ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- It's that time of year again when glaciers are hot. Cruise ships, running the gamut in price, size and land options, arrive in Alaska this month for the summer season.

Some were uprooted from their European itineraries after Sept. 11 and settled here, bringing the state's ship total to nearly 30.

According to the Cruise Lines International Association, the number of cruises from CLIA-member lines in Alaska this year will total 431, a 9.1% increase over last year.

And, from agent Tama Holve's perspective, the Alaska cruise season is shaping up to be even stronger than last year.

Indeed, Holve said her agency, Willett Travel in Studio City, Calif., expects to sell out the blocks of space it purchased on several Alaska cruises.

"A lot of people made their summer vacation plans around the holidays,when there was a real desire to stay close to home," Holve said.

Geno Kalanick of Explore Tours here said he was "inundated" with cruise requests for the 49th state.

"Every time I send a new couple on an [Alaska] cruise, they come back and thank me profusely," he said.

Cruise executives also reported positive results in Alaska.

David Giersdorf, vice president of sales and marketing for Holland America Line, said although the "critical" booking period of October to December was slow, "the several weeks since [the Wave period] have been stronger than normal, allowing us to make up some of the lost ground."

Princess Cruises president Phil Kleweno agreed, saying the line was, for the most part, looking at a "very positive summer."

Norwegian Cruise Line chief executive officer Colin Veitch also said Alaska is selling well.

Alaska captures nearly 8% of the annual cruise market capacity, making it the third most popular cruise destination, according to CLIA.

"It's a very high-value market in terms of the consumer experience," said CLIA president Jim Godsman. "You've got the combination of a cruise vacation, a lot of neat things in terms of whales and wildlife, and some very interesting villages. And you have the opportunity to see the glaciers."

Crystal Cruises, meanwhile, said nearly 20% of its Crystal Society members booked on Alaska cruises this year have cruised to the state on Crystal before.

"Alaska was not traditionally considered a repeat cruise destination, like Europe, until the interest in domestic, close-to-home destinations increased, as it has for 2002," said the line's senior vice president of marketing, Adam Leavitt.

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