Yorktown visits our town

The Yorktown and its passengers made their initial visit to Alpena on Friday, although the vessel arrived more than an hour earlier than originally projected. Members of the community met the boat as it entered the Thunder Bay River and came to a stop behind the armory.

Citizens lined up along the waterfront to snap photos of the cruise ship as it approached, and representatives of the Alpena Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce, Alpena Downtown Development Authority and Target Alpena got ready to greet the visitors once they exited the boat.

After the passengers departed the ship, some made their way downtown to visit local stores, while others stayed near the river until buses arrived to transport them on tours of the lighthouses in Presque Isle Township and the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center. There were many people working hard to assist the tourists, who came from all corners of the globe, including Germany, Australia and Canada.

Once the passengers were on the buses and on their excursions, Captain Bryan Hobcroft and Chief Mate Paul Kalapodas came ashore and visited with those getting a look at the boat. The DDA and CVB had a stand set up where they provided each guest with a welcome bag with a map, coupons and a bottle of water with the new Alpena branding logo on it.

DDA Director Lesslee Dort, CVB Director Mary Beth Stutzman, Jackie Krawczak from the chamber, Jim Klarich of Target and Mayor Matt Waligora each offered help to those with questions. John Meek entertained the visitors by playing his bagpipes while the buses were enroute. Hobcroft said the reception Alpena had waiting for the boat and the passengers made them feel welcome.

“Other cities, especially the larger ones, don’t roll out the red carpet like Alpena has. To them we are just another vessel. I appreciate it, the crew appreciates it and the passengers appreciate it,” Hobcroft said. “When we visit a small town like Alpena each passenger feels more like a person and not a number. Towns like Alpena feel like home. They were excited about arriving and taking their tours, then strolling around the town.”

Dort said she is pleased with the way the community responded to the arrival and departure of the Yorktown. She said the visitors had shared glowing reviews of Alpena to her and overall the ship’s first visit went well.

“I talked to quite a few passengers who said they appreciated the warm welcome and seeing the town’s people standing along the river watching the boat come in,” Dort said. “There were about 60 people that took off immediately to walk around town before coming back for their tour. I think it has been a wonderful experience for everyone.”

Krawczak said the passengers were appreciative of the little gestures shown and given to them. She also was told by several passengers that Alpena had made them feel special.

“Someone told me that Alpena had done more for them than any other community they had been too,” Krawczak said. “That is often the case for different things we have done. The tour of the boat was really cool, and I thought it was great that when we first got on the ship there was a whole bulletin board about Alpena telling people about it and what is in it. It was cool the crew was promoting the destinations they were stopping at.”

The Yorktown is scheduled to have three more stops in Alpena during the month of August. Dort said the DDA, CVB and chamber may add to what they do for the visitors.

“I think we learned from this experience, and each time we do it we will get a little bit better at it,” Dort said. “Everyone pulled together for this and it worked out nicely. I expect the same will be true during the other visits.”

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review … at www.thealpenanews.com.