Alaska Preview 2007

New vessels, port calls and shore tours await

By: M.T. Schwartzman

It’s already the largest state in the Union. And every year, Alaska gets bigger and more dynamic as a cruise destination. For summer 2007, the lineup of Alaska-bound cruise lines numbers 12 brands comprising some 42 ships big and small. Together they offer a variety of choices that includes new vessels, new port calls and new shore tours.

For the second season in a row, Holland America Line deploys eight ships to the region. Of special note is the debut of the Vista-class Noordam IV on seven-day cruises roundtrip from Seattle. It marks the first time a ship named Noordam has been in Alaska since the Noordam III sailed the Inside Passage from 1984 to 1999.

As promised, Norwegian Cruise Line reinvigorates its Alaska fleet with the introduction of one of its newest ships, the Norwegian Pearl.

Princess Cruises, always a big player in the Alaska market, gets even bigger with a 12 percent increase in capacity, led by the Alaskan debut of the Golden Princess. Altogether, Princess fields eight ships in Alaska for 2007, including five vessels crossing the Gulf between Vancouver and Whittier.

On the small-ship front, Cruise West introduces a new name to Alaska cruising when the Yorktown Clipper is renamed the Spirit of Yorktown. For years, this ship has been a fixture on Inside Passage cruises from Juneau.

Meanwhile, the new Majestic America line will introduce the 48-passenger Contessa to Alaska. The renamed vessel was previously known as Glacier Bay Cruise Line’s Executive Explorer. She’ll sail seven-day cruises between Ketchikan and Sitka.

Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises collectively boast Alaska’s third-largest cruise fleet, numbering six vessels. RCI offers three: Radiance of the Seas, Serenade of the Seas and Vision of the Seas, the latter with new port calls scheduled in Prince Rupert.

Alaska’s only historically styled paddlewheeler, the Empress of the North, returns for a series of seven-night cruises roundtrip from Juneau. New for 2007, the Empress becomes the first cruise ship to enter the mouth of the Stikine River near Wrangell.

As for new port calls, Campbell River, a native community on Vancouver Island, hopes to welcome its first big-ship cruise passengers in spring 2007. Among Campbell River’s attractions is a specially created native village meant to highlight the culture of Canada’s First Nations people.

In Ketchikan, plans to improve docking facilities are moving forward. A new pier is on schedule to receive calls in May, according to Patti Mackey, executive director of the Ketchikan Visitors Bureau. Meanwhile, a new, authentic steam-powered sternwheeler begins history-themed tours of the Ketchikan area next season.

When it comes to active adventures in Alaska, zip-lines are “the big thing,” says Lorene Palmer, president of the Juneau Convention and Visitors Bureau. New zip lines have opened in Ketchikan and Juneau. Another scheduled to open in Icy Strait Point is billed as “the world’s longest zip line,” stretching 5,300 feet.

From Skagway, another new excursion takes cruise travelers to Canada’s Yukon Territory for spectacular views from a unique vantage point: the new Yukon Suspension Bridge. The bridge, which opened in time for the 2006 season, spans the raging Tutshi river and canyon, 57 feet above the rapids. Additionally, clients booking selected Inside Passage cruise-tours with Holland America will travel between Skagway and Carcross aboard the legendary White Pass & Yukon Route narrow-gauge railway. Resumption of service on this historic stretch of track was made possible by an $8 million investment by the railroad.

In Fairbanks, the University of Alaska’s acclaimed Museum of the North has a new wing and auditorium. The latter enthralls visitors with a multi-media presentation on Alaska’s famed Northern Lights, also known as the aurora borealis. New for 2007 is a presentation depicting winter on The Last Frontier.


American Safari Cruises

Carnival Cruise Lines

Celebrity Cruises

Clipper Cruise Line

Cruise West

Holland America Line

Lindblad Expeditions

Majestic America Line

Norwegian Cruise Line

Princess Cruises

Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Royal Caribbean