SEATTLE -- Your clients have "done" Alaska and come home happy. But
where will their next destination be?
Cruise lines are hoping that the answer will again be
"People are feeling like they'd go back several times," said
Paul Allen, vice president of Alaska sales and marketing for
Holland America Line. "It's not a question of once you've done
Denali [National Park], you can go home."
After all, Alaska is the largest state in the U.S., and each
cruise line that sails there claims its "unique" attractions,
glaciers and hotel programs. Lines with cruise-tour options are
expanding their programs for 2003, adding more nights in Denali
National Park, one of the state's top attractions, as well as more
tour options across Alaska.
In 2002, the state represented about 8% of the cruise industry's
total bed days, according to figures from the Cruise Lines
International Association (CLIA). About 430 cruises trolled Alaskan
waters, CLIA said.
Cruise ship capacity will increase by about 10% industrywide in
2003. And with more ships comes more emphasis on Alaska: HAL will
add one ship next year; Princess Cruises will use its four newest
ships plus the new
Pacific Princess; and Norwegian Cruise Line will operate three
ships. Smaller luxe lines, such as Radisson Seven Seas Cruises and
Crystal Cruises, and expedition-type vessels round out the
The attractiveness of the 49th state is threefold: plenty of
great scenery and passenger options; a perceived safe,
close-to-home destination; and higher yields.
The Alaska boom, however, led at least one travel agent to
describe the 2003 season as resembling a "parking lot" of ships.
But Andrew Stuart, NCL's senior vice president of sales and
"I certainly don't think its overcrowded," he said. "It's
managed well by the state and by the cruise lines. I do think there
[already] are capacity limits in the areas where it's needed."
And there seems to be enough passengers interested in Alaska to
fill those ships. Major cruise lines contacted by Travel Weekly
said they had sailed full on their 2002 departures.
Hopefully, many added, 2003 pricing will be firmer than this
"Like every other segment,  was not normal pricing," said
Craig Milan, president of Royal Celebrity Tours. "We had to
stimulate the market [this year]. I don't see that happening next
year. [Normal pricing is] better for us, better for agents."
Stuart said that he was "reasonably pleased" with the initial
pace of bookings for 2003, although he added NCL recently
introduced "more aggressive" pricing.
"It seems that travel agents are eager to promote Alaska for the
next season," he said.
The following is a rundown of cruise itineraries and cruise-tour
offerings for 2003:
Most mega-line executives say that cruise-tours are the optimum
sale for agents, and Dean Brown, Princess' vice president of sales
and marketing, is no exception.
"If you want to see Alaska, you've got to do more than just take
a cruise," he said.
In 2003, Brown said, every Princess cruise-tour includes Glacier
Bay National Park and Denali.
Princess is the only line to build its own hotels for Alaska
cruise-tour guests. Its fifth Wilderness Lodge -- the Copper River
Lodge, which overlooks Wrangell-St. Elias National Park -- was
introduced earlier this year.
At sea, meanwhile, Brown said Princess was sailing an
"incredibly young fleet." The Coral Princess and Island Princess,
to be introduced in December and June, respectively, will sail Gulf
of Alaska cruises from Vancouver.
On the line's roundtrip itineraries from Seattle, Princess will
use the year-old Star Princess and the Diamond Princess, which is
slated for a July debut.
Holland America Line
HAL departs Alaska on several itineraries for the Yukon
Territory. Fifteen of HAL's 31 cruise-tours feature two nights in
Denali, Allen said, which guests can combine with a visit to Kluane
National Park in Canada's Yukon.
"It has five of the seven tallest mountains in North America,"
Allen said of the park. "For people who want to get their hiking
HAL passengers also have the option of taking the roundtrip
Inside Passage cruise only halfway, sailing from Vancouver to
Skagway to begin the cruise-tour. Alternatively, guests can start
their tour in Alaska and catch the ship as it heads to
"Demographics are getting younger," Allen said. "And more
active. [Age] 60 now isn't what it was 10 years ago."
The Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity
brands have only been offering cruise-tour options through Royal
Celebrity Tours for the past two years. In 2003, Milan said, the
cruise-tour offerings are expanding.
The company is adding tours in Homer on the Kenai peninsula, the
first cruise line to do so, Milan said.
"We've contracted with a property called Land's End, which sits
at the end of Homer Spit and stretches out a couple of miles into
the bay," Milan said. "There's great fishing ... art galleries,
funky shops and restaurants."
Royal Celebrity Tours also is adding a second night to the
Denali section of its tours, Milan said.
NCL does not have a cruise-tour division, but the line is adding
a ship, the Norwegian Sun, in Seattle, joining the Norwegian Sky
and Norwegian Wind on the Inside Passage route.
The Wind, which is based in Vancouver, will call in four cities
on its seven-day itinerary and will begin visiting Wrangell in
Stuart described the program as "Alaska as it used to be,"
including excursions to see wildlife, glaciers and "a tremendous
black and brown bear sanctuary."
Carnival Cruise Lines
The Carnival Spirit will continue its 2002 schedule: three
seven-day cruises to Glacier Bay and 16 seven-day, one-way
northbound and southbound cruises.
Carnival again will offer two-night pre- and post-hotel stays at
the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge and the Alyeska Resort, a spokeswoman
Radisson president Mark Conroy said the line would place the
Seven Seas Mariner in Alaska as it comes off the tail-end of its
2003 world cruise, replacing the smaller Seven Seas Navigator.
That adds an extra 200 beds in the marketplace, a figure Conroy
said is "not insignificant."
The Mariner will run a series of eight-day cruises from
Vancouver to Seward.
Crystal will continue to run 12-day, roundtrip cruises to Alaska
from San Francisco on the Crystal Harmony.
Glacier Bay Cruiseline offers kayaks,
SEATTLE -- For those active clients who'd rather not jump on a
megaship to sail to Alaska, there's the option of placing them on a
"sport utility vessel."
That's what a spokeswoman for tiny Glacier Bay Cruiseline called
its four ships.
"[The ships are] equipped with 22 kayaks and a Zodiac-like
craft," she said. "We have the ability to get up close to land,
wildlife and glaciers. We're on a different level than the larger
And when they say "high adventure," they mean it. "We can kayak
up to 14 miles a day," she said.
But the line's demographics are varied, she said, from children
all the way up to grandparents.
There's a cultural program on board as well -- the line is owned
by Goldbelt, an Alaska native company -- that next year will
feature calls to Hoonah, Metlakatla and Petersburg.
Guests have the option of spending a night in the Glacier Bay
National Park Lodge or joining a Holland America Line
Next year, the line also will begin cruising around the San Juan
islands north of Seattle.
For more information, call (206) 623-7110, Ext 3310. --