2017 Alaska Travel Preview

Denali National Park, photo by Michael DeYoung

Alaska is planning a big expansion for 2017, including new tours, cruises, and facilities, ranging from hotels to museums to restaurants. Below is everything you need to keep up to date with goings-on in The Last Frontier.

Alaska Cruise Preview

  • Holland America Line is redeploying the Oosterdam from Europe for the 2017 summer season, with seven ships and 135 departures from May through September. The company also celebrates its 70th year of exploring Alaska with new special experiences and events. (www.hollandamerica.com)
  • Seabourn returns to Alaska this June for the first time in 15 years with Seabourn Sojourn sailing on a series of 11-, 12- and 14-day sailings from Vancouver, BC and Anchorage. (www.seabourn.com
  • Lindblad Expeditions will be launching the 100-passenger National Geographic Quest on June 26. Currently being built in Seattle, the coastal ship is the first-ever new build for the line, and will sail on two, 13-day Treasures of the Inside Passage: Alaska & British Columbia expeditions and multiple eight-day Exploring Alaska’s Coastal Wilderness voyages throughout the season. The small-ship cruise line is also introducing two new itineraries on the National Geographic Sea Bird in 2017: the six-day active adventure Wild Alaska Escape and the 11-day Big Picture Alaska with a special focus on photography. (www.expeditions.com
  • Alaskan Dream Cruises added a second day of exploration in Glacier Bay National Park and an overnight stay aboard the Chichagof Dream inside the park on its seven-night True Alaskan Family Cruises in 2017. Guests will be able to disembark in Bartlett Cove and go ashore near Reid Glacier, a more remote wilderness area. (www.alaskandreamcruises.com
  • Uncruise Adventures will launch three wellness-themed cruises this spring and add a half-day visit to the Tlingit village of Kake to its Inner Reaches Western Coves Ketchikan-to-Juneau itinerary. The small-ship cruise line’s 157 departures on 11 itineraries can be combined to create itineraries up to three weeks long on the same vessel. (www.uncruise.com
  • Carnival Cruise Line will launch a 14-day cruise itinerary round-trip from Long Beach, CA, in September aboard Carnival Miracle. Destinations include the line’s first-ever call at Icy Strait Point, an Alaska Native-owned and operated cruise destination. (www.carnival.com
  • Crystal Cruises’ second Northwest Passage offering sets sail from Anchorage on August 15. Last year they sailed the largest luxury passenger vessel through the Northwest Passage. (www.crystalcruises.com
  • In 2018, Princess Cruises will increase its capacity by 15 percent, carrying more passengers to Alaska than any other line. A 12-day round-trip itinerary from Los Angeles will also be introduced on the Emerald Princess and Golden Princess. The line will offer 130 departures on seven ships departing from Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Whittier, AK, and Vancouver, BC. (www.princess.com
  • Also in 2018, Norwegian Cruise Line will launch its new vessel, the Norwegian Bliss, which will be the first cruise ship custom built for the ultimate Alaska cruise experience. (www.ncl.com
  • Viking Ocean Cruises is planning its 2019 debut in Alaska on the Viking Spirit. (www.vikingcruises.com
Attribution/Copyrights
Mark Kelley

New Products & Tours

Statewide: 

  • John Hall’s Alaska is adding the 11-day Untamed Alaska itinerary, which begins in Anchorage and travels to Talkeetna. Guests will learn about the exploration of Denali National Park and Preserve, spend a night in a lodge in Thompson Pass near Valdez, travel through Prince William Sound and head to Cordova. Options include visiting Sheridan Glacier and kayaking among the icebergs. Travelers on Untamed Alaska will also experience Child's Glacier and Million Dollar Bridge before returning to Anchorage. (www.kissalaska.com
  • John Hall’s Alaska will be partnering with Alaskan Dream Cruises to offer land packages. Denali Explorer and Grand Slam Alaska will be available to add onto the cruise line’s Alaska’s Glacier Bay and Island Adventure from Sitka to Juneau. Visits to Denali National Park and Preserve, Seward, Valdez, Anchorage, and Fairbanks highlight the excursions.

Interior: 

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  • Why Knot Adventures, based in Fairbanks, offers all-inclusive fishing excursions. Summer trips explore waterways within 100 miles of Fairbanks, while winter tours consist of day and night ice fishing packages with nighttime opportunities to view the northern lights. (www.whyknotadventures.net
  • Fairbanks’ Fairbikes is a bike rental company that has a system of bikeshare rental stations over town. Their 50 bikes can be picked up and returned to any of the 15 stations throughout town – they even have an app, Find a Bike Fairbanks, that shows a map of the active nearby stations. (www.fairbikes.com
  • Fairbanks-based Northern Alaska Tour Company is introducing two winter tours in 2017 that travel to the rural Alaska Native community of Minto. The Minto Aurora Fly/Drive is an overnight trip where guests can explore the town, interact with Alaska Native elders, and enjoy a variety of winter activities. Guests will have a chance to watch for the northern lights that night before returning to Fairbanks the next day via air. The Minto Village Fly/Drive is a single-day trip of similar activities. (www.northernalaska.com
  • The Alaska Railroad expanded its Aurora Winter Train: from February 21 to March 29, additional trains will run northbound on Tuesdays and southbound on Wednesdays between Anchorage and Fairbanks. From March 4 – 19, service will increase even further, with northbound travel from Anchorage on Thursdays and southbound travel from Fairbanks on Fridays. (www.alaskarailroad.com)  
  • Denali ATV Adventures’ new tour explores Alaska’s boreal forest near Denali National Park and Preserve. The Denali ATV Trailblazer takes guests off-road in single- or double-passenger ATVs to tackle 20 miles of terrain. (www.denaliatv.com)  
  • Denali Park Zipline, located south of Denali National Park and Preserve, added new tour times for its three-hour zipline tour. (www.denalizipline.com)  

Southwest: 

  • This summer, Discover Kodiak will be offering walking food tours to cruise ship passengers. Tours will depart from the docks to explore unique Alaska flavors, including the Kodiak Bear Town Market and Kodiak Island Brewing Company. (www.kodiak.org

Southcentral: 

  • For Denali National Park and Preserve’s 100th anniversary, The Park Connection is adding new, state-of-the-art 2017 Prevost 52-seat motorcoaches. The new coaches have expanded legroom, handicap lifts, seatbelts, and in-seat power options for phones and other electronic devices for each passenger. The service will be doubling trips from both Denali and Anchorage (now twice daily) into Talkeetna, as well as twice-daily transportation into and out of Seward, Anchorage, Talkeetna, and Denali. (www.AlaskaTrain.com)
  • Seward’s Major Marine Tours is launching the Orca Quest Cruise. From mid-May through mid-June, prime orca whale watching season, Major Marine Tours will take guests on an interactive search for orcas in Resurrection Bay and Kenai Fjords National Park. This cruise follows recent orca sightings, while experienced local captains and naturalist crewmembers lead the venture. Guests can also hear the whale calls through onboard hydrophones. (www.majormarine.com)  
  • The Alaska Collection will be opening the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge from March 3-20 for the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and spring break activities, providing a home base for visitors. (www.alaskacollection.com)  
  • The Alaska Railroad, Ascending Path, and Chugach Adventures will offer additional adventures at the Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop, a remote part of the Chugach National Forest accessible by the Glacier Discovery Train. Offerings include kayaking on the glacial lake, salmon bakes, and guided overnight camping. (www.alaskarailroad.com
  • Stan Stephens Cruises will be unveiling a new vessel to operate its six-hour Columbia Glacier Cruise. This 90-foot catamaran adds 6-8 knots in speed then the previous vessel, allowing for more time at the glacier, with wildlife, and other attractions. (www.stephenscruises.com
  • Gray Line Alaska launched two new rail offerings that allow for extra time in the Denali National Park and Preserve area. The itineraries offer round-trip rail transportation from Anchorage, two nights in the Denali area, and either one or two nights near Talkeetna. (www.graylinealaska.com
  • Within the Wild Adventure Company is offering a host of new activities at its remote wilderness retreats, Winterlake Lodge and Tutka Bay Lodge, which include sunrise and sunset paddleboard yoga classes; birch basket-making classes; taking edible foraging walks; cooking classes; organic tea or whiskey tastings. Winterlake Lodge expanded its main lodge to include a game room, and a new two-bedroom cabin is being added, increasing the lodge’s guest capacity to 24. (www.withinthewild.com
  • Palmer’s Knik River Lodge is offering a new helicopter ride tour that takes guests to an adventure camp at Lake George, a glacial lake near the Knik Glacier. There, guests will kayak with expert guides around icebergs at the foot of the glacier before the return flight. (www.knikriverlodge.com
  • Palmer-based Alaska Farm Tours added an agriculture tour that stops at three to four farms in the Matanuska Valley and includes an Alaska Grown lunch. (www.alaskafarmtours.com)  

Inside Passage:

  • The Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park in Skagway recently opened new interactive gold rush exhibits at the park visitor center and museum, which tell the story of five real gold rush characters. Guests will smell sourdough and eulachon oil, step into a muddy boot print, “raft” down the Yukon River, and spin a game-show style wheel to see if they strike it rich. (www.nps.gov/klgo
  • Alaska Commercial Fishing Adventures, based in Juneau, will offer three- to seven- day trips aboard a commercial fishing vessel. Guests can gillnet for salmon in Lynn Canal and Taku Inlet or power troll out of Elfin Cove for an authentic commercial fishing experience. All fishing gear is included and guests can take 50 pounds of salmon home. (www.akcfa.com
  • New for Juneau-based Adventure Flow: the small-group tour operator hosts a 15-minute film in 360 Virtual Reality about wintertime in Juneau from a storefront in downtown. (www.adventureflow.us)  
  • Juneau’s Liquid Alaska Tours has added a new Mendenhall Glacier ice cave adventure tour. Guests canoe past the glacier, waterfalls, and icebergs; and then they go on top of Mendenhall Glacier to explore the rivers and ice caves. (hhttp://www.liquidalaskatours.com
  • Alaska Pedicab, a new pedal cab service in Juneau, is offering visitors downtown tours that range from a quick trip into the heart of downtown to an entire day exploring the capital with an experienced local guide. (www.juneaupedicab.com)   
Attribution/Copyrights
Matt Hage

Events & 2017 Anniversaries 

  • This year marks 150 years since the transfer of the Alaska Territory from imperial Russia to the United States (October 18, 1867). The Sitka National Historical Park and other local entities will commemorate the occasion with several events and programs throughout 2017. The National Park Service will host an Alaska Sesquicentennial Commemorative Exhibit from March through October at the park’s visitor center with art highlighting Alaska Native viewpoints on the sale and its long-term effects. Other programs include Russian tea demos and ranger-guided walking tours of the Russian colonial district from May through September where they visit a number of Sitka’s historic landmarks including Castle Hill, the location of the ceremonial transfer in 1867. (www.nps.gov/sitk
  • The University of Alaska Fairbanks turns 100 in 2017 and has planned a variety of events both remembering the past and heralding a new century. The university’s cornerstone has been replicated by the University of Alaska Museum of the North and positioned in its original spot. (www.uaf.edu
  • Fairbanks’ 44-acre, historically themed Pioneer Park and the Fairbanks Arts Association, located inside Pioneer Park, are both celebrating 50 years. The Fairbanks Arts Association’s Bear Gallery is located in Pioneer Park’s Alaska Centennial Center for the Arts and is open year-round. Pioneer Park offers a variety of family- and visitor-friendly activities that showcase the history of Fairbanks through a number of museums, outdoor recreational areas, and historic log cabins converted into local shops and eateries. (old.fnsb.us
  • Denali National Park and Preserve is turning 100 on February 26, 2017. Various celebratory events and programs include an annual winter festival, Denali ascent documentary screenings in Fairbanks and Anchorage, family-friendly ranger-led bike rides, a centennial summer kick-off event, and a Denali staff reunion. (www.nps.gov/dena
  • The Tongass Historical Museum in Ketchikan is celebrating 50 years. The museum, which is currently undergoing renovations, will reopen in early summer 2017 with an exhibit and programs that capture what Ketchikan means to past, current, and future generations. (www.KetchikanMuseums.org
  • The city of Wasilla is celebrating its 100th anniversary: the centennial celebration kicks off January 7 at the Dorothy Page Museum, which will display a yearlong exhibit detailing the town’s history. (www.cityofwasilla.com
  • The Alaska Highway is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2017. Celebratory events are scheduled throughout summer 2017 in communities along the route from Dawson Creek, BC and Delta Junction, AK. (www.celebratealaskahighway.com)  

Facility Updates

Southwest:

  • The Discover Kodiak Visitor Information Center is adding a 300-square-foot sunroom, offering charging stations and a lounge for passengers awaiting service. (www.kodiak.org

Southcentral:

  • Alyeska Resort has constructed a new mountaintop bar in the Bore Tide Deli in the upper tram terminal. It also constructed a helipad that is large enough for two helicopters. The new helipad will be utilized mainly for heli-skiing operations in the winter and flightseeing tours in the summer.  (www.alyeskaresort.com
  • Knik River Lodge opened Raven’s Perch Restaurant, a fine dining restaurant that will be open May-September. Knik River Lodge has also constructed additional cabins and now offers 22 upscale, onsite cabins that have large, individual decks and private bathrooms. (www.knikriverlodge.com
  • Hyatt House Anchorage opens in April 2017. The property will have 145 guestrooms, complimentary airport shuttle, fitness center, business center, and convenience market, which are all open 24/7. (anchorage.house.hyatt.com
  • The Anchorage Museum’s 25,000-square-foot expansion, which includes four new galleries and additional event space, is expected to open September 2017. (www.anchoragemuseum.org
  • The South Denali Visitor Center Complex in Denali State Park, which includes an RV and tent campground, three public use cabins, the K’esugi Ken Interpretive Center, and a new trail system, will open to the public in summer 2017. The 3,300-square-foot, open-air interpretive center will have indoor dual fireplaces that will be available to rent for special events. (dnr.alaska.gov

Inside Passage:

  • Pearson’s Pond Luxury Inn & Adventure Spa in Juneau has renovated its premium rooms. Guest rooms come with customary eco-friendly fireplaces, kitchenettes and sitting areas. (www.pearsonspond.com
  • The Alaska State Library, Archives and Museum has opened its new year-round facility in Juneau. SLAM, founded in 1900, is home to a multitude of Alaska artifacts and art, including a showcase of Alaska Native traditions and heritage. (museums.alaska.gov
  • In summer, the Steamboat Bay Fishing Club will be unveiling its new resort experiences at The Residence at Steamboat Bay, a standalone manor-style guesthouse. Amenities include two new boats, eight single-accommodation suites, dedicated on-location crew, a full made-to-order dining program, and a one-of-a-kind overwater dining room with a glass floor. (http://bit.ly/2iG56zi
  • My Place Hotels of America is opening a new 64-room economy extended-stay hotel in Ketchikan in February 2017. My Place Hotel’s Ketchikan will include amenities such as a small kitchen, onsite laundry facilities, complimentary internet, and a 24-hour guest convenience store. (www.myplacehotels.com
  • After opening a new pier last summer, Icy Strait Point will welcome three new cruise lines this year: Disney Cruise Line, Carnival Cruise Line, and Seabourn. In total, the Alaska Native-owned cruise destination expects 83 ship calls. (www.icystraitpoint.com

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