SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

The Monsters Are Coming



March 19, 2015
Thursday PM

Ketchikan, Alaska -
This week’s headlines are certainly eye catching!

jpg  Dave Kiffer

"Era of Monster Cruise Ships Arrives in Alaska"


We’ll skip the fact that my 50+ year old eyes originally thought it was “Munster Cruise Ships.”

I bet all of us would sign for a cruise on a ship shaped like the Munstermobile!

Anyway, for those of us who still cling to the idea of "cruising" as those quaint little Canadian ships, the Prince George and the Princess Pat, passing through a half century ago, it remains jarring to think that even bigger ships will be stopping here with up to 5,000 passengers and crew members.

Of course, those of us who also own Downtown businesses or property also see the additional dollar bills washing up on the shores of Our Fair Salmon City.

With great commerce comes great responsibility.

Kind of like how things started to change in 1970 when ships like the Arcadia, tiny compared to the modern leviathans but towering over the Pat and the George, began arriving.

How ill prepared we were.

Our docks were too small and we only had a couple of jewelry stores.

Fortunately, we had three decades to catch up. I just hope the soon to arrive “monster” ships won’t make our docks seem too small and our jewelry stores too few again.

Of course, now would be a perfect time to digress into one of those long Facebook Friendly tirades about how Ketchikan "isn't the same" as it used to be.

All you have to do is make one of those "social media" posts and you immediately get the "salivation army" response from those who still wish it was 1963, the pulp mill was still operating and Ketchikan had "more bars in more places" than anywhere in the world.

But I will not digress, primarily because the old Ktown wasn't always as wonderful as our nostalgic memories would like us to believe.

Ketchikan: Not perfect now, wasn't perfect then, probably won't be perfect in the future.

Unfortunately, that slogan is too long for the Welcome Arch.

It’s just as well. If Ketchikan were indeed as perfect as the “isn’t the same” crowd seem to believe it was, then millions of people would move here, making it ......... really not perfect.

That said, once upon a time, I calculated that all 6 billion people in the world could fit on Revillagigedo Island. They just couldn’t lie down.

Natch, there is one thing that all Ketchikanders believe and it’s that the drawbridge (and not the one to To Nowhere) should be pulled up shortly after they get here.

Dang, that was a digression.

Anyway, monster ships are coming. So sayeth the national media. Should we be concerned? I guess is depends on how you define "monster."

Seems that currently we have a couple of ships in the 110,000 - 120,000 ton range. In 2016, we are gonna get one that is 137,000 tons.


Don't get me wrong. To me, the fact that anything that weighs 137,000 tons can even float seems preposterous.

I skip a six ounce rock into the Narrows and it immediately takes its place with the other debris on the bottom.

Yes, I’m sure that all you Naval (as opposed to navel) Architects out there can show me the displacement formula (Rock on, Archimedes!) that allows absurdly heavy cruise ships to not sink when their lines are cast off in Seattle or Vancouver.

But an increase of 16,000 tons doesn't seem like much more than an incremental increase. It certainly doesn’t seem to qualify as a suddenly “monstrous” paradigm shift.

And this from me, a guy who still harbors trauma from riding a Storybook canal boat into the mouth of Monstro in 1965. I am afeared of anything monstrous.

But really, 16,000 tons is just a little over three Prince George's for comparisons sake. And we all know how puny the Prince George seems in retrospect.

Objects in our mental mirrors often appear smaller than they really were.

This new "monster" cruise ship - the Explorer of the Seas for those of you playing along at home - is actually a bit bigger than the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, so it does qualify as pretty darned spacious by cruise ship standards.

It has something like 15 decks and 30 restaurants and 200 jewelry stores.

But when I saw the word "monster" I thought something bigger was coming.

Something like the Allure of the Seas or the Oasis of the Seas, both of which top out at 225,000 tons or 1 gazillion skipping stones. I believe they each have something like 250 snack bars.

Now either of those ships tied up to Berth 1, would indeed be "monstrous."

Actually, they would probably have to anchor out in the harbor, because the minute on their gigantic ramps came down on one of our docks it would cleave it in half.

Not to mention that there aren’t enough buses in the entire Northern Hemisphere to offload a boat that big in the six hours it would be in port.

One good thing about anchoring out, a ship that’s 1,187 feet long means you can walk bow to stern and be on Gravina.

And since Those truly "monstrous" ships also have more than 6,000 passengers each let me hear a great big community wide: Ka ching!

Interestingly enough, this new "monster" that will visit our shores a year from now is currently "only" the 20th largest cruise ship in the world as I write this.

But given how fast ships are built these days it will be only the 25th largest by the time you read this.

And you just know that somewhere the "Humongous of the Seas" is taking shape.

It will be the world’s largest cruise ship, one bazillion tons, 935 miles long, staterooms for 1.2 million passengers

Best of all, it will have the greatest fuel economy ever devised and be super cheap to operate. It won't actually use any fuel because it will never leave the dock in Seattle. Which, best of all, means almost no carbon footprint!

Passengers will embark at the stern in Seattle and take a variety of tours (Jeep, whale, crab etc) forward until they reach the bow, in Glacier Bay.

By then, of course, Carnivore Cruises will have purchased Alaska for $7.3 million in a bankruptcy sale (if you go $3.5 billion in the hole each year, Chapter 9 isn’t that far off) and there will be a train that connects Glacier Bay and Denali parks (Wilderness? Schmilderness!).

Or perhaps, the visitors will just reverse their steps back to the stern and disembark back in Seattle. I’m just hoping that a few of them will decide to briefly step off in Our Fair Salmon City either coming or going.

After all, they won’t be able to find all the tanzanite they need in the onboard stores. And they can’t claim their diamonds are Alaska diamonds if they don’t buy them “in Alaska.”

Because the ship itself won’t actually be in Alaskan waters. As long as it sits several miles offshore, they can keep the casino going 24/7.

Now that's a monster cruise ship, even the Munsters could love.

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Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
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