Visitors from three ships swell Astoria - and hosts were readyThe streets of downtown Astoria were lined with gold-stickered tourists from three different cruise ships Monday, keeping local merchants and cruise hosts busy.

The sidewalks were crowded, the trolley was packed and stores kept the cash registers ringing, but no major problems were reported with the addition of a few thousand visitors to town.

LORI ASSA - The Daily Astorian

Ship passengers line up at the 17th Street Pier Monday afternoon, to be ferried to the Norwegian Sun, which was anchored in the Columbia River. "I would say, short of just the time it took to get the ships in, it was a seamless operation," said Port Deputy Director Bill Cook. "I think the pre-planning is a strength, and the efforts of all the players on the cruise committee really puts together a comprehensive package."

Two of the three ships, Holland America's Zaandam and Amsterdam, docked at Pier 1, while the third, Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Sun, anchored in the middle of the river across from Safeway and ferried passengers to the 17th Street pier. The three ships carried more than 5,000 passengers and approximately 2,000 crew members. Cruise ship greeters estimate that on average about two-thirds of a ship's passengers will leave the vessel at a port of call.

LORI ASSA - The Daily Astorian

Jennifer Wong, a 4-year-old from Vancouver, British Columbia, tastes her chocolate chip mint ice cream cone as Kayla Wong, 7, looks over her options. Like other downtown businesses, Astoria Marine Trading Co. experienced a boom Monday. Ralph Peitsch, who worked at the store Monday, says of the day, "this is a very good Fourth of July is what it is.""We've never done anything like this, but this is going very well, very smoothly," said Astoria Public Works Director Mitch Mitchum, referring to 17th Street pier operations. "And we're going to do it again next May 5."

Norwegian Sun passengers did report a bit of a wait to get on the tender to be ferried ashore. And the line in front of the Maritime Museum to get back to the ship was a block long at times, but by a bit after 6 p.m. the last passengers were walking right to the front of the line to return to the vessel.

'It's a beautiful town'A sampling of the visitors strolling the streets resulted in nothing but compliments for Astoria and its people.

LORI ASSA - The Daily Astorian

"It's almost like New York City outside," says Peter Gimre, whose shop, Gimre's Shoe Store was packed with people Monday afternoon. "It's nice, very nice, to see.""It's a beautiful town, and you're commended on the hosts on the street," said Norwegian Sun passenger Ron Connell of Quesnel, British Columbia.

"It's a nice welcome," added his wife Marlene Connell. "You're walking down the street and there's someone to ask questions."

"I met the mayor who was selling

Pepsi, and he thanked me for coming," said Bob Schultz of Orange, Calif.,

who was impressed with Astoria's

hospitality and preparations. Schultz

had taken a "Historic Astoria" shore excursion tour in the morning and was taking a trolley ride yesterday afternoon - a popular choice among the visitors.

Photo courtesy of ROBERT JOHNSON

The Norwegian Sun streams into Astoria at sunrise Monday."We're playing Tokyo Subway," said trolley volunteer Dan Bartlett. "We've had standing room only pretty much the whole time. (The fares) keep the trolley in good repair."

Carl and Debbie Tulk of Kitimat, British Columbia, were trying to see even more of the town by visiting the Column, and were waiting in line at a busy public phone at the corner of Commercial and 13th streets to try to call a taxi.

"If we can't get a taxi, we'll try the trolley, then go back to the boat and sunbathe," said Debbie Tulk.

Checking out storesMany visitors simply checked out the stores downtown.

"This was the highlight of my trip - to get some Oregon Pinot Noirs," said Zaandam passenger and amateur sommelier Brian Preston of Ottawa, Canada, pointing to two cases holding six bottles each. "Now I'll get these babies back on board, then decide which one of these to have with dinner."

Photo courtesy of ROBERT JOHNSON

The Amsterdam heads into Astoria Monday morning.vPreston also dives in shipwrecks in the Caribbean and the Great Lakes, and so was very interested and impressed by the Columbia River Maritime Museum. "I learned a little bit about the Columbia and the estuary - it's wicked to get across," he said.

Business was busy and steady at T Paul's Urban Cafe, reported co-owner Teona Dawson, and many people seemed to want to sample local seafood.

"Everybody seems very nice, and everybody wants clam chowder," she said. "We've gone through gallons and gallons of clam chowder."

Gift shops were enjoying the stream of visitors as well.

"It's been pretty steady; the shop has been full all day" said Elsie Hansen, who works at Terra Tones, which opened an hour early to accommodate ship visitors. "Cruise ships are pretty good for us."

Thousands of cruise ship passengers disembarkedMore than 3,500 cruise ship passengers visited Astoria, as 1,900 people were ferried between the Norwegian Sun and the 17th Street pier, 1,650 passengers bought shuttle bus passes at the Port of Astoria, and others took shore excursions, walked or took the trolley into town, and visited the Never on Sunday Market at the port.Still, even though three ships worth of people were in town Monday, business wasn't as good as it was during previous visits this fall, she said; a sentiment echoed by vendors at the Never on Sunday Market set up at Pier 1.

"It's slower than the last one," said Sue Bublitz, who sells jewelry at the market. "I think the people on these ships are more established travelers, and it's not that excitement of 'Oh, we're in a port' ... It's something that's going to be different from cruise to cruise."

The Amsterdam is on a short cruise of the Pacific Northwest, and will return Monday for the last visit of the season. The Zaandam and the Sun, which had been cruising Alaska during the summer, are at the beginning of repositioning cruises and will travel down the West Coast, through the Panama Canal, and arrive in Florida for winter cruises in the Caribbean.

In late spring, the cruise season will start up again for Astoria and May 5 three more cruise ships will visit the city on the same day once again.

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