The Two Juneaus

There are two cities of Juneau, Alaska. This is a city that has come to depend heavily on the tourist trade. Like many other places that have heavy tourist traffic, a second economy springs up, devoted to servicing the visitors.

Waterfront Juneau
Looking down Franklin Street in downtown Juneau on a quiet day, without the cruse ship crowds
In Juneau the tourists arrive primarily by cruise ship, the floating cities arrive in the morning at the dock along the waterfront that are built specifically to handle these enormous ships. Two to four ships per day are normally present during the height of the summer season, each potentially debarking thousands of people who either head out to one of several available excursions, or simply shop in the waterfront shopping district.

The result is a waterfront district of shops specifically designed to service this trade. Dozens upon dozens of small shops line the streets, each very different, each somewhat the same. Without the cruise ships none of this would exist.The streets are crowded with people and the sidewalks jammed, groups and couples stroll from shop to shop to look at everything from stuffed Eskimo dolls to diamond and ivory jewelry.

Away from the docks the shops thin, until a few blocks back from the waterfront another Juneau can be found. This city exists to service the local population. In Juneau the business is that of state government, timber and fishing. In places like the Hawai’i, where the tourists roam in rental cars the impact of tourism is spread out somewhat. In Juneau, where most simply walk from the ships, the tourist part of the city is more concentrated and the difference very stark.

There are odd days when no cruise ship comes in. On those days the waterfront shops are quiet, many do not even open, choosing to take those days off. Everyone knows when the ships will be coming in, the schedule is published in the local paper. For those who work the waterfront district, life revolves around the cruise schedule, for a few months at least. When the cold weather comes the ships depart for warmer waters and life slows to a less frenetic pace.