Why we all love Alaska

New big ships are head­ing north.

Cruise Passenger - - PUBLISHER’S LETTER - Words: Jo­ce­lyn Pride

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

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