SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -- Two small-ship cruise lines will enter service in Alaska next summer, filling the space left behind by Cruise West: one by operating two Cruise West ships, the other by utilizing its website and database files.
Cruise West closed its doors in September.
Sitka, Alaska-based shipbuilder and day tour operator Allen Marine Tours said it was launching a small-ship cruise line, Alaskan Dream Cruises, using two former Cruise West ships, the 78-passenger Spirit of Columbia and Spirit of Alaska. The ships will be renamed the Admiralty Dream and Baranof Dream, respectively.
They will join a third vessel, a 49-passenger catamaran to be called the Alaska Dream.
Allen Marine will use its own yard to renovate the three vessels.
Jamey Cagle, Allen Marine's vice president, said the three-ship cruise line would focus on wildlife, sustainable travel and history and native cultures; kayaking and wilderness tours are planned.
He said the small vessels would reach the most remote wilderness areas.
"Allen Marine and the Allen family are native Tlingit," he said, referring to First Nation people in Southeast Alaska. "We will be showing off our traditional family areas such as Hoonah and Hobart Bay. ... We have been plying those waters since 1970."
The line expects to launch Southeast Alaska cruises on May 14 with an eight-day itinerary from Sitka calling on Icy Strait, Point Adolphus, Hobart Bay, Tracy Arm and Glacier Bay National Park.
Prices will start around $4,500 per week per person, including many shore excursions. House wine and beer will be served with dinner.
Alaska Dream is not Alaska's only new kid on the small-ship block.
The owner of American Safari Cruises is launching a sister line, called InnerSea Discoveries, also with a focus on the Alaskan wilderness and nontraditional port calls. It is slated to debut next summer.
Tim Jacox, executive vice president of sales and marketing for InnerSea and American Safari, said last year that InnerSea would take passengers on wildlife- and wilderness-focused itineraries through Alaska's Inside Passage on the 80-passenger Wilderness Discoverer and 66-passenger Wilderness Adventurer, two ships once operated by the now-defunct Glacier Bay Cruiseline.
InnerSea has put the ships through an extensive renovation.
Those vessels will offer two, seven-day itineraries between Ketchikan and Juneau, but rather than stop in traditional ports along the way they will spend the cruise sailing through fjords, around glaciers and through the islands and coastal cruising areas of Southeast Alaska.
The company is calling InnerSea "the uncruise" and is gearing it toward a younger crowd than American Safari.
InnerSea will cost about half as much as American Safari does, and its product will be distinct in crew ratio -- 3-to-1 on InnerSea vs. 2-to-1 on American Safari -- and offer a more casual food service compared with American Safari.
InnerSea itineraries will take passengers on Zodiac craft to explore glaciers and wildlife up close and will make landings for guided hikes through remote areas, spelunking trips and kayak excursions.
The two brands' parent company, also called InnerSea Discoveries, is headed by CEO Dan Blanchard, who was American Safari's CEO from 2001 to October 2008.
When Blanchard bought American Safari in February, he said he planned to add more brands to the new InnerSea Discoveries portfolio. InnerSea is the first of those brands.
InnerSea Discoveries also indicated its intent to fill the Cruise West space by recently purchasing its website and database files, saying it hoped to provide "an entree to additional devoted small-ship cruising enthusiasts and travel partners."