By now, most of Middle America, the northeast and even portions of the west coast have felt the sting of cold and blustery winter weather, which probably doesn't make most people think about taking a cruise in Alaska. Yet now is a good time to book, as ships will fill up closer to the beginning of the season, which begins in May and runs through September. Most Alaskan cruises follow the same ports such as Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan. It's important for agents to play up Alaskan shore excursions, as they are a huge selling point. Most lines concentrate on creating memorable excursions such as dogsledding and gold rush tours. Here is a run down of cruise line operations this year in the Land of the Midnight Sun.
Carnival Cruise Lines: The Carnival Spirit
began Alaskan cruising in 2001 and remains Carnival's flagship in Alaska. Carnival says
that it will keep the Spirit in Alaska
at least through 2008. The 2,124-guest ship is ideal for Alaskan waters, with
its high percentage of ocean-view and balconied staterooms, multiple indoor and
outdoor vantage points of the spectacular Alaskan topography and an enclosable
pool. The Spirit also offers Alaskan delicacies in its formal dining
rooms, including fresh fish purchased at the various ports of call. Carnival
offers seven-day Glacier Bay itineraries and seven-day northbound and
southbound Alaskan voyages, leaving from Vancouver
respectively. Cruises begin May 9, leaving every Wednesday thereafter.
Royal Caribbean: Royal Caribbean has three ships in Alaska: Radiance of
the Seas, Vision of the Seas and Serenade of the Seas. Radiance
and Serenade are particularly suited for Alaska with expansive amounts of glass
paneling, which allows optimal viewing points. RCCL mainly does seven-night
cruises, but does have nine-, 13- and 14-night cruises, the latter originating
from Vancouver and ending in Los Angeles. Rates begin at $550 for an
inside room on a seven-night cruise, but move up well past $1,000 for a suite.
Norwegian Cruise Line: NCL does two different
itineraries, a Sawyer Glacier program and Glacier Bay
program. Both are seven-day affairs conducted on four ships: Norwegian Star,
Norwegian Sun, Norwegian Wind and Norwegian Pearl. The Sawyer
Glacier itineraries are all round trip from either Seattle or Vancouver, while
Glacier Bay is round trip from Seattle
only. NCL's freestyle cruising allows flexibility when selecting shore
Princess Cruises: Princess has one of the most
programs. So much so that it offers two separate cruise programs: Voyage of the
Glaciers and Inside Passage. The former
provides seven-day cruises between Vancouver and Whittier, while Inside Passage
does seven- and 10-day itineraries from Seattle
and San Francisco.
Princess' array of ships in the region give guests even more choice with ships
ranging in size from 670 passengers to 2,670 passengers. In all, Princess will
operate its largest Alaskan fleet ever this year with eight ships consigned to
the region. New this year are mid-week departures aboard Pacific Princess.
Holland America Line: HollandAmerica has long been
synonymous with Alaska
cruising, operating eight ships in the region. HAL has popular Alaskan Explorer
Cruises on the Amsterdam, Noordam
and Oosterdam, which depart from Seattle
and sail to such renowned spots as Glacier
All cruises are seven days in length.
Celebrity Cruises: Celebrity offers seven-night
cruises aboard the Infinity, Mercury and Summit. It also offers two 13-day
cruises and one 14-day cruise, dubbed the "ultimate Alaska cruise." It wraps up Celebrity's
Alaska season, embarking from Vancouver
on September 14, before ending in San
Diego. Prices begin around $600 for an inside room.
Luxury Lines: Both Silversea and Regent run
itineraries in Alaska,
each considerably more expensive than the above-mentioned lines. Regent does 15
seven-night voyages between Vancouver and Seward
and one 11-night voyage departing from San
Francisco, all on its Seven Seas Mariner.
Prices begin around $3,500. Regent does offer complimentary economy-class air
tickets and ship credits of $250 per suite. Meanwhile, Silversea has 11 nine-,
10- and 12-night Alaska trips aboard the Silver Shadow, with departures
from San Francisco, Los Angeles, Vancouver and Seward. Prices begin well over
$5,000 and can reach more than $20,000 for an owner's suite.