The Alpena Convention and Visitor's Bureau and the Alpena Downtown Development Authority are asking the local community to open their arms and welcome the Great Lakes cruise ship, Yorktown, as it makes its initial visit to Alpena on Friday morning between 10 and 10:30 a.m.
The ship is expected to port in the Thunder Bay River behind the armory and it is hoped residents will show their support for the ship, its crew and passengers by congregating for its arrival.
CVB Director Mary Beth Stutzman said she hopes there are a lot of people for the ship's arrival and its departure. She said the goal is to make the people on the cruise feel special, with hope that they will return for a longer period of time.
"This is huge for Alpena. We haven't had a cruise ship of this size visit Alpena in decades," Stutzman said. "People are encouraged to come down to welcome them to town or to give them a farewell wave when they leave at about 2 p.m."
Stutzman said the passengers have a pair of excursion options to highlight their time on land. She said the first is a trip to the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center or they can take a tour of the lighthouses in Presque Isle Township. She said when the tours are done the guests will have some time to explore on their own, or take a walking tour with a historian of Alpena.
"They can choose between the two options. Most of the people have selected the maritime museum and there are some that will see both the new and old lighthouses in Presque Isle. They will also be part of a discussion focusing on the unique birds Northeast Michigan is home to," Stutzman said. "When those are done they can then wander around town or take a walking tour with Bob Lyngos from the library."
Stutzman said a lot of work has been done by many in order to showcase Alpena to the guests from the Yorktown. She said with the help of the volunteers offering assistance Friday, things should go well.
"The community has really come together to help make sure the passengers have a great time while in town," she said. "There will be volunteers downtown to help answer questions or give directions. There will also be a pair of French teachers from the high school who will act as interpreters for the 16 French speaking passengers. There will be historians talking about Alpena and answering questions, so a lot of people are dedicating time from their summer to help make this a success."
Target Alpena Director Jim Klarich was a key player in getting Travel Dynamics to consider Alpena for a port of call for the Yorktown. He said when he was hired as director he approached the city of Alpena to see what companies or ventures were considering Alpena, but it never came to light. He said he contacted the cruise line and after some discussion it was decided Alpena would host the ship four times this summer.
"This is important for Alpena and what people need to realize is the international aspect of this," Klarich said. "The Yorktown originates in Toronto and a good portion of the people will be French Canadian, so these aren't people driving up here from Grand Rapids. These are people from Canada, western Europe, as well as the United States. It could help Alpena get noticed outside the confines of Michigan and the United States."
Friday will be the first stop for the Yorktown and there will be three more to follow. Stutzman said the times of the other arrivals and departures could be different than the ones Friday, and plans for the passengers are still being made.
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review ... at www.thealpenanews.com.