By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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Area businesses and tour guides welcomed the first of this month's visits from the American Cruise Lines vessel American Spirit this week.
The cruise ship is slated to visit Port Angeles and Port Townsend through this month and two weeks in October as part of an eight-day tour of the San Juan Islands and Puget Sound.
The 100-passenger-capacity vessel brought 83 visitors to Port Angeles on Monday, leaving Wednesday to travel to Port Townsend, and will bring 85 and 90, respectively, on the next two visits this month, said Don Johnson, vessel captain and West Coast manager of American Cruise Lines.
The cruises, beginning and ending in Seattle, also stop in Anacortes, Friday Harbor and Poulsbo.
The American Spirit will next stop in Port Angeles next Monday and return Sept. 16, 23 and 30, as well as Oct. 7 and 14, barring any weather-related delays.
The cruise ship is expected to leave Port Townsend on Friday and return next Wednesday as well as Sept. 18 and 25, and Oct. 2, 9 and 16.
Johnson said earlier in the summer, the visits during the first week of this month were added and the last two visits in October canceled because of the greater popularity of the earlier cruises.
Betty Cates, hailing from Vero Beach, Fla., said she is a frequent cruise passenger and has visited Seattle, Vancouver and Victoria, but never the San Juan Islands or the North Olympic Peninsula.
“I'm so glad I have the chance to see more of [the Pacific Northwest],” Cates said as she walked along Lincoln Street with about 20 other cruise passengers on one of Don Perry's tours of historic underground Port Angeles.
“It has been a wonderful experience.”
The historic tour included a stop at the former Elwha Theatre, the building that now houses Captain T's.
Shop owner Johnnie Montice said she didn't think her shop logged any sales from the cruise passenger visit, though she still enjoyed having them in her store.
“Not a lot of purchases but a lot of goodwill,” Montice said.
Edna Petersen, owner of Necessities and Temptations gift shop at 217 N. Laurel St., said she doesn't see the cruise ship passengers as being particularly big spenders but feels that any visits to downtown Port Angeles by tourists from outside the area are positive.
“It brings a definite excitement and energy to downtown,” Petersen said.
Peggy and Cal Rooker, cruise passengers from Scottsdale, Ariz., said they enjoyed the city's murals, particularly the one serving as a backdrop for the Conrad Dyar Memorial Fountain at the south end of North Laurel Street.
The Rookers also said they had bought a clock in the shape of a cat from a downtown shop and visited Cock-a-doodle Doughnuts.
Jamie Rychlik, employee of the doughnut shop at 105 E. Front St., said she'd seen quite a few cruise ship visitors who found their way into the shop Tuesday and Wednesday morning.
The passengers were generally talkative, Rychlik said, asking her for other places to visit in Port Angeles and what it's like living in the community.
As with most planned events expected to bring tourists, Rychlik said, shop employees made large batches of doughnuts before cruise ship visits to keep the display cases well-stocked.
“We make a decent amount so we can fill the whole case and keep filling it all day long,” Rychlik said.
Port Townsend merchants were looking forward Wednesday to the same bump in business they enjoyed when the ships visited this spring.
“They were delightful,” said Molly Klupfell, who manages the Chandlery at the Northwest Maritime Center, 431 Water St.
“They bought a lot of scarves and nautical gifts, and seemed to really enjoy themselves.”
Port of Port Townsend Deputy Director Jim Pivarnik said the cruises have been so successful that port officials are talking with a second cruise line about the possibility of stopping in Port Townsend next summer.
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at jschwartz@peninsula dailynews.com.