First of planned cruises makes Port Angeles merchants happy

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT ANGELES — Tour guides and downtown businesses welcomed American Spirit cruise ship passengers Tuesday morning after they walked off the boat at City Pier in the first of 13 visits scheduled to the North Olympic Peninsula.

The cruise, way below its 100-person capacity at 40 people on this inaugural eight-day tour of Puget Sound, was to head off to its next stop in Port Townsend tonight, but as early as midmorning Tuesday, some Port Angeles downtown business owners had seen business pick up.

“We've definitely seen sales as a result [of the cruise visit],” said Marilyn Kaler, owner of Olympic Stained Glass at 112 N. Laurel St.

Kaler said one couple among the roughly 25 passengers being led on the Port Angeles Underground Heritage Tour past her store stopped to buy one of her bracelets.

Kaler said the wife told her husband she had fallen in love with the bracelet and, in front of the entire tour group, the husband bought it for her.

The couple have been married for 68 years, Kaler added. “They were just adorable.”

The underground tours — led by Heritage Tours owner Don Perry to show the original street level buried underground in 1914 when the street level was raised — are one example of activities organized for the visiting American Cruise Line passengers.

Port Angeles tourism planners will tighten the schedules for some off-ship offerings to better fit with the ship's planned events, such as lunch served onboard, said Russ Veenema, executive director of the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce.

For example, Veenema said future Port Angeles Underground Heritage Tours will start on the ship, rather than at Downrigger's Restaurant at The Landing mall on Railroad Avenue, and use the audio and visual equipment provided by the ship's crew to present information on Port Angeles.

“[It was] a little bit of a learning experience for the first visit, but I think it's going to come together nicely for the future,” Veenema said.

Other organized activities include tours of Hurricane Ridge and Lake Crescent Lodge — which includes tasting wine from Camaraderie Cellars and Harbinger — and a tour highlighting the Elwha River dam-removal and restoration project.

Other dates for arrival in Port Angeles are May 6, 13, 20 and 27; Sept. 9, 16, 23 and 30; and Oct. 7, 14, 21 and 28.

Although cruise passengers Jim and Linda Cantler of Annapolis, Md., had been in Washington state before, they signed up for the cruise to experience the smaller communities.

“We like to see the towns; that's the most important thing,” Linda Cantler said.

Tuesday's visit was one of the largest Heritage Tour groups that has ever stopped by Johnnie Montice's Captain T's Custom Stuff and Gift Shoppe, at 114 E. Front St. — and was definitely the biggest associated with a cruise ship, she said.

The building once held the former Elwha Theatre.

“It was the biggest group I've seen in a very long time,” Montice said.

Montice could not say as of early Tuesday afternoon if any direct sales resulted from the group's visit, but the day was young, she noted.

“A lot of them were poking around some, so I do think that we're going to see some faces again,” she said.

“I have pretty high hopes. I really do.”

Kevin Thompson owns Family Shoe Store on 130 W. Front St., which inhabits another historic stop on the Heritage Tour.

Thompson, whose business is the tour's last stop, described the number of cruise passengers on the tour as “awesome” and said future cruises visits will only be boon for his and other downtown businesses.

“It's exciting to bring people into our community and boost our economy,” Thompson said.

High winds along the Strait of Juan de Fuca on Monday pushed the 205-foot American Cruise Lines vessel's stop in Port Angeles back to about 9:30 Tuesday morning, about 12 hours later than expected.

The delay means the ship will leave at about 6 tonight rather than at noon, American Spirit Capt. Don Johnson said.

It will arrive at Port Townsend's Union Wharf by about 10 p.m., Johnson said.

Christina Pivarnik, marketing director of the city of Port Townsend, said the delay won't change any tours planned for visitors.

But it will mean cruise ship guests will not be greeted by Jefferson Historical Society docents as was originally planned and that the Key City Players will not perform the dinner theater originally scheduled for tonight.

Instead, Pivarnik will go aboard at breakfast Thursday to greet cruise ship passengers with a personal welcome.

“I can't wait to meet all of them face-to-face,” she said.

Other dates for arrival in Port Townsend are May 8, 15, 22 and 29; Sept. 11, 18 and 25; and Oct. 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30.


Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at

Last modified: April 30. 2013 6:16PM
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