From yachts to megas: Lines sailing in 2001

JUNEAU -- Next year, more than 600,000 people will make landfall in Alaska. They will arrive aboard ships of every size, from the smallest yacht carrying just 12 people to the newest megaships carrying more than 2,000.

To help you and your clients make sense of the choices, here's a rundown of all the options facing Alaska-bound cruise passengers.

  • Holland America Westours will send five of its newest ships north in 2001. The 55,451-ton, 1,266-passenger Statendam, Ryndam and Veendam will sail a Gulf of Alaska route between Vancouver and Seward.
  • The 63,000-ton, 1,440-passenger sisters Volendam and Zaandam and the 53,872-ton, 1,494-passenger Westerdam cover a traditional Inside Passage route roundtrip from Vancouver. Shorter three-day and four-day Inside Passage cruises allow time for a land tour in just eight days total.

  • Princess Cruises brings four of its Grand Class sisters to Alaska: the 77,000-ton, 1,950-passenger Sun Princess, Dawn Princess, Sea Princess and Ocean Princess. All are deployed on seven-day Gulf of Alaska cruises.
  • The newly refitted, 70,000-ton, 1,590-passenger Regal Princess will sail seven-day Inside Passage cruises. Most cruise-tours include a seven-day Gulf of Alaska cruise and Princess wilderness lodges ashore. Cruise-tour combinations range from 11 to 15 days.

  • Carnival will deploy its newest ship in Alaska: The 86,000-ton, 2,124-passenger Carnival Spirit.
  • Itineraries include a full season of seven-day Gulf of Alaska cruises between Vancouver and Seward, plus two late-season, seven-day Inside Passage cruises roundtrip from Vancouver. Cruise-tours also are available with a land segment of the Anchorage-Denali-Fairbanks corridor.

  • Royal Caribbean has the 88,000-ton, 2,100-passenger Radiance of the Seas and the 78,491-ton, 2,000-passenger sisters Rhapsody of the Seas and Vision of the Seas on Inside Passage or Gulf of Alaska itineraries.
  • Nine- to 13-day cruise-tours, new for 2001, feature a seven-day gulf cruise aboard Rhapsody of the Seas. Destinations include Alyeska, Anchorage, Denali, Talkeetna and Fairbanks.

  • Celebrity Cruises introduces the 91,000-ton, 1,950-passenger Infinity, which joins the 77,713-ton, 1,870-passenger Mercury on Inside Passage or Gulf of Alaska sailings. The Mercury will offer nine- to 13-day cruise tours in conjunction with its gulf sailings. Destinations are the same as for Royal Caribbean.
  • Returning for its second year of Inside Passage cruises out of Seattle is Norwegian Cruise Line's 77,104-ton, 2,002-passenger Norwegian Sky. The Sky remains the only big ship using Seattle as its homeport for Alaska cruises, eliminating the three-hour bus ride (each way) between Seattle-Tacoma airport and the Canada Place cruise pier in Vancouver.
  • For those who don't mind the ride, NCL's other Alaskan cruise ship, the 50,760-ton, 1,748-passenger Norwegian Wind, will sail weekly from Vancouver.

  • Radisson Seven Seas Cruises brings the world's first all-suite, all-balcony ship, the 50,000-ton, 700-passenger Seven Seas Mariner, to Alaska in 2001. The ship will sail on a series of seven- to 11-day cruises departing San Francisco, Vancouver and Seward. Itineraries include Inside Passage or Gulf of Alaska itineraries.
  • Crystal Cruises has a series of eight 12-day cruises roundtrip from San Francisco aboard the 49,400-ton, 940-passenger Crystal Harmony. Most departures feature the Crystal Wine & Food Festival, which presents guest chefs and wine experts, who give demonstrations and create special menus.
  • World Explorer Cruises has 14-day cruises from Vancouver aboard the 23,500-ton, 731-passenger Universe Explorer. Four expert speakers accompany each cruise. New for 2001 is a port call in Kodiak.
  • Cruise West has eight ships to choose from, including the nostalgic Spirit of '98, the sleek Spirit of Endeavour and the larger Spirit of Oceanus. Other Cruise West vessels include the Spirit of Discovery, Spirit of Glacier Bay and Sheltered Seas.
  • No ship in the Cruise West fleet carries more than 114 passengers; the smallest holds only 52. Itineraries vary in length, but all leave plenty of time for glacier viewing, whale-watching and scouting for creatures along the coastline.

  • Alaska's Glacier Bay Tours & Cruises has four small ships to choose from.
  • Traditional port-to-port itineraries can be found aboard the 49-passenger Executive Explorer. Soft-adventure cruises are offered aboard the 72-passenger Wilderness Adventurer.

    Combination cruises, which incorporate port calls and kayaking in one itinerary, are scheduled aboard the 88-passenger Wilderness Discoverer. Active adventure cruises, geared toward the serious outdoor enthusiast, are the specialty of the 34-passenger Wilderness Explorer.

  • Small-ship learning vacations have long been the forte of Clipper Cruise Line and Lindblad Expeditions (formerly Special Expeditions).
  • Both lines staff their ships with a professional naturalist, who leads Zodiac excursions and on-board discussions.

    Clipper offers these eco-cruises aboard the 138-passenger Yorktown Clipper and the 128-passenger Clipper Odyssey; Lindblad has the 70-passenger Sea Bird and its identical twin, the Sea Lion.

  • American Safari Cruises gets even smaller: Its Safari Quest carries 21 passengers, while the Safari Spirit holds just 12 guests. However, the ships have all-outside accommodations, some with bathtubs or king-size beds. Off-ship activities include kayaking and nature hikes.
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