Why we all love Alaska
New big ships are heading north.
Already on every cruisers’ bucket list, Alaska is about to get a whole lot more accessible with almost every line moving major hardware north. According to the Cruise Industry News Annual Report, Alaska will break its own passenger record in 2018, with an estimate one million plus cruisers.
Princess Cruises will be the biggest operator in the region, followed by Holland America Line and Norwegian Cruise Line. A bigger 2019 could be in the works, too, with expansions from Cunard, Viking Ocean Cruises and Royal Caribbean.
In April, Golden Princess will set sail from Singapore to Anchorage, Alaska.
Royal Caribbean is re-deploying Ovation of the Seas
for the summer of 2019. Currently based year-round in Asia and Australia, Ovation will operate seven-night sailings to Alaska out of Seattle after re-positioning from Sydney. Ovation will take the place of Explorer of the Seas in Alaska while a second, smaller Royal Caribbean vessel, the 90,090-tonne Radiance of the Seas, will remain in the market.
Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Bliss, the Þrst cruise ship custom-built for Alaska, is set to make its much-anticipated debut in June.
Before 2018, nearly all the liners spending summer in Alaska were smaller than 100,000 tonnes. This year’s size leaders are Royal Caribbean’s 138,194-tonne Explorer of the Seas and Celebrity Cruises’ 121,878-tonne Celebrity Solstice. The largest Princess ships in Alaska this year – Ruby Princess and Emerald Princess – are 113,561 tonnes.
Australian cruisers are fueling the Alaskan boom, with Cruise Lines International Assocation Australia stating there was a 25.5 per cent increase in Aussies cruising the region in 2016. And for good reason.
With millions of hectares of wilderness, Alaska is Þlled with blue glaciers, towering mountains, thundering waterfalls, rainforests, history and more wildlife than people. And with generally calm waters, the Inside Passage is a great place for beginners to get their sea legs.
“It’s like a springboard into cruising,” says Alastair Fernie, managing director of CruiseAway in Sydney. “Many people are worried they’ll be stuck inside for days on a ship. Alaska is the opposite. It’s all about being outside enjoying the natural beauty.”
It’s also a safe destination, tucked away from the trouble spots and easy to get to, with most cruises leaving from Seattle or Vancouver.
Barry Downs, Sales and Marketing Manager of Bicton Travel in Perth agrees. In 2017, about 30 per cent of BictonÕs cliental headed to Alaska, many as Þrst time cruisers. ÒWeÕre also Þnding people are booking for a second-in-a-lifetime experience. After getting a taste for how incredible the place is on a seven-day Inside Passage cruise, they go back on a longer cruise that takes in ports like Seward, or combine rail/cruise packages,” he says.
Although summer is traditionally the Alaskan cruising season, spring and autumn itineraries extend the season to approximately 20 weeks.
“As an Alaskan, spring is my favourite season in Southeast Alaska,” says Dan Blanchard CEO of UnCruise Adventures, a local boutique cruise company. “Like the bears emerging from their dens, we feel renewed, it’s like an awakening.”
May and September are good times to try to catch the northern lights. June and July are the warmest months and bring wildlife lovers from all over the world to enjoy whale watching and bear viewing.
Often considered a “twilight-years” market, there’s also a shift in the demographic of Alaskan-bound cruisers. “We’re seeing a trend in the mid-30s booking cruises in Alaska,” Mr Downs says.
Additionally, multi-generational families are discovering Alaska is a perfect place for all ages.
This year, Linbald Expeditions’ National Geographic Global Explorers program will extend to Alaska with citizen-science type activities to help kids develop a love and appreciation of nature.
Windstar Cruises is returning to Alaska with Star Legend, which allows guests to kayak or take a Zodiac ride directly from the vessel and engage in onboard programs with scientists and wildlife specialists.
Seabourn also whisks guests away to explore by Zodiacs. And UnCruise Adventures is returning
SS Legacy, a replica steamship, to its ßeet of six Alaskan-based vessels to keep up with the demand for adventure-style itineraries.
Above: sled dog pups are just one of Alaska’s unique attractions