The streets were so quiet that a family of foxes was regularly seen running downtown, said Jaime Bricker, Skagway’s tourism director, who visited nearby Glacier Point, a popular tourist destination, for the first time in her life.
“My family and I embraced the quiet every chance we got,” Ms. Bricker said.
Fewer tourists, more whales
Around Glacier Bay National Park, a haven for seals, whales, dolphins and bears about 90 miles west of Juneau, the cruise ships were not missed, said Stephen Van Derhoff, one of the owners of Spirit Walker Expeditions of Alaska in Gustavus, a town of about 500 people near the park.
Mr. Derhoff’s business takes people to Glacier Bay in small kayaks and caters to independent travelers who want a more intimate wilderness experience.
“To see the giant cruises going by and the exhaust and smoke coming off them can have a negative impact,” Mr. Van Derhoff said. “For the first half of 2021 there was very little cruise ship traffic and that was actually very nice.”
Fewer ships at sea also gave scientists the opportunity to see the effects on humpback whales.
In 2020, researchers from the University of Alaska identified 63 adult whales, the most they had seen in a five-year period, said Heidi Pearson, an associate professor of biology at the University of Alaska Southeast. Dr. Pearson, who is conducting the study with Shannon Atkinson, a professor in the fisheries department at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, said that it was too early to say whether fewer vessels at sea were the principal factor.
In Skagway, no one wanted the cruise ships gone for long, said Mr. Cremata, the mayor.
“I know there are some places that have a love-hate relationship with tourists,” he said. “But we love our tourists.”