Kodiak is expecting its busiest cruise ship season this summer since 2019, when 30 cruises visited the island. The first ship of the year, Holland America’s 950-foot Westerdam, docked at Pier 2 early Tuesday morning after sailing from Japan.
David and Lili Fraiberg were among the first group of tourists off the Westerdam.
“We just spent the last six months traveling around the world and this is the last part of our trip,” David said. “And it’s one of the most beautiful parts – it’s stunning here!”
The couple is in their 50s. The Fraibergs live in Florida most of the time, but they’ve been cruising from Europe through eastern Asia. They just spent about seven days at sea coming from Yokohama, Japan, and this is their first time back in the United States this year.
“We’re happiest here! It’s gorgeous! We’re happy to be home!” David said.
They weren’t the only ones visiting the state for the first time. John Andrews from the United Kingdom and his wife, Els is from Holland.
Els said they’ve watched shows about Alaska for years and jumped at the chance to see it firsthand.
“I’ve heard so much [sic] nice things and there’s so many lovely pictures and videos,” she said. “I’ve heard from so many people about how beautiful this area is in Alaska and I can’t wait. I’m just really excited and I can’t believe that we’re so lucky to have the sun come out!”
The Westerdam has a capacity of about 1,900, and passengers estimated it to have about 1,500 tourists on board when it docked in Kodiak.
Toby Sullivan works for the Kodiak Maritime Museum. He’s been a tour guide for about 10 years.
“We’re heading into town, we’re gonna be talking about the harbor and all the commercial fishing boats,” he said.
His first group had about 15 people. They heard about Kodiak’s commercial fishing fleet, Kodiak’s involvement in World War II and the 1964 earthquake and tsunamis as well.
There’s a lot to cover, but Sullivan tries to keep tours to around an hour and a half.
The tour ended just in front of the harbormaster’s office downtown in front of a memorial for folks lost at sea. Sullivan told stories of when he was a young fisherman, raising his family in Kodiak, and how the Coast Guard has improved safety on the water.
“We used to say we would go over the event horizon and in the Bering Sea in the 70s, you’d be gone for six months,” he reminisced. “Nobody knew what we were doing. We used to say, ‘Wild and free in the Bering Sea.’.”
As for David and Lili Fraiberg, while they’ve enjoyed their journey around the world, they’re ready to head back home.
“It’s beautiful, but we’re looking forward to get back to our own bed. It’s been six months in hotels pretty much,” he said.
Passengers were expected to be back on board by later that afternoon. The Westerdam has planned stops in Sitka and Ketchikan before the cruise ends in Seattle.
The next cruise ships are expected in Kodiak on May 10. Two ships are set to arrive at the same time; the second and third of nearly two dozen expected this year.