Holland America to pull controversial Queen

Holland America’s high-speed catamaran won’t be plying the Yukon River this summer. On Friday, the company announced it’s going to pull the Yukon Queen II out of operation.

Holland America’s high-speed catamaran won’t be plying the Yukon River this summer.

On Friday, the company announced it’s going to pull the Yukon Queen II out of operation.

Although several years ago it said that if it couldn’t run the boat it might shut down its Dawson operations altogether, the company now says it can live without it.

“We haven’t changed the number of tours that we’re operating and we’re still committed up in that area,” said Erik Elvejord, spokesman for the cruise line.

Instead of running its own boat, Holland America has contracted with a local tour operator for the use of a paddle-wheeler, the Klondike Spirit.

“We’re just proud to team up with them and happy that they’re utilizing this service here in town,” said Brad Whitelaw, the owner of the Klondike Spirit.

It’s a huge boost for his business.

“We’ve only been one cruise a day but servicing Holland America’s needs will have us going out four times a day with them, plus our own trip each night,” he said.

And that means more hires.

Whitelaw plans to double the size of his six-person crew to keep up with the increased demand.

With a top speed of 10 to 15 knots, the Klondike Spirit only goes down river as far as Moosehide and back. It took the Yukon Queen II between four and five hours to ferry tourists to Eagle, Alaska, about 160 kilometres away.

The catamaran’s wake has been blamed for eroding the riverbank and killing salmon fry.

The boat’s operations had been under review by the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board. It filed its application in 2008 and the process had not yet concluded.

“We didn’t really see an end to that,” said Elvejord. “There was no apparent resolution.”

But the environmental controversy was just one of the factors that led to the boat’s retirement, he said.

The poor condition of the road from Eagle to Tok, Alaska was another.

“A lot of road repairs had to be made so it created some challenges,” said Elvejord.

Last year the boat didn’t even make it all the way to Eagle.

“For the past year we were using the Yukon Queen sort of as a tour boat on round trips out of Dawson City,” he said.

The Yukon Queen II had been in service since 1999.

Holland America plans to take the boat down river and then on to Seattle. 

“We haven’t decided quite yet what the end result will be with the Yukon Queen II, but certainly we won’t operate it up on the river,” said Elvejord.

Contact Josh Kerr at joshk@yukon-news.com