The cruise ships that stop in Astoria are an important part of the local economy bringing thousands of tourists to town for daylong stops with some taking advantage of visiting other places in the region on paid excursions.
There is a challenge coming that will require attention according to Port of Astoria Executive Director Jim Knight. More people are coming.
A lot more.
The cruise ship industry continues to build bigger ships. Lines like Royal Caribean, Princess, and Norwegian Cruise lines all boast ships that can accommodate upward to 5000 guests along with large crews to take care of them. Knight says it's inevitable that those ships will make their way here at some point as the industry is always shifting to meet consumer trends. At present the largest cruise ships to make a port call in Astoria handle about 3000 passengers and a thousand crew members.
Add to that the river cruisers that have made Astoria part of their itineraries over the years but that presents less an issue since those ships dock at 17th street typically, which puts those passengers right downtown.
Knight says having the infrastructures to deal with increasing number of potential visitors has to be addressed. Primarily he is concerned about providing transportation options to those visitors who would like to explore the area.
A recent study completed by a consultant for the Astoria Downtown Historic District (ADHDA) points to this issue as well. ADHDA Executive Director Sarah Lu Heath presented the study to city council this week and it was found that not having enough transportation services is an issue on cruise ship days as it stands.
Apparently, many passengers would prefer to get where they are going without waiting for a shuttle. It stands to reason as, for most stops, passengers are limited to about six hours or so in port or risk not getting back in time for the ship departure.
The complication comes with the fact that cruise ships don't stop here on a regular basis but Astoria has become a very popular stop for ships making the transition from Southern routes to Northern routes and then back again. So twice a year for a period of a couple of months or so each time the area has to cope somehow with those big visitor counts while the rest of year that additional transportation isn't really needed.
Knight says the Port is able to berth those mega ships but that will require the installation of additional infrastructure that ship Captains are reccommending. He stressed that having a bigger capacity passenger transportation plan will be critical but that's not an aspect the Port can take on by itself.
It's not clear at this point who will take the lead.