Cruise season is underway in Alaska.

The Ruby Princess, of Princess Cruises, arrived late Monday morning bringing the first major wave of cruise passengers to Alaska.

More than 3,000 visitors hit Juneau’s downtown streets or boarded buses and vans departing for tours.

Visitors arrived from the Lower 48, Canada, Asia and several European nations.

They began their journey Saturday in Seattle. Juneau became its first port of call this summer.

Members of the Juneau’s Visitors Bureau and the assembly were among the first to greet guests as they came down the catwalk.

“This means that summer is here again,” said Juneau Mayor Ken Koelsch, who estimated shaking more than 2,000 hands. "We have our first cruise ship in today. And it’s fantastic.

“I greeted so many people who came off that ship that were just excited to be here-- a breath of fresh air-- excited to be in Alaska-- and we get to share it with them."

The Ruby Princess has 21 trips scheduled to Alaska this summer. It will also make stops in Skagway, Glacier Bay, Ketchikan and Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, before returning to Seattle.

By summer’s end, the ship will bring close to 70,000 visitors to these Southeast ports.

“Economically, it’s the start of our summer season,” Koelsch said. “Sales tax goes up. Spending goes up around town. People get to get out and see the sights. Employment goes way up in the summertime. It means a lot. Our restaurants are full. Our new entrepreneurs around town get to try out their products.”

The Ruby Princess also received a Coast Guard escort into the home stretch of its trip. It was not a drill. It was part of the Guard’s regular marine security patrols conducted in the Gastineau Channel.

Flanking the ship were two 45-foot response coast guard boats, complete with bow-mounted machine guns. A third boat was also part of the patrol and escort.

The Coast Guard says the controls are conducted randomly to detect and deter criminal and terrorist activity.

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