Kodiak is one of Alaska’s lesser visited cruise ports with just a few mostly smaller cruise ships visiting each summer. Because of this the port currently remains as it was before cruise ships came to town rather than having the near port shopping area taken over by the typical cruise ship shops found at all the frequently visited ports like you see in Ketchikan and Juneau.
Less frequented ports don’t have dedicated cruise ship docks. In Kodiak ships dock at City Dock II, about a kilometer south of town. Kodiak’s main economy derives from the sea, mostly in the form of fishing. Government jobs are second in importance to the economy with the largest Coast Guard facility in the USA located there. Tourism comes in third for the island’s economy.
The pier where the ships dock is at Fishermens Terminal with a row of canneries between the dock and town so it wasn’t surprising that a heavy smell of fish hung about the port. There’s a bit of a flat parking area between the road and the ship. Land on the other side of the road rises nearly straight up in the form of windmill-topped Pillar Mountain. One of our dinner mates on Holland America Westerdam climbed Pillar Mountain, though not directly straight up from the ship. There’s a road winding up the mountain and he found a trail off the road somewhere.
The town provided school busses which were used both for ship’s excursions and as shuttles into town for those who didn’t want to walk there. It’s a pretty easy walk into town on mostly level ground. Besides shopping and food there are a few tourist attractions including the boat harbor, an old Russian church, a few museums, a visitor’s center, and a wildlife center, all near to each other.
There’s also trails and an aquarium on the other side of a bridge. Fort Abercrombie State Park has trails too, but at over 4 miles out the opposite side of town from the cruise dock it’s too far for most cruise ship passengers to walk there and back and still have time for hiking around in the time available during their port stop. The shuttle let people out by the visitor’s center. It had walking maps of the town, people to answer questions, and tours available to book.
Kodiak has mild coastal weather which is often wet and cloudy. At an average of 68 inches of precipitation annually it is much drier than Ketchikan’s average of about 150.
Kodiak was originally occupied by Alutiiq people who lived in small villages on the island until the Russians settled there in the late 1700’s mainly for fur trading. After trapping sea otters nearly to extinction Russia sold Alaska to the USA and fishing replaced sea otters as Kodiak’s main economy.
The biggest volcanic eruption of the 20th century covered Kodiak in nearly 2 feet of ash in 1912. During World War II the USA built military installments on the island. One naval base became the coast guard station in 1972. Forts Greely and Abercrombie are historic now.
A tsunami from an earthquake in 1964 damaged or destroyed much of the town’s commercial infrastructure, but the people rebuilt and the fishing industry rebounded. Disaster struck again in the form of the Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989, which did significant environmental damage that took years for the area to recover from, and for fishing to return to pre-spill catch levels.
Kodiak hasn’t seen much cruise ship traffic in the past with just a few ships a month during the summer, but expects to triple that starting in summer 2019. Townsfolk voiced concern over balancing keeping the integrity of their town while servicing the expected increase in tourism.
Excursions offered from our ship included a scenic drive, Kodiak highlights with stops at museums and Fort Abercrombie, sightseeing with afternoon tea at the Russian church, a walk through the harbor, a walk through town with tasting stops at various eateries, a hike at Fort Abercrombie State Park, and a couple wildlife watching cruises.