THE ALASKA CRUISE SEASON IS A FEW MONTHS AWAY, so now is a great time to sell your clients some of the most idyllic, bucolic and mysterious itineraries out there.
Many of the bigger cruise lines have inventory to the region, but there is also a significant presence of smaller, more intimate ships. Whatever your clients' preferences may be, the sheer splendor of Alaska will be more than enough to win them over.
Here's a look at what some of the cruise lines have planned for the 2008 Alaska season (usually recognized as stretching from May through September).
Carnival Cruise Lines
SHIP: Carnival Spirit
THE SCOOP: Carnival operates three different Alaska itineraries, all aboard Carnival Spirit. The 2008 season kicks off May 14 with a seven-day Glacier Bay cruise from Vancouver, which also sails Alaska's Inside Passage and makes stops at Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan. Pricing begins at $800 per person for the itinerary, which embarks again on September 10 and 17. The rest of the season is devoted to Alaska voyages departing from Vancouver (northbound) and Anchorage (southbound). Ports of call on these seven-day sailings include Sitka and Ketchikan, and the ship also cruises Prince William Sound and College Fjord. Pricing starts around $650 per person.
SHIPS: Rhapsody of the Seas, Serenade of the Seas, Radiance of the Seas
THE SCOOP: Royal Caribbean's program is spread over three ships and consists of seven-, 13- and 14-night itineraries, with San Francisco, Seattle and Vancouver among the embarkation ports. The season begins May 3 with a 14-night cruise from San Francisco on Serenade of the Seas, which sails the Inside Passage and calls at such ports as Prince Rupert and Juneau. There is even a call at Astoria, OR. Pricing for the itinerary begins at $999. The balance of the season consists of northbound and southbound Alaska routes on all three ship, as well as a sailing featuring Hubbard Glacier on Serenade of the Seas. Pricing begins at $799 for a seven-day cruise and $1,059 for a 13-day itinerary.
SHIPS: Coral Princess, Dawn Princess, Diamond Princess, Golden Princess, Island Princess, Sapphire Princess, Star Princess, Tahitian Princess
THE SCOOP: Princess Cruises has possibly the most robust Alaska cruise program on the market today. With eight ships plying Alaskan waters and operating itineraries from seven to more than 30 days, who can argue? Princess runs a roundtrip Inside Passage cruise from Seattle, as well as a "Voyage of the Glaciers" itinerary between Vancouver and Whittier. This year, Princess is also offering a 31-day voyage from Anchorage all the way to Bangkok on Diamond Princess, which departs September 20. Ports of call include Kodiak (Alaska), Vladivostok (Russia) and Hong Kong. Pricing begins at $4,160 per person.
Holland America Line
SHIPS: Amsterdam, Oosterdam, Ryndam, Statendam, Veendam, Volendam, Westerdam, Zaandam
THE SCOOP: Holland America, too, has a meaty Alaska program, with eight ships in the region this upcoming season. The itineraries last from six to 16 days, with departure points of San Diego, Seattle, Seward (Alaska) and Vancouver. Holland America is also known for its CruiseTours, which combine a sailing with a land trip, designed to show off Alaska's wildlife and culture. The company offers 29 different land/sea itineraries altogether.
SHIPS: Most of its nine-ship fleet
THE SCOOP: If ever there was a line that shouted Alaska cruising, it is Cruise West. Alaska is the line's heritage; it's where it began and where it remains. The small-ship line offers itineraries from four to 25 days, along routes ranging the Inside Passage to destinations on the Bering Sea. Trips give passengers an up-close look at Alaska's wildlife, both at sea and on land (Cruise West has a "see a whale" guarantee on many sailings). One notable itinerary is the "In Harriman's Wake" 25-day sailing on Spirit of Oceanus, which follows the path of railroad magnate Edward Harriman, who in 1899 led an expedition between Vancouver and Nome, Alaska. The itinerary covers 3,600 miles. —DAVID EISEN