|The Gold Rush town of Skagway is one of many popular ports of call in Alaska.|
The Alaska cruise season is under way for 2013. Cruise lines have unveiled new ships and routes, while destinations have new touring options. Here’s a sampling by land and sea.
Major Lines Head North
For the first time, a Solstice-class ship from Celebrity Cruises will sail Alaska’s waters. Celebrity Solstice will offer seven-night Tracy Arm fjord sailings roundtrip from Seattle; ports include Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway, as well as Victoria, B.C. The newly “Solsticized” Celebrity Millennium as well as the Celebrity Century will also ply Alaskan waters this year.
Although the number of Holland America Line ships deployed in Alaska will remain at seven—the same as for 2012—Amsterdam will double its departures on new seven-day roundtrip sailings from Vancouver, B.C. As a result, Alaska-season departures will increase 8.5 percent and guest capacity will increase 6 percent over last season.
If clients seek luxury, Silversea Cruises’ Silver Shadow has returned with five- to 11-night cruises mostly between Vancouver and Seward, and a five-night option from Juneau on May 25. Gentlemen Hosts will sail on the May 30, June 6, August 29 and September 5 departures.
From May through August, Regent Seven Seas Cruises will operate 15 Alaska sailings on the 490-guest, all-suite Seven Seas Navigator, which received a multimillion-dollar refurbishment in 2012. Regent’s “Spotlight on Alaska” features interior lectures and commentary on the outer decks by Terry Breen, author of The Cruiser Friendly Guide to Alaska’s Inside Passage.
Princess Cruises will have seven ships in Alaska this year including the recently remodeled Grand Princess sailing on its first West Coast summer season. Through September 7, it will run 10-day roundtrips from San Francisco. Voyages visit Glacier Bay or Tracy Arm, Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan and Victoria; some sailings substitute Haines, Sitka or Icy Strait Point.
Disney Cruise Line has returned to Vancouver for embarkations of Disney Wonder. Starting May 27, the ship sails 15 seven-night cruises roundtrip to Tracy Arm, Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan, Alaska.
Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Sun sails from May 13 to September 9 on seven-day cruise one-way from either Vancouver or Whittier, AK, while Norwegian Pearl and Norwegian Jewel operate roundtrip seven-night cruises from Seattle.
Carnival Cruise Lines’ seven-night roundtrip Carnival Miracle cruises from Seattle start at $599 per person (at press time) for an inside cabin for some dates. Destinations include Tracy Arm, Skagway, Juneau, Ketchikan and Victoria, B.C. Carnival Miracle also sails a seven-night itinerary from Seattle to Vancouver substituting Glacier Bay for Tracy Arm.
New or Unusual Shore Trips
A new, 1.5-hour, guided “Ancient Oceans and Newborn Forests Walking Tour” for cruise guests at Icy Strait Point on Chichagof Island teaches island history and the Huna Tlingit’s use of natural resources. It also includes a beach stroll and museum visit.
Repeat cruisers often seek out new activities in Ketchikan. Alaska Sea Cycle Tours offers an aquatic adventure of water biking in a Ketchikan cove, takes cruisers to a wildlife estuary and Tongass Narrows, and shows how Alaskans utilize the land and sea.
During an exclusive Disney Cruise Line shore trip in Ketchikan, guests might explore Potlatch Totem Park, a re-created native settlement. Disney Wonder’s youth counselors will accompany kids who will learn totem artistry from a native carver.
A new tour by Alaska Wildland Adventures teaches basics about birds from Denali and Kenai Fjords national parks. Or, if clients are eager to spot bears, a new day tour from Pack Creek Bear Tours will take cruisers visiting Juneau to Admiralty Island, home to more than 1,500 brown bears.
Alaskan Food Tours operates a three-hour culinary adventure through Juneau; guests dine on seafood, satisfy a sweet tooth and take in great city views.
Jewish cruisers seeking a new way to celebrate an anniversary or have an unusual worship experience can utilize Panim Hadashot’s visitors’ program in Juneau. Local Rabbi Dov Gartenberg will create everything from a special anniversary under a huppah in the Tongass Rainforest to an hour-long outdoor walking and worship service.
Clients on a pre- or post-cruise stay in Anchorage have new day-flight options. Rust’s Flying Service, a veteran flight firm, provides an experienced Alaska bush pilot as a personal tour guide for six hours. Bald Mountain Air, based in Homer, offers mid-to-late September flights to Alaska’s Arctic coast so guests may observe polar bears in their natural habitat.
For clients who have a ship call in Wrangell, the Chief Shakes Tribal House, a historic replica of a 19th-century Tlingit tribal house on Shakes Island in Wrangell Harbor, was recently renovated and is reopening this month. Visit www.shakesisland.com.
Doing It All: Cruisetours
New this year, all Royal Caribbean International cruisetours now feature at least one-night stay in Denali National Park and at least one journey on the Wilderness Express train. A new 10-night family cruisetour includes a seven-night cruise on Radiance of the Seas plus a three-night, family-geared land tour program that includes exploration into Denali.
Celebrity Cruises operates 10- to 13-night escorted cruisetour packages including a new “Alaska Family Style Cruisetour,” while Princess Cruises offers more than 20 Princess cruisetour options, all featuring Denali National Park. And Holland America will also expand its Alaska Cruisetour program with three new Triple Denali itineraries—each offering three nights at Denali National Park. New short pre- and post-cruise “Sampler” tours also have been introduced for guests with limited time.
Small Ships in the Great Land
Alaskan Dream Cruises is introducing a new 62-passenger vessel, Baranof Dream; it will debut a new 11-day itinerary exploring Chichagof Island, Baranof Island and Red Bluff, plus other ports.
Lindblad Expeditions offers “Photo Expeditions” departing August 31 and September 1. These 12-day programs are led by Lindblad–National Geographic certified instructors, and, in most cases, a top Nat Geo photographer. Expect photography coaching on Zodiacs expeditions and on walks ashore.
The 88-passenger Legacy, a replica Victorian steamer, joins the Un-Cruise Adventures fleet this August. It will operate two 11-night “Gold Rush Legacy” sailings between Seattle and Juneau this year, including guided sightseeing, educational presentations and character reenactments onboard.
History buffs might consider the seven-night July 20 “Gold Rush Themed” sailing from Juneau of American Cruise Lines’ American Spirit. It visits scenic areas such as the Strait of Georgia and Frederick Sound. Clients have days onshore in Wrangell and Skagway, and a White Pass & Yukon Railroad ride is included.
Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ 16-day “Nature in a Gold Rush—The Inside Passage of Alaska” on Bremen departs June 20 from Nome to Vancouver.
|Lindblad Expeditions offers Alaska “Photo Expeditions” led by Lindblad-National Geographic certified instructors.|