Hot in Alaska

Cruise lines offer more options than ever in the Last Frontier

By: M.T. Schwartzman

Winter may still be upon us, but it’s the hottest time of year for Alaska bookings. Cruise lines are dedicating unprecedented resources to Alaska in 2006, and the strategy is paying off. Cruise arrivals to the Last Frontier could very well hit the one million-passenger mark for the first time.
“If we look at the places around the world where we can position our ships in the summer, Alaska remains one of the strongest destinations,” said Paul Allen, Holland America Line’s vice president of Alaska marketing.
This year, the Alaska season (which runs from May to September) will bring clients more choices, including new ships, emerging ports and additional tours. Passengers combining their cruise with a land tour to Denali National Park, home to Mt. McKinley (the tallest peak in North America), will find new hotel accommodations as well.

A total of 13 cruise lines and 42 ships will ply Alaskan waters in 2006. Vessels will range in size from mega-ship to mega-yacht, and include an expedition-style craft, pocket cruiser and steamboat-style paddle-wheeler. The following is a rundown on the highlights and new products for the upcoming season.

Shuffling Ships

Holland America Line brings eight ships to Alaska for the first time since 2003, including two Vista Class ships making their first appearance in Alaska the Westerdam and Zuiderdam. Also new is a revamped lineup from Princess Cruises, which deploys its largest Alaska vessels, the Diamond Princess and Sapphire Princess, on the “Voyage of the Glaciers” featuring two days of glacier viewing on every seven-day cruise.

Royal Caribbean International, meanwhile, becomes the latest line to homeport a ship out of Seattle, the Vision of the Seas, bringing the number of ships departing from the Emerald City to nine.

Norwegian Cruise Line welcomes the Norwegian Wind back to Vancouver and repositions the Norwegian Sun to Seattle alongside the Norwegian Star. On the luxury front, Silversea Cruises returns after a one-year hiatus with a series of Alaska cruises aboard the Silver Shadow. The voyages depart from Anchorage, Vancouver and San Francisco.

Small-Ship Options

For 2006, Cruise West has “more Glacier Bay permits than any other cruise line,” according to officials, and will use them in part to operate new four- and five-day “Glacier Bay Highlights” cruises roundtrip from Juneau, which spend a full day in Glacier Bay.

In Cruise West news, the line has acquired the 138-guest Yorktown Clipper and the 102-guest Nantucket Clipper from Clipper Cruise Line. The Yorktown Clipper will sail its previously published 2006 Alaska itineraries, but now under Cruise West’s ownership and management.

American Safari Cruises received permission from the National Park Service to offer its own new itinerary featuring a full two days in both arms of Glacier Bay. Lindblad Expeditions is installing underwater bow cameras on the Sea Bird and Sea Lion and introducing new photo workshops to its lineup of photo expeditions conducted in smaller groups for a more intensive program.

Ports With the Buzz

Icy Strait Point, Alaska’s first and only master-planned cruise destination, continues to draw interest from the industry. Cruise lines calling in 2006 include Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Princess and Holland America which has 18 calls scheduled on Gulf of Alaska cruises aboard the Statendam. Another up-and-coming port is Campbell River, a “First Nations” community in British Columbia which is constructing a cruise-ship dock and native village for the benefit of cruise passengers. Campbell River’s first cruise passengers are expected to arrive in September 2006 aboard Celebrity Cruises’ Mercury. Haines, the artists’ community south of Skagway, expects a growing number of calls, mainly from Holland America’s Ryndam and Veendam.

More Cruisetour Options

Cruise passengers looking to extend their trip with a visit to Denali National Park can enjoy new hotel accommodations from Princess and Holland America. Princess will add 228 rooms to its two wilderness lodges in the Denali area, while Holland America will construct a new 135-room wing onto the McKinley Chalet Resort, owned by another company but frequented by HAL passengers.


For more information, departure dates and pricing, contact the following Alaska-bound cruise lines’ Web sites.

American Safari Cruises

Celebrity Cruises

Clipper Cruise Line

Cruise West

Holland America

Lindblad Expeditions

Norwegian Cruise Line

Princess Cruises

Royal Caribbean International

Silversea Cruises