By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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“I only heard really positive things from everybody that was involved,” said Christina Pivarnik, marketing director for the city of Port Townsend and lead organizer for the city’s cruise visit reception efforts.
Pivarnik could not quantify the economic impact of the cruise visits on the area, although cruise passengers were clearly shopping in the Victorian seaport.
“I was always happy to see them come back to the ship with shopping bags in their hands,” Pivarnik said.
For his part, Russ Veenema, executive director of the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the May cruise ship visits helped expose Port Angeles to a wider audience and usher in the tourist season.
“It gave a visual lift to the [Port Angeles] community, [and signaled] that summer is here and tourism season is here,” said Veenema said.
“Having that cruise ship at the dock created that excitement.”
The American Cruise Line vessel American Spirit brought between 200 and 300 passengers to Port Angeles and Port Townsend in May, with eight more total stops in each city planned for this September and October.
American Spirit is slated to return to Port Angeles on Sept. 9, 16, 23 and 30; and Oct. 7, 14, 21 and 28.
The ship is planning to stop in Port Townsend on Sept. 11, 18 and 25; and Oct. 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30.
Mari Mullen, executive director of the Port Townsend Main Street Program, said her program’s volunteers provided the cruise passengers with 400 shopping bags and coupon books filled with special offers from myriad Port Townsend businesses, adding that at least six businesses she polled had direct sales from the passengers.
“The feedback I have heard is that [the passengers] really enjoyed their time here, and hopefully, they will decide to visit us again in the future,” Mullen said in an email.
Looking toward the fall cruise visits, Pivarnik said she couldn’t say for sure whether any of the major attractions set up for the passengers — which included van tours of historic Port Townsend and trips to Fort Worden State Park — would change.
“We’ll get together and figure that out as we get a little closer,” Pivarnik said. “It’s too soon to say what might change now.”
Pivarnik did say, however, that she hopes the fall visits will not be plagued by the high winds in the Strait of Juan de Fuca that delayed most of the arrivals in Port Townsend from the originally scheduled 5 p.m. Wednesdays to about 9 p.m.
“We probably would have enjoyed more shopping business if they had come in as they scheduled or a little bit earlier,” Pivarnik said.
“We would have liked it if they have made it earlier.”
The delays, however, were looked on with favor in Port Angeles.
“Quite frankly, [the delays] benefited us,” Port Angeles City Council member Patrick Downie said, adding that the American Spirit’s being forced to arrive in Port Angeles Tuesday mornings and leave Wednesday evenings kept passengers in the city longer.
Veenema said he and Downie have suggested to the cruise line making the Tuesday morning arrival permanent, though nothing has been decided.
“We haven’t heard if that’s officially going to be done,” Veenema said.
Veenema estimated the cruise visits’ financial impact on Port Angeles to be close tos $25,000, based on the money brought it in from the Hurricane Ridge, Lake Crescent and historical downtown Port Angeles tours that were the basis of the city’s cruise passenger reception.
Additionally, Veenema said Port Angeles’ spot on American Cruise Lines’ Puget Sound itinerary put the city’s name on the cruise line’s website and in a handful of tourism-related publications Port Angeles might not have been in if it hadn’t been a port of call.
“That’s all information that’s hard to put a dollar figure on, but still gives you exposure,” Veenema said.
The five visits in May averaged between 50 and 60 passengers, Veenema said, a number that will likely increase for the cruise’s line planned fall visits.
“We’ll get at least that many on the second half of the season,” Veenema said.
Downie said he had heard nothing but positive comments from cruise passengers.
He reported that one batch of visitors on the third or fourth cruise stop, mostly from the Seattle area, said they had never been to Port Angeles before, though they had lived in Seattle all their lives.
“They enjoyed it, and they intended to come back,” Downie said.
“And you can’t put a price tag on that.”
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.