Cruise ship season is officially underway in Juneau.

The Ruby Princess pulled into port around 10:30 a.m. on Monday with this year’s first wave of visitors.

The ship can bring more than 3,500 passengers to Southeast ports with each visit.

For those living in Southeast, Monday represents the first major cruise line to arrive this year -- a sign that summer is around the corner, even if the temperatures disagree.

“The first day is the big launch,” said Liz Perry, president and chief executive of Travel Juneau, the city’s tourism marketing arm. “It’s really a great way to welcome folks in. It ushers in all the small business that are visitor industry-related."

“Our shops are cleaning up, opening up and getting new merchandise in. Our operators are gearing up, getting staffed up so that we can give our visitors a great experience while they are here,” she added.

Since last week, businesses throughout downtown Juneau were busy sprucing up their shops. Soon, as many as five ships will park in Gastineau Channel on a given day.

The Ruby Princess’ arrival kicks off what the industry association expects to be a record year for major cruise lines arriving in Alaska ports -- mostly in the state’s Southeast region: Juneau, Ketchikan, Sitka, Skagway and Wrangell.

In March, the Cruise Lines International Association announced that major lines expect to bring nearly 1.2 million visitors to Alaska this year.

That’s up from slightly more than one million last year.

Perry says for some passengers, a cruise represents an introduction to Alaska that leads to an eventual return.

“We find that about one out of five of our cruise ship visitors come back independently within about five years,” Perry said. “Juneau has got so much to offer that people can’t experience in one port call, so they want to come back and spend more time here.”

Copyright 2018 KTVA. All rights reserved.

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