|Holland America Line’s Westerdam visits Glacier Bay, Alaska.|
Cruise lines are unveiling their 2016 Alaska itineraries and several ports have new facilities. For its 27th Alaska season in 2016, Royal Caribbean International will use Explorer of the Seas to operate seven-night round-trip itineraries from Seattle; the voyages will include a scenic sailing of Tracy Arm for a close-up look at the Sawyer Glacier.
In addition, Radiance of the Seas will alternate seven-night northbound and southbound Alaska cruises between Vancouver and Seward, AK; on those itineraries, the ship will venture into Disenchantment Bay for a close-up view of Hubbard Glacier.
Six Princess Cruises ships will sail Alaskan waters in 2016. The line will continue to offer its signature “Voyage of the Glaciers” itinerary between Whittier (Anchorage) and Vancouver on Coral Princess, Star Princess and Island Princess. In addition, Inside Passage cruises will operate via Ruby Princess and Crown Princess from Seattle and Grand Princess from San Francisco.
While onboard, guests can expect expanded Alaska seafood offerings with dishes from local chefs and restaurants; interactions with Alaskans including crabbers who appeared on Discovery’s “Deadliest Catch” and Iditarod winner Libby Riddles; and events celebrating the Klondike Gold Rush and Midnight Sun.
Princess will offer land tours combined with a seven-day “Voyage of the Glaciers” cruise; guests stay at the cruise line’s Alaska wilderness lodges, travel via “Direct to the Wilderness” domed rail service, and visit Glacier Bay National Park and Denali National Park.
Next year, Un-Cruise Adventures will position six small ships on seven different Alaska itineraries of one week to 12 days. Many visit Glacier Bay National Park. The small-ship adventure line home ports its small ships in Seattle, Ketchikan, Juneau and Sitka. Voyages focus on wilderness and wildlife. With few or no port calls during the week on most itineraries, the emphasis is on exploring outside: hiking, kayaking, paddle boarding, skiff excursions and whale watching.
Two new Un-Cruise Adventures itineraries debut in 2016: “Exploring Muir’s Wilderness” and “Yachters’ Alaskan Frontier,” both round-trip from Juneau. Itineraries may be combined to create adventures from two to three weeks long while remaining on the same vessel.
Ponant, a luxury, small-ship operator, is currently sailing its inaugural season of Alaska cruises with itineraries of seven to 14 nights. Ports of call include such destinations as Haines and Skagway. Ponant’s inclusive pricing includes all meals, open bar, gratuities, port charges, taxes and fees. Select itineraries also include round-trip air. The line expects to be back next year as well.
Disney Cruise Line sets sail for Alaska with its seven-day, family-friendly cruises on Disney Wonder round-trip from Vancouver. Itineraries feature Tracy Arm, Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan.
Among other lines back in Alaska for 2016 are Regent Seven Seas Cruises with Seven Seas Mariner, sailing a series of Vancouver to Seward (or reverse) voyages plus some longer options from San Francisco; Carnival Cruise Line with Carnival Miracle, sailing seven-day round-trip cruises from Seattle; Celebrity Cruises with Celebrity Infinity on seven-day round-trip Vancouver cruises; Crystal Cruises’ Crystal Serenity will sail voyages between Anchorage and Vancouver or roundtrips from Vancouver; and Silversea Cruises’ Silver Shadow will also sail a series of voyages between Vancouver and Seward (for Anchorage).
Oceania Cruises’ Regatta is back in Alaska with seven- to 10-day cruises, most sailing between Vancouver and Seattle and some round-trip from Vancouver. Perhaps the most interesting sailing is Regatta’s May 10 departure from San Francisco which visits Astoria, OR, Sitka, Hubbard Glacier, Juneau, Wrangell, Ketchikan, and ends in Vancouver.
Holland America Line is back in the 49th state with a robust series of voyages — seven ships sail seven-day Alaska Cruises both round-trip and one way to and from Alaska. On the technology side, Holland America Line has released a new Apple, Android or Windows tablet application focused on its Alaska cruises and Land+Sea Journeys. (See our Ocean-Going Cruise Focus for more details. ).
Amsterdam sails round-trip from Seattle, with an itinerary that includes Juneau, Ketchikan, Sitka, Victoria, B.C., and sailing in Tracy Arm. Also from Seattle, Westerdam sails to Victoria, Ketchikan, Juneau, Sitka, and Glacier Bay, AK. From Vancouver, Volendam operates round trips that call in Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan plus Glacier Bay scenic sailing, while Noordam sails round-trip to Juneau, Ketchikan and Skagway, with a day in Glacier Bay and a day in Tracy Arm.
Between Vancouver and Seward, Oosterdam sails seven-day, one-way voyages with calls at Ketchikan, Skagway, and Juneau, and a day cruising in Glacier Bay, while Statendam offers seven-day sailings that include Juneau, Ketchikan and Haines, plus a Glacier Bay day. Holland America also offers a few 14-day voyages round-trip from Seattle; these visit Ketchikan, Icy Strait Point, Juneau, Homer and Kodiak. Plus, Zaandam sails seven-night cruises between Seward and Vancouver.
|Creek Street in Ketchikan, one of Alaska’s most colorful and popular port cities.|
Three ships will sail Alaska in 2016 for Norwegian Cruise Line. Norwegian Pearl is back on seven-day Glacier Bay cruises from Seattle, while Norwegian Jewel will sail seven-day, Inside Passage round-trip cruises from Seattle; the latter will include Tracy Arm. Norwegian Sun will sail seven-day cruises one-way between Vancouver and Seward; the northbound and southbound itineraries are slightly different, so clients can put the two voyages together for a two-week vacation. One version offers scenic cruising in Glacier Bay, the other Hubbard Glacier and Tracy Arm.
Most of the major lines offer combination land-sea options for those wishing a more in-depth destination experience. Princess offers more than 20 add-on land tour options in 2016, most featuring multiple nights in the Denali area. In addition, Princess guests will be able to purchase a pre-paid meal package for the land portion of their cruisetour.
On the cruise port side, Juneau’s new Panamax cruise ship dock was completed in May, and a second is set for completion in 2016. Floating 200 feet offshore, these docks are designed for the cruise industry’s largest ships.
Icy Strait Point is experiencing fast-paced growth with visitation up 3 percent this year versus last; that’s expected to continue for 2016. This year 77 ships made or will make calls carrying 144,500 guests to the private, Alaska native-owned cruise destination. Lines calling this summer include Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, Regent Seven Seas, Holland America Line and Ponant.
Icy Strait Point is also getting a new floating pier, scheduled to be completed this fall. It’s expected to improve accessibility for larger cruise ships for the 2016 season and beyond. Also new: By May 2016, a new Tlingit-style, wood-beamed welcome center and excursion departure lounge will be in place and a new transportation center will streamline excursion departures for guests.
Small ship operator Alaskan Dream Cruises, a Sitka-based company, is preparing for growth with the hiring of two new executives. Russell Dick, who serves on the Alaska Tourism Marketing Board and as chairman of the Huna Totem Corp. board, is the new CEO, while Peter Butz is the new operations manager; he was formerly vice president of fleet operations and COO of Lindblad Expeditions.
Alaska, meanwhile, is working to boost awareness via an Instagram account; agents and consumers can follow at @travelalaska. The state will be sharing 365 reasons to visit Alaska using the hashtag #365alaska.