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Old December 8th, 2000, 11:44 AM
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Default RCI cans Haines

From the wires this morning ...

Royal Caribbean Leaves Alaska Town

.c The Associated Press

Associated Press Writers

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - Royal Caribbean International said Thursday it was canceling cruise ship service to Haines, a move local officials say will devastate the economy of the tiny southwest Alaska town.

The town will lose 120,000 tourists during each 20-week season.

``We just had the rug pulled out from underneath us,'' said Robert Venables, the president of the Haines Chamber of Commerce. ``We haven't hit the floor yet, but we don't like the sensation of falling, I'll tell you that.''

While the town relies heavily on cruise ship revenue, it has a rocky history with Royal Caribbean dating back at least two years when the shipping line admitted dumping oily bilge water and other pollutants into area water.

The town of 1,200 about 100 miles north of Juneau is trying to attract tourism as it converts its economy from timber and fishing.

``What really makes the most serious blow is the revenue taken from our downtown merchants,'' Venables said.

Nevertheless, residents had voted a 4 percent sales tax on shore excursions and approved a nonbinding resolution to limit the growth of cruise ship visits after the dumping incident.

Company officials said the Haines stop had become a money-loser as fuel costs increased. Liners can save large sums bypassing Haines on runs from Juneau to Skagway, which is only about 15 miles farther north and more popular with tourists.
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