My journey…

As I approach my 12th season at Icy Strait Point, I reflect on my journey.  I had just completed my 16th year at Hoonah Public Schools as the high school volleyball Coach and Instructional Aide when I decided to make a career move and go with my heart to seek employment with Point Sophia (Huna Totem Julie JacksonCorporation).  Jon Kveum hired me during the construction phase of 2003 as part of the landscaping crew.  That was a very physical summer for me, raking, transplanting, exposing underground rocks, and watering the trees and plants hours before other employees even showed up for work.  Then coming back for hours after everyone had gone home for the evening.

I knew that the creation of Icy Strait Point was going to be BIG:  the investment, the idea, and the impact.  Huna Totem Corporation and the community of Hoonah would come to life with visitors from all over the world.  I wanted to be front and center to welcome them to my home.

I worked my way from the landscaping crew to the construction crew by the end of the first summer.  I worked with Howie in the tool shed for a few months before inching my way into the office to help with time sheets and coding different projects.  I made myself available and never said no.

In 2005, I was introduced to the Fish House Excursion Lounge, I had to observe the lead dock rep from 9:00 to 11:15 a.m. and then it was all me; talk about being thrown into the hot coals. I didn’t realize it at the time but that was my ultimate test of leadership.  I survived, and that year I was promoted to Program Supervisor.

That promotion inspired me to strive for more, Program Manager and now the Director of Shore Excursions.  As I look back at my journey and look forward to my future, I am exactly where I want to be.  I am living the dream… I work for my corporation, I live in my hometown, I work side by side with family and friends, and I get to meet people from all over the world.

Chaak Tlaa
Julie Jackson, Director of Shore Excursions
Icy Strait Point


Recruiting for the 2014 Season!

634371908134335654_IMG_3150[1]As I take time to write this, I am excited and overwhelmed….

Excited because we are on the verge of the 2014 season and there are many positive events and changes that are about to take place.   I’m overwhelmed for the same reasons.

As the Human Resources Manager, my main function is to collaborate with the rest of the management team to make sure Icy Strait Point has all of the employees and relative resources necessary to staff the operation for the upcoming season and to sustain it. Because we are a seasonal business, we go through many of the same processes year after year to carry out this (I am often reminded of the movie Groundhog Day)!

We are fortunate to have a wonderful group of returning employees, many of whom have been with ISP since the cannery’s renovation and throughout the first 10 years of operation, but administratively, we still need to go through annual recruitment.  Finding out who is returning and who has moved on to other things, interviewing, for both returning and new employees, processing paperwork and uniforms, etc.  We want to make sure everyone is aware of any changes in the organization, such as tour content, new positions that might be of interest, new ships for the season, etc.  All of this happens before employees start work and it takes a lot of time and effort to get to the point of having 100+ employees ready to greet that first ship. It is fulfilling and enjoyable to go through this process as I get to see a lot of folks whom I haven’t seen since last Fall. It can also be overwhelming at this time of year because there is such a short window of time to accomplish all of this.

I am excited about rolling out results of some of the projects we started last year, such as pathways for how an employee can advance and grow within the corporation, if they so wish.  Continuing to improve upon our site-wide employee training program, FUN!, is also a priority.  Last year we introduced a couple of new training elements called Tlingit Hospitality and FISH! which appeared to be pretty successful and our goal this year is to improve upon and add to these concepts with ideas and input from all.  Mostly, though, I am excited about getting to see folks who haven’t been down to ISP since last September and enjoying all of us pulling together (Woosh-jee-een!) to continuing to keep ISP a vibrant, living, fun place to work and be.

-Linda Jackson
Human Resources Manager


Values for our Youth

Huna Totem Corporation Vision
“To advance the economic aspiration and culture of the X’una Kaawu through business excellence, sustainable economic growth, leadership and education”.

20130313-3428The Huna Totem Corporation Vision encompasses what I am trying to instill in my family. My children are the main reason I started working for Huna Totem Corporation. Our youth learn by example, what better way to get your children involved in their heritage and the future of their culture then to show them you are too.  Our choice as teachers and parents are affected by the culture in which we exist.

My Tlingit name Is Kahoni, My children and I are Shangukeidi and they are Huna Totem Corporation descendants.  I am an accountant in the Juneau HTC office and have the pleasure of working with our shareholders on a daily basis.  Working with them and our amazing team here has been a great experience.  Every single person at Huna Totem Corporation has nothing but the shareholder’s best interests at heart. This, to me, means building a strong future for our children and grandchildren who will be our future shareholders, Corporation Presidents, and Accountants.  Their culture is the foundation of this corporation, which cannot grow without sustainable economic growth, leadership and education.

“We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.”  Franklin D Roosevelt.

Gunalcheesh for allowing me to introduce myself!

Stephanie Banua
Corporate Accountant
Huna Totem Corporation


Souvenirs bridge cultures!

Souvenirs can be the badge of life changing experiences!

What is a Souvenir?

  • Something that is kept as a reminder of a place you have visited
  • An object that recalls a certain place, occasion, or person; memento

If we look around our desk –  right now, our room – this moment, I bet we each would see an object that reminds us of another place or time: a memory, and accomplishment, a person or an event that helped build who we are at this moment.

Icy Strait Point is in the business of building memories, and our Retail Department and our team Retailers help our guests remember us,  our home, this wonderful place in Alaska.  I get EXCITED when I think of how powerful our task is in selling: mugs, tee shirts, pins, pens, jackets, hats, cards, books, soaps, toys, sculptures, photos, treats, and on and on.

When our guests step ashore, they are entering the unknown, a new, and perhaps, daunting place.  Who are these Hoonah people?  What is this place about?  Will I feel at home?   Instantly folks glance about for familiar clues to help them on their day’s journey.  As they look around, the welcoming smiles of our staff and sturdy architecture help them feel welcome, at ease, ready to explore and experience Alaska up close.  Later, after sense-filling tours, and fresh tasty meals,  we offer a tangible way to make the day last…..

And this is where souvenirs are born.

???????????????????????????????We retailers take our jobs seriously.  We strive to make our visitor’s Alaska experience tangible.  We help people go back to their homes as ambassadors of Icy Strait Point.  Every mug reached for at morning coffee time, each hat tossed on en route to the way to the grocery, each tee-shirt proclaiming a visit to Icy Strait Point pronounces “I was in a remarkable place and met remarkable people”.   All 16 retailers search for gift suppliers – major and modest – expensive an incidental  –  that help bridge the space and time between who our guests were BEFORE they visited and WHO they are now having shared time with us.  Even a refrigerator magnet with NW Coast or Tlingit design tells a story of new awareness.  A pot holder with a Salmon design helps tell the story of how we are connected to the bounty of this land.

And we can poke fun at ourselves, because we all want our guests to buy LOTS of memories….some from each of us!  Believe it or not, we actually factor in lightweight and packable treasures into our product selection (why, a beautiful Alaskan made bracelet takes up NO room in a suitcase if it’s on one’s arm!) .  Icy Strait Point is home to dedicated,  experienced retailers who offer their view of our world to our guests.  We each have a special understanding of our craft, our own passions and our customer’s needs, wants and inspirations.  Gifts can tell a story of history, of nature, of cultures, of this unique world in Alaska.

So the next time you stroll thru our shops, think about how  we help keep Icy Strait Point in the hearts of our guests long after they have sailed home.  One mug at a time.

- Eleanor Davenport
Director of Retail


How do cruise lines choose a destination port?

Don Rosenberger AwardWhat are the factors that influence a cruise line when deciding to call at a destination port?

I’ve often been asked how the cruise lines determine where the ships stop and what factors they consider when they look at a port.  The cruise line planning process is actually quite complicated. Planning for upcoming seasons is completed about 18 months before ships arrive in Alaska.  Cruise lines planning the Alaska ship calls for 2015 this month.

Home ports for cruise line ships are in Seattle or Vancouver BC, as such, Alaska destinations have to compensate for limitations due to the distance and speeds needed to reach 3 or 4 Alaska ports of call on 7-day itineraries.  In addition since all of the large ships are made overseas, they cannot load and unload passengers between two US ports.  This is because of two acts of Congress in the early 1900′s designed to support US shipyards and unions.  Consequently, any Seattle based ship must make a port call in Canada, either to or from Alaska, and ships that go across the Gulf of Alaska to Seward or Whittier must start in Canada.  These legal limitations are the first factor in Alaska itinerary planning.

There are a number of additional factors which include grandfathered port pier priorities for cruise lines that have been sailing in Alaska since the 1950’s:

  • Speed of the ships
  • Fuel costs
  • Port fees
  • Mooring costs
  • Longshore costs
  • Availability of shore tours and facilities and piers
  • Port/city public destination awareness
  • Weekend departures from home ports
  • Competition between cruise lines and ports
  • Glacier viewing availability
  • Ship congestion in ports
  • Pier availability for non tender ships
  • Port locations on the ship routes
  • Port guest ratings
  • Profit/loss calculations for each port
  • Etc.

*All of those factors had to be addressed when we proposed Icy Strait Point in Hoonah as a port stop and destination to the cruise lines when we started in 2004.

Each year we make presentations to all the cruise lines executives and planners covering most of the factors and convince them that we are making constant improvements to the ship guest experience at Icy Strait Point and show them that our costs and revenues are competitive to other ports and, in some cases, better.  The presentations are made, at minimum, twice a year in the various cruise line city headquarters and include several departments in each cruise line.   We also attend key cruise line industry conferences and trade shows where Alaska competes with countries and destinations around the world.   Cruise lines deal with over 340 ports around the world each year, so we have to stay in front of them all of the time, but do it respectfully as we compete for appointments and their time against all the other ports. Imagine 340 people all wanting a piece of your time!

Icy Strait Point has the advantage of being Alaska Native owned and operated and provides the only complete Alaska Native cultural experience for visitors which is unique to Alaska cruising.  Our location outside a city, in what they consider a natural wilderness is another advantage.  Indeed, many visitors to ISP have commented that Icy Strait Point was what they envisioned when they bought their cruise and the only placed they visited where they have received what they envisioned.

Each year, the staff at Icy Strait Point improve the guest experience, which is crucial to keep the ship calls we get and to attract more ships.  The cruise market in Alaska constantly changes and we have to compete with other ports vigorously.  As such, guest experience and revenue improvement is a constant need as the cruise lines compares guest port experiences and port costs.

As we go forward, and a pier gets built, Icy Strait Point will have additional opportunities to attract other ships, including ships that do not call at ports where they have to anchor.  At a pier, more passengers will go ashore and purchase tours, visit gift shops and restaurants, and go downtown.  A pier will also prove the potential for shorter ship calls which now are impossible due to the tendering time factor involved in some ship itineraries.

The future is exiting!  I’m proud to be part of the Huna Totem and Icy Strait Point team and continue helping the company and shareholders and Hoonah people grow and prosper.  I hope this little primer on cruise planning was informative.

Don Rosenberger
Consultant/VP Tourism


Creation of the 40th Anniversary Blanket

Clarissa Blog2013 marked Huna Totem Corporation’s 40th Anniversary!  In celebration of this event, the Board of Directors approved the commission of a commemorative piece. We were excited about the high caliber of submissions that were received.  In the final stages, it was determined that one proposal was in line with the 40th Anniversary Theme, Haa léelk’u  haas yáagu yikt haa shukáadei yaan tukóox, In our grandfather’s canoe, we are traveling into the future, was submitted by an able and experienced artist, and also met the demanding timeline for its creation.

Clarissa was commissioned to create the robe and was able to attend the 40th Anniversary Celebration in July, where the robe was presented to shareholders.  Clarissa documented both the creation and presentation of the robe in her blog: http://clarissarizal.com/blog/

Read the blog posts about the creation and presentation of Huna Totem Corporation’s 40th Anniversary Commemorative Button Robe by Clarissa at: http://clarissarizal.com/blog/?p=3109 (photo seen from Clarissa’s blog) and http://clarissarizal.com/blog/?p=3439.  Gunalcheesh to Clarissa for all her hard work and for the beautiful design!  Gunalcheesh again to everyone who celebrated our 40th Anniversary with us!  Looking forward to another successful 40 years!


Look at how far we’ve come!

When you have been a part of one community for the better part of a lifetime, it is easy to think that everyone knows you and you know everyone else. Early in the development process at Icy Strait Point, it became apparent that this was far from the truth. While it is true that we see each other often, you really never get to know many people in the community until you have had the opportunity to work with them. When Icy Strait Point was still in its infancy, the idea of becoming a cruise ship destination seemed farfetched to many and downright impossible to others. Naysayers are always easy to find while those with vision are often in short supply.

As we enter our eleventh year of operation at Icy Strait Point, it is good to look back and reflect on the mountain we have chosen to climb and how far we have come as a TEAM since the first ship arrived in May of 2004.  I am talking about every person who has worked for Icy Strait Point, Point Sophia Development Co. and Huna Totem Corporation since the very idea of becoming a cruise ship destination was put forth as a viable goal. Every step of the way we have learned, we have grown, and we have managed to accomplish something that few believed possible. All this from a community that may be small, but one that has always aimed high!

Johan 2011 - croppedIt has been my good fortune to be a part of the community of Hoonah in a number of different ways. Growing up in Hoonah afforded me the opportunity to be a fisherman from a very young age.  Hand trolling, power trolling, purse seining, long lining for halibut and black cod, crab fishing (Dungeness) all done out of Hoonah. I even did one season as a deck hand on the fish tender Point Sophia with my father, Captain Paul E. Dybdahl Sr. and in later years, my brother Jim talked me into going to Bristol Bay and thereby adding gill netting to my fishing resume.

It was also my good fortune to have played for many Hoonah Gold Medal Basketball Championship Teams and to even coach a few when my playing days were done. One only needs to witness one Gold Medal Tournament to understand the singular focus and support that exemplifies our Hoonah people. High expectations and pulling together towards common goals is a tradition that has been a part of Hoonah life for as long as I can remember…and continues to this day.

When I went to work for Point Sophia Development Co. dba Icy Strait Point on July 1, 2001 it was apparent to me that I had come full circle. I was truly back home and ready to join with many others to make the newest challenge a reality. We are a long way up that mountain today but we still have a ways to go. We will get there,.and we will get there TOGETHER! My sincere thanks to all of you that have been a part of this new adventure.

Johan Dybdahl
Director of Special Projects
Icy Strait Point


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