As of press time, the official stats weren’t in, but visitor numbers in total to Alaska for 2016 are expected to exceed the 1.78 million who visited the state in 2015. And Cruise Lines International Association is forecasting another uptick in cruise passengers in 2017 to 1.06 million—2008 holds the record with 1.03million passengers.
As you can see by those numbers, cruise visitors typically account for just over half of Alaska’s visitors in a year, and this year those passengers will be offered more voyages in Alaska. Seabourn, UnCruise Adventures, and Carnival, among others, are luring your clients to captivating Alaska with new ships, new itineraries, and new excursions.
For UnCruise Adventures, the trend in wellness vacations is top of mind as it launches three wellness-themed cruises this spring in the 49th state. The wellness sailings are offered aboard the 74-guest Wilderness Explorer and 60-guest Wilderness Adventurer, sailing to the remote Alaskan wilderness from Juneau, Seattle and Sitka. Sailings are on April 17, 22 and 29. Wellness experts lead such activities as core strengthening classes and hands-on cooking tutorials, as well as active excursions like hiking, bushwhacking, paddleboarding and kayaking. The 12-night Famed Passages of Discovery cruise, which departs April 17, starts at $3,995.
Lindblad Expeditions – National Geographic is set to launch the 100-passenger National Geographic Quest on June 26, sailing on two 13-day Treasures of the Inside Passage: Alaska & British Columbia expeditions and multiple 8-day Exploring Alaska’s Coastal Wilderness voyages. For clients who are interested in honing their photography skills while traveling in Alaska—and what a place to take advantage of this—the small ship cruise line has a new itinerary on the 62-guest National Geographic Sea Bird, the 11-day Big Picture Alaska that focuses exclusively on Alaska’s Inside Passage. The line’s photo expedition team will be on hand as guests raft through the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve, boasting the largest congregation of bald eagles in the world; explore Glacier Bay National Park and Misty Fiords National Monument, searching for humpback whales in their summer feeding grounds; kayak along glacial ice; and hike the Tongass National Forest.
Seabourn is returning to Alaska in June for the first time in 15 years, with the 450-passenger Seabourn Sojourn sailing on a series of itineraries that range from 11 to 25 days, sailing from Vancouver, British Columbia and Anchorage. Shore excursions include the Dog Sledding on Mendenhall Glacier by Helicopter tour, during which guests ride with the oldest operating dog sled tour company, and then set off on a flightseeing tour of Mendenhall Glacier. A Venture by Seabourn option is the Kayak Exploration of Holgate Fjord excursion, which has guests paddling along in a double kayak to discover the wildlife-rich environment of Holgate Fjord, amidst waterfalls, ice and glaciers. Seabourn Sojourn’s season in Alaska launches with the 11-day Ultimate Alaskan Sojourn, departing from Vancouver, B.C., on June 1, 2017, priced from $4,999 pp.
Carnival, too, is getting in on more of the Alaska action with a new 14-day roundtrip itinerary from Long Beach, CA, in September. The Carnival Miracle sailing, part of Carnival Journey’s cruise enrichment series, will include the line’s first-ever call at Icy Strait Point (for an onsite review on Icy Strait Point, visit recommend.com). And Crystal Cruises’ iconic Northwest Passage itinerary, which debuted last year, will sail from Anchorage on Aug. 15.
The next two years will be even busier seasons in Alaska, with Princess Cruises increasing its capacity 15 percent in 2018, carrying more passengers to Alaska than any other line. A 12-day roundtrip itinerary from LA will be introduced aboard the Emerald Princess and Golden Princess. And, of course, Norwegian Cruise Line will launch its newest vessel, the Norwegian Bliss next year in Alaska, while Viking Ocean Cruises is planning its Alaska debut in 2019 with the Viking Spirit.
Carnival Cruise Line: carnival.com
Crystal Cruises: crystalcruises.com
Lindblad Adventures – National Geographic: expeditions.com
Princess Cruises: princess.com
Norwegian Cruise Line: ncl.com
State of Alaska: travelalaska.com
UnCruise Adventures: uncruise.com
Viking Ocean Cruises: vikingcruises.com/ocean
Take to the Rails
This summer, Alaska Railroad—and its partners, Ascending Path and Chugach Adventures—will offer some more fun at the Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop, which is a remote part of the Chugach National Forest accessible by the Glacier Discovery Train. Visitors will be able to go kayaking on the glacial lake, participate in salmon bakes and opt for guided overnight camping. alaskarailroad.com