Ketchikan’s city hall on June 11, 2020 (KRBD file photo by Maria Dudzak)

What will next summer’s cruise season look like in Ketchikan?

A Miami-based consultancy will try to answer that question at Thursday’s Ketchikan City Council meeting.

Business owners and local officials have said they’re concerned about cruise lines’ early plans. The largest cruise industry group proposed restricting shore excursions to line-sponsored activities in an effort to keep COVID-19 from coming aboard. The idea is, more or less, to keep passengers in a bubble. But Alaska tour operators say they’re worried they could be excluded from offering shoreside services.

Cruise industry reps say they’re hoping to expand that bubble beyond cruise line-sponsored activities once sailings from Lower 48 ports resume. But it’s hard to say how much it’ll expand, or what it’ll take for local businesses unaffiliated with the cruise lines to get inside the bubble.

The consultants Bermello, Ajamil and Partners will brief city leaders on the issue in detail.

It remains unknown when large cruise ships will again set sail from U.S. ports. A federal no-sail restriction was recently replaced with an order laying out a framework for cruising to restart, but that hasn’t happened yet.

In related news, City Council members are also scheduled to discuss potential port fee hikes for the next season and beyond. City Council Member Abby Bradberry said earlier this month that she’d like the council to discuss a per-passenger fee that would offset the cost of protective equipment, cleaning supplies and things like fencing and barriers around the port.

Ketchikan’s head tax is scheduled to rise from $7 to $9 per passenger this summer. The City Council approved that increase last year.

But Bradberry says in an email to city management that she’s also interested in exploring rate hikes beyond next year.

Both of the companies that submitted proposals to manage Ketchikan’s cruise ship docks floated substantial hikes in per-passenger fees, indicating that the private operators thought there was room to raise them.

Ketchikan’s City Council is scheduled to hold a special meeting with three closed-door sessions starting at 6 p.m. Thursday. That’ll be followed by the regular meeting at 7 p.m. Both meetings are scheduled to take place by videoconference.

The full agendas are online, and the meetings are live-streamed at the city’s website and on local cable channels. Members of the public can weigh in by calling 228-5658 prior to the meeting. Written comments can also be emailed to the clerk’s office at prior to 4 p.m. Thursday — officials ask residents to keep written comments to a maximum of 300 words.