Tom Stieghorst
Tom Stieghorst

Could the success of the no-fly cruise market in New York be replicated on the U.S. west coast?

That intriguing possibility was suggested to me in a conversation with Ashley Hunter, vice president of business development for Avoya Travel.

We were talking about the build-up of new capacity on the west coast, and in particular in Los Angeles, where Norwegian Cruise Line just announced it will position the Norwegian Joy for the winter of 2019-20.

Hunter mentioned that her grandparents were taking a cruise in September.

"They're going up to Alaska out of L.A. because they don't want to fly anymore," she said. "And for so many people that are in those situations, there's not enough choice."

A quick search turns up two lines that offer the itinerary: Princess Cruises on the Golden Princess and other ships, and Carnival Cruise Line, which offers a single 14-day roundtrip voyage departing LA on Sept. 8 to visit Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan and Sitka in Alaska as well as Victoria, British Columbia.

The Golden Princess hits most of the same ports on a 12-day cruise departing Sept. 11. In April 2019, the Ruby Princess and Star Princess will both sail on a 12-day Alaska itinerary roundtrip from Los Angeles.

Whether there is room for more of these cruises is debatable. The shoulder season weather in Alaska is famously unreliable.

But prior to a dozen years ago, almost no one wanted to sail from New York during the winter because the weather was thought to be miserable. Norwegian Cruise Line was among the first to test that theory. Temperatures on the 10-day New York to Florida and the Bahamas cruises could be frigid in New York, and the seas off the Carolina coast could be stormy.

Still, there was sufficient demand for the route, in part because flying had become so difficult and intrusive, and getting to and from the New York airports such a chore.

Flash forward, and the circumstances surrounding flying haven't gotten any better. So maybe there's room to test the weather obstacle on the west coast now that more capacity is going there.

After New York, Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim is the second largest metro area in the U.S. with 13.3 million residents. That seems like a market with more than a few people who would rather not have to fly to take an Alaska cruise.

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