Port Angeles, Port Townsend likely to tweak cruise ship welcomes

By Charlie Bermant and Leah Leach
Peninsula Daily News

The American Spirit returns to Port Angeles and Port Townsend this week, bringing some 55 passengers to explore the downtowns and partake in tours and entertainment.

The American Cruise Lines ship is scheduled to dock at City Pier in Port Angeles by about 9 p.m. Monday night, stay through Tuesday and leave for Port Townsend at noon the following day.

It is expected to arrive in Port Townsend by 5 p.m. Wednesday, stay through Thursday and depart at 4 a.m. Friday.

It will be second of 13 cruises planned this year.

Organizers of the welcomes planned in both towns said they will tweak activities after the first visit last week.

Too large to dock

Perhaps the biggest surprise in the inaugural run was that the 205-foot American Spirit was too large to dock at Union Wharf in Port Townsend on Wednesday night.

Although the captain had measured the ship and the wharf, the tie-up points did not match with the boat's cleats.

The boat anchored in the southern part of Port Townsend Bay, and the 40 passengers used the ship's tenders — smaller boats — to get from ship to shore, where they were shuttled around by vans rented at a large discount from retirement facilities Seaport Landing Retirement & Assisted Living Community and Discovery View on Thursday.

Visitors enjoyed themselves regardless, said business owners and organizers.

“For a Thursday, we had double the business,” said Melinda Bryden, a partner at the Port Townsend Gallery.

“It would have been better if they were able to actually dock and spend a little more time, but they came in and were ready to spend money.”

The merchants weren't the only ones who wanted to extend the excursion.

“It went really well, aside from the logistical issues,” said Bill Tennent, executive director of the Jefferson County Historical Society.

“The feedback we got was that the people wanted both the walking tours and the bus tours to be longer.”

While logistical difficulties may have clouded the first in the series of visits, they can be resolved, organizers said, and they look forward to a profitable partnership between the cruise line and Port Townsend.

“It was a little complicated, but we made it work,” said city marketing director Christina Pivarnik.

“All in all, it went well, and the people on the ship were super happy with their visit.”

Although the ships will not be able to dock in downtown Port Townsend this season, Jim Pivarnik, Port of Port Townsend deputy director and Christina Pivarnik's husband, is negotiating with the Coast Guard to see whether the ship can anchor closer to downtown.

This could be in place by the time of the next stop Wednesday.

'Get a little closer'

“We are seeing if we can anchor the ship near Port Hudson, which would allow them to dock at the maritime center or Union Wharf,” he said. “It would be nice to get a little closer.”

To promote the city, the Main Street program has created a coupon discount book for shopping and dining to distribute to cruise passengers.

The coupon books feature specials from 42 uptown and downtown businesses, though some merchants will have to wait for this to pay off.

“I was disappointed that no one came into the store. I didn't even see anyone from the cruise walking by,” said Pippa Mills, owner of Pippa's Real Tea.

“I'm hopeful that as the season progresses, this will change and that the tour guides take the people past the stores that participated in the coupon book.”

Port Angeles

Some organized cruise ship activities, such as the underground Port Angeles tours led by Heritage Tours owner Don Perry, will be tightened this week to fit with the ship's meal schedule — pre-bought lunches and dinners are served on board.

At least one tour, an all-day excursion to Lake Crescent and back to downtown Port Angeles, was not popular with cruise passengers because it took too long and will be dropped, while a shorter tour of Lake Crescent will be added.

Still available are guided bus tours to Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park and the possibility of visiting Victoria on the MV Coho.

“We expected that we would have to fine-tune things a bit as we learned what [the passengers] liked and didn't,” said Russ Veenema, executive director of the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce, which took the lead in planning the cruise ship reception, last week.

The ship has been running light, but cruise line officials expect it to fill up to its 100-passenger capacity later in the season.

Each eight-day Puget Sound cruise — a round trip from Seattle — explores the San Juan Islands and visits Port Angeles before traveling to Port Townsend.

After this coming week, the American Spirit is set to dock in Port Angeles on May 13, 20 and 27; Sept. 9, 16, 23 and 30; and Oct. 7, 14, 21 and 28.

It is scheduled to visit Port Townsend May 15, 22 and 29; Sept. 11, 18 and 25; and Oct. 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30.

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at charlie.bermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: May 04. 2013 9:18PM
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