Diana and John Lang of The Cruise People, Ltd. at Juneau, Alaska
Every destination visited by ships has its own special character and personality. The Caribbean is all about tropical beaches and sensuous indulgence. Europe is history, sophistication and cosmopolitan charm. And, then there is Alaska.
America’s Last Frontier – the “Great Land” – is like nowhere else on earth. Wild, expansive, magnificent in scale and natural beauty, its boundaries seem limitless and visitors are constantly reminded of the immensity and power of Mother Nature. Cruising through sweeping bays and steep fjords against a backdrop of giant glaciers, even a cruise ship seems tiny. As spring bursts into summer, this is what travellers from around the world come for – the unique experience of Alaska, thoroughly enjoyed in the comfort and luxury of a cruise. With new itineraries, ports, land options and special offers by cruise lines of, there has never been a better time to visit.
Alaska cruises are offered in varying lengths from ports all along the West Coast, from California to British Columbia to Alaska. Most lines also feature extensive land programmes to ensure that the full offerings of the destination are appreciated, whether it’s by dog sled, floatplane, jetboat or steam train. For 2009, cruise lines are making all this even more irresistible with added-value and special pricing, even, in some cases, two-for-one offers.
“The scope and beauty of Alaska is hard to imagine until you’ve seen it for yourself, and there is no better or easier way to see it than by cruise ship,” said Terry Dale, CLIA’s president and CEO. “If you’ve never been or have been yearning to return, this is the year to go north to Alaska.”
Here is a sampling of Alaska cruises offered in 2009:
CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES
Carnival’s Alaska season begins May 13 with the 2,124-passenger Carnival Spirit embarking for Glacier Bay and the Last Frontier. The week-long Glacier Route voyages operate either northbound from Vancouver to Whittier/Anchorage or southbound, with stops in Skagway, Juneau, Ketchikan and Sitka plus cruising Prince William Sound, College Fjord and the Inside Passage. Carnival Spirit also will make three round trip voyages from Vancouver to Glacier Bay, Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan, with two days cruising the Inside Passage.
In each Alaska port, Carnival passengers have the option to engage in numerous shore excursions, from kayaking, canoeing and steam train adventures to rafting, horseback riding and flightseeing.
Three ships – Celebrity Infinity, Celebrity Mercury and Celebrity Millennium – will sail Alaska in 2009 from a total of five ports. The itineraries include the first roundtrip Alaska cruise from Los Angeles, a 14-night voyage to Seattle and Victoria, British Columbia plus five stops in Alaska. Celebrity also offers the line’s first 10-night roundtrip cruise from Vancouver; a series of seven-night sailings featuring Hubbard Glacier, with roundtrips from Seattle and Vancouver and one-way voyages between Vancouver and Seward.
Celebrity offers more than 20 cruise tours featuring a wide variety of destinations, including rail travel on the Whistler Mountaineer Coast Classic, Calgary, Banff, Denali and more.
Crystal Cruises returns to Alaska for the first time since 2005 with an early season itinerary departing Yokohama on April 16. The 22-day voyage also marks the first time Crystal Serenity has ever visited Alaska, with calls at Dutch Harbor, Kodiak, Seward and Ketchikan.
Land programmes called Crystal Adventures will highlight the region’s scenery and wildlife, with zip-lining in the Tongass National Forest, flightseeing wildlife tours, puffin expeditions, yachting off Kodiak to view Alaska’s sea life and cruising across Resurrection Bay into Kenai Fjords National Park.
HOLLAND AMERICA LINE
With more than 60 years experience in the region, Holland America will have eight ships in Alaska this season sailing three different itineraries. These include seven-day Alaskan Explorer roundtrip cruises from Seattle; seven-day Glacier Bay Inside Passage roundtrips from Vancouver; and seven-day Glacier Discovery voyages between Seward and Vancouver. With more than 250 optional land excursions, the line’s itineraries are planned so that even CruiseTour guests who are on board only three days will visit a tidewater glacier.
Among its extensive CruiseTour offers is Holland America’s 17-day Voyage of the Glaciers CruiseTour which combines two cruises with inland options as well.
NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE
NCL has three Freestyle Cruising ships sailing in Alaska this summer from May through September. Norwegian Pearl will sail a seven-day Glacier Bay cruise from Seattle. Norwegian Star and Norwegian Sun will offer seven-day voyages to Sawyer Glacier departing from Seattle and Vancouver respectively.
Denali National Park is featured on a four-night pre-cruise “Discover Denali” package that includes a first class hotel stay in Anchorage, motorcoach and rail sightseeing, tour guides and airfare back to the guest’s embarkation port.
Princess Cruises will offer seven-day “Voyage of the Glaciers” Gulf of Alaska cruises between Vancouver and Whittier featuring Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay and College Fjord as well as seven-day roundtrips from Seattle featuring Tracy Arm. In addition, the 680-passenger Pacific Princess will sail on 14-day voyages from Seattle, with stops at Kodiak, Valdez, Icy Strait Point, and Seward as well as Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Victoria and Glacier Bay. Sea Princess will offer varying itineraries on 10-day roundtrips from San Francisco.
Princess’ Alaska Cruisetours combine the Voyage of the Glaciers cruise with land options ranging from three to nine nights, featuring two nights in the Denali wilderness area, plus the unique Direct to the Wilderness rail service.
REGENT SEVEN SEAS CRUISES
Regent Seven Seas will position the 700-passenger, all-suite, all-balcony Seven Seas Mariner in Alaska this season between May and September. The ship will make seven-night voyages between Vancouver and Seward featuring Hubbard Glacier, Sitka, Tracy Arm, Juneau, Ketchikan and cruising the Inside Passage. The ship will also offer a seven-night roundtrip Alaska cruise from Vancouver with two days of cruising the Inside Passage and visits to Ketchikan, Tracy Arm, Juneau, Skagway and Sitka.
Regent Seven Seas is offering two-for-one savings on most Alaska cruises, as well as free roundtrip economy airfare and free unlimited shore excursions.
ROYAL CARIBBEAN INTERNATIONAL
In its 20th consecutive Alaska season, Royal Caribbean will offer different itineraries ranging from seven to fifteen nights on sailings from San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Seward and Vancouver. Passengers will sail aboard one of three Royal Caribbean ships: Radiance of the Seas, Serenade of the Seas and Rhapsody of the Seas. Radiance and Serenade feature 10-story glass-enclosed Centrums for spectacular views of the coastal landscapes. Itinerary highlights include Hubbard Glacier, Tracy Arm, Sawyer Glacier and Icy Strait Point.
Royal Caribbean offers 21 cruise tour options, including a seven-night overview of Alaska’s interior, including Denali National Park, Fairbanks, Anchorage and Talkeetna.
Silversea’s all-suite, 382-passenger Silver Shadow will set course for Alaska in May to offer 12 voyages ranging from seven to 12 days with round-trip or open-jaw departures from San Francisco, Seward and Vancouver. Highlights of the itineraries include the Tracy Arm fjord and twin Sawyer Glaciers as well as Misty Fjords National Monument.
New Silversea land programmes in Alaska this year include a “Champion Alaska Huskies” dog-sledding experience with Iditarod race champion Martin Buser; a “Wilderness Retreat” escape to two of Alaska’s premier remote lodges for hiking, floatplane sightseeing, jetboating and fine dining.
Diana Lang of The Cruise People, Ltd. has extensive knowledge of all the Alaska sailings and Cruisetours. She can be reached at 1-800-268-6523.