Cruise line makes Poulsbo a port of call

POULSBO — An effort among Poulsbo’s private and public sectors has landed quite the whale.

American Cruise Lines, a small-ship cruise line, will be sailing into the Port of Poulsbo beginning next Friday, and their passengers have a lot to look forward to.

For the five Fridays in May, between 70-80 passengers will explore Poulsbo, and the town is pulling out all the stops. The Poulsbo Historical Society is offering walking tours, and the shops in downtown Poulsbo and the Marine Science Center are opening early (about 8 a.m.). Transportation will be provided to take passengers to the Suquamish Museum.

The passengers will even be greeted with some distinctive Poulsbo flair — the Clam Island Band will perform at the Kvelsted Pavilion, two girls dressed in bunader — traditional Norwegian folk dress — will welcome passengers, and the Vikings will make an appearance.

“Nothing has ever been done with regard to having a ship of this size come into port, and this combined with a known socioeconomic demographic of its passengers is a blessing,” said Kelle Kitchel-Cooper, director of development for The RockFish Group, a marketing consulting group.

Rockfish staff members are volunteering their time for this project, alongside the Port of Poulsbo, Historic Downtown Poulsbo Association and the Greater Poulsbo Chamber of Commerce. Mayor Becky Erickson has also been on hand to help out.

American Cruise Lines first reached out to the Port of Poulsbo about adding Poulsbo to its Puget Sound cruise schedule, which includes Anacortes, Friday Harbor and Port Townsend.

The Puget Sound cruise captain, Don Johnson, said the company likes small towns and “local flavor” for its cruises, and likes Poulsbo’s Norwegian theme and artsy community.

“This is the kind of place we like to go [to],” he said. The average age of his passengers is 72, and they come from all over the U.S.

The port started working with the Coast Guard to allow the 200-foot ship into Liberty Bay and anchor outside the port marina. Usually, ships 200 feet or longer must anchor at a federally designated anchor, the closest of which is in Manchester. Port Commissioner Steve Swann said he and Johnson satisfied the Coast Guard’s issues and have been given a waiver so the ship can anchor in the bay.

A smaller boat will bring the passengers from the ship to F dock at the port’s marina. Passengers will spend half a day in Poulsbo.

Passengers will each receive a packet of information on Poulsbo’s breweries, restaurants and shops, Kitchel-Cooper said. Merchants will offer shipping of items to make it easier on the passengers on their journey home.

The cruise line is offering an exclusive way for local breweries, restaurants and shops to get their products onboard. Kitchel-Cooper will provide the ship’s executive chef with products made or found locally — such as smoked salmon or craft beer — to serve on the ship. Items that are popular will be incorporated into the whole Puget Sound cruise menu. Local producers should contact Kitchel-Cooper ( to submit samples.

Merchants are encouraging locals to take advantage of this memorable occasion by coming down to see the ship and do a little shopping.

“We’re all extremely excited about all of this,” said Erin Whitson, member of HDPA and owner of Saisons Boutique. She said the tourist season usually picks up in June, and the cruise line gives merchants an extra boost.

“The enthusiasm has just been awesome … It’s been a real positive experience,” she said. “We’d love for them to go back to their ship and say, ‘Poulsbo was awesome, the best port of call.’ ”


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