning activities, and we’re going to have the downtown ready and the city ready.”
“This is a wonderful opportunity for Port Angeles to show our best and to welcome these people.”
Holland America’s Oosterdam, 950 feet long and capable of holding 1,848 passengers, docked at the port’s Terminal 1 pier last April 18, disgorging hundreds of passengers onto the streets of Port Angeles for a day.
Vessels similar in size to the American Spirit and operated by Cruise West have visited Port Townsend, “but not with the regularity of this,” said Christina Pivarnik, city of Port Townsend marketing director, on Monday.
She said she had worked closely with the Anacortes Chamber of Commerce in getting American Cruise Lines to make the Puget Sound circuit this year.
Pivarnik said she had not known whether the American Spirit would dock at the Northwest Maritime Center or Union Wharf in Port Townsend.
“We are developing onshore activities for them to do,” she said.
“We feel this is a great gift for us in 2013.
“It’s a nice economic boon for the Olympic Peninsula, and we all appreciate it,” Pivarnik added.
Russ Veenema, Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce executive director, said it’s easier to showcase the city when passengers disembark at pedestrian-friendly City Pier compared with the port’s marine Terminal 1 along the city’s industrial waterfront, where the Oosterdam docked.
“This will be good practice for the community,” Veenema said.
“Larger ships are always just a windfall.
“I don’t think it’s really a big issue one way or the other to have large ships or not.
“But it is beneficial for us to have the smaller cruise lines and to help the community,” Veenema added.
“It’s a good time for us because it’s really kind of the shoulder season.”
City Pier is too shallow for large ships, Nimmo said.
And the port does not have the extra facilities to accommodate cruise ships and berth the tankers that already dock in Port Angeles for a total of more than 100 days a year, he said.
“We’d be trading one industry for the other, with no guarantee that cruise ships will come here,” Nimmo said.
Holland America will not visit Port Angeles this year but will return in 2014, Nimmo said.
The Oosterdam will arrive May 9, 2014, and the Amsterdam May 14, 2014.
American Cruise Lines offers minimal organized activities, “but the nightly talks given by the guest lecturer are eagerly anticipated and well-attended,” according to www.cruisecritic.com.
Cabins average a comparatively large 220 square feet, and the company offers the only balcony cabins in the U.S.-flagged coastal industry and a higher-than-average number of multiple public rooms, the website said.
“Docking in the center of town means independent exploring is possible, allowing those who want the opportunity to wander on their own, shop for antiques, have dinner onshore or simply get some exercise walking,” the website said.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.