Cruise ship season is coming up and it will be one of the busiest to-date with 23 massive people movers scheduled to come to the Port of Astoria in 2013.

For many establishments, it can be a boon… or a bust, if they are not prepared for thousands of people hitting the streets at one time. Knowing a little more about the ships can help shops and restaurants plan staffing costs and profits.

The Port of Astoria website (portofastoria.com) provides a cruise ship schedule months in advance, so you can see when ships should arrive and depart.

For instance, this year you may want to be open Sunday, May 12. That day is not only Mother’s Day and opening day for Astoria Sunday Market, it is also a double cruise ship day. The Norwegian Jewel with 2,376 passengers and the SS Navigator with 490 will both dock in Astoria at 8 a.m. and will leave at 4 p.m. and 3 p.m., respectively.

The SS Navigator will dock at 17th Street, which means passengers will be shuttled to shore and back. This will change how long they will be in town and may cause some passengers to decide not to get off the ship. The passengers of the Norwegian Jewel, however, will be more flexible, and may be visiting downtown at 8:30 or 9 a.m. Be sure to let the Cruise Hosts know you are open, and they will direct the visitors to you.

An oft-overlooked piece of the puzzle is where the ship is coming from. Knowing where the ship is coming from can help you determine whether it will pay off to open early, change staff hours or to be open on a day you would normally be closed.

The Jewel will be originating from Los Angeles, with a stop in San Francisco, before hitting Astoria. History has shown that a Southern California departure usually means the vacationer is dressed in season-appropriate clothing for a warm climate. They, most likely, will be cold, and going to a colder place (Alaska).

Retailers, you might want to pull out any sweaters, coats, hats, etc., that you have left over from the holidays and offer them up as a “Cruise Ship Special.” Restaurants may want to focus on hot drinks and soups, since the passengers will have been at sea for 4 days and may wish for a change from ship cuisine.

The Navigator, however, is starting in San Francisco, and Astoria is her first stop. These folks will probably already be dressed for cooler weather, and they won’t be tired of the ship meals yet. Both ships will have the majority of people back on board around 1 p.m. for lunch, and then the rush is done.

For any ship coming in from Vancouver, British Columbia, the passengers will need to go through customs before they get off. This has typically added an hour or more to the debarking time, so it may not be a benefit to open early for those cruises. And, as we saw in 2011, nature’s fury may cause the ship’s captain to forgo crossing the world’s most dangerous bar.

Flexibility is key to making cruise ship season a success for you. Up to date information can be found at portofastoria.com and on the Bar Pilots website at columbiariverbarpilots.com. Information on the ship particulars can be found at the websites of the cruise lines, or email me at anderson@crmm.org. I’m happy to share my spreadsheet for the 2013 season.

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