While some cruise destinations remain plagued by uncertainty, one
thing is sure: Alaska cruising keeps growing. In 2004, some 883,000
people made landfall in Juneau (Alaska’s state capital and most
popular port of call) on ships big and small, according to
preliminary figures from the local convention and visitors bureau.
The growth rate for the season was 14 percent, the bureau also
reports the highest it’s been since 1998.
For 2005, the cruise lines have devised an ever-increasing
number of ways to enjoy America’s Last Frontier. Newsworthy
developments for the upcoming season include more extended-length
cruising, added drive-to options from convenient North American
homeports and the second season of operations at Icy Strait Point,
Alaska’s first master-planned cruise destination. Increased glacier
viewing has become a highlight of many Alaska-bound cruises. On the
land side, Holland America and Princess will both introduce
expanded options for backcountry adventure. Princess Cruises,
meanwhile, will begin a new “Direct to the Wilderness” rail
service, offering expedited transfers from the dock in Whittier to
the company’s wilderness lodges near Denali National Park. The rail
express saves time en route and allows for 70 percent more time to
be spent at the park, according to Princess Tours president Charlie
The Alaska cruise season runs from May through September.
Cruises are seven days unless noted. Here’s a look at what each
line is offering in 2005: American Safari Cruises has the
12-passenger Safari Escape , the 12-passenger Safari Spirit and the
22-passenger Safari Quest, three of the smallest ships sailing the
Inside Passage. Itineraries run eight, nine and 15 days, with a new
cruise sailing roundtrip from Juneau.
The American West Steamboat Company returns for its third season
of steamboating in Alaska. Itineraries aboard the 235-passenger
Empress of the North run 11 nights one-way between Seattle and
Juneau or new for 2005 seven nights roundtrip from Juneau. Airfare
between Juneau and Seattle is free for passengers booked by Feb.
Carnival Cruise Lines travels “The Glacier Route” between
Vancouver and Whittier aboard the 2,124-passenger Carnival Spirit.
Inside Passage cruises roundtrip from Vancouver are scheduled at
the beginning and end of the season.
Celebrity Cruises’ trio of big ships the Mercury, Summit and
Infinity offers Inside Passage and Gulf of Alaska cruises from
Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco and Seward. Cruises are seven or
12 days, with a 10-day positioning cruise on the Infinity in June.
Selected departures once again feature a day call at Icy Strait
Clipper Cruise Line’s Yorktown Clipper and Clipper Odyssey
feature eco-cruises and expedition cruises respectively. The
Yorktown Clipper sails for eight days roundtrip from Juneau or for
12 days between Juneau and Seattle; the Clipper Odyssey explores
the Bering Sea on 15-day expeditions.
Cruise West, a leading small-ship operator, offers a little bit
of everything: traditional Inside Passage cruises, Gulf of Alaska
cruises, Bering Sea expedition cruises and short cruises of Prince
William Sound. The company’s fleet of seven ships ranges in
capacity from 70 to 114 passengers. Itineraries extend from three
to 13 nights.
Crystal Cruises returns to its traditional San Francisco
homeport for a series of 12-day cruises aboard the 940-passenger
Crystal Harmony. Ten departures are scheduled. New for 2005 is a
seven-day roundtrip Alaska cruise from Vancouver, scheduled on May
One of Alaska’s bigger small-ship cruise lines, Glacier Bay
Cruiseline, now operates under new stewardship after several years
of native ownership. The company’s craft include the 87-passenger
Wilderness Discoverer, 69-passenger Wilderness Adventurer and
31-passenger Wilderness Explorer. New for 2005 is the anticipated
return of the 49-passenger Executive Explorer.
Holland America Line fields seven ships in Alaska for 2005: The
Amsterdam and Oosterdam sail roundtrip from Seattle; the Volendam
and Zaandam sail roundtrip from Vancouver; and the Ryndam,
Statendam, and Veendam sail one-way between Vancouver and Seward.
The Ryndam and Statendam each make one Vancouver roundtrip to begin
or end the season.
Lindblad Expeditions specializes in eco-cruises of the Inside
Passage aboard the 70-passenger sister ships Sea Bird and Sea Lion.
Sailings are scheduled for eight or 12 days.
Norwegian Cruise Line brings four ships to Alaska for the first
time ever in 2005: Norwegian Star, Norwegian Spirit and Norwegian
Dream roundtrip from Seattle; and Norwegian Sun roundtrip from
Vancouver. New for 2005 are 10- and 11-day cruises. Spring and fall
positioning cruises may sail one-way between Seattle and
Princess Cruises has Alaska’s biggest ships, with the Diamond
and Sapphire Princess sailing roundtrip from Seattle. On the Gulf
route, Princess offers four ships the Coral and Island Princess,
plus the Sun Princess and Dawn Princess sailing one-way between
Vancouver and Whittier. The Regal Princess cruises 10 days
roundtrip from San Francisco.
Bucking the trend, Radisson Seven Seas Cruises now offers
primarily seven-day cruises, with 13 departures between Vancouver
and Whittier and two roundtrip departures from Vancouver. A 13-day
Pacific Coast repositioning cruise begins the season, and Radisson
is offering two-for-one pricing. All cruises take place on the
700-passenger Seven Seas Mariner.
Royal Caribbean International sails the Inside Passage on
Radiance of the Seas and Serenade of the Seas roundtrip from
Vancouver, and crosses the Gulf of Alaska with Vision of the Seas
from Vancouver or Seward. Gulf cruises feature a day call at Icy
|Alaska Cruise Preview Contacts|
American Safari Cruises
American West Steamboat Company
Carnival Cruise Lines
Clipper Cruise Line
Glacier Bay Cruiseline
Holland America Line
Norwegian Cruise Line
Radisson Seven Seas Cruises
Royal Caribbean International