Renee Brincks
Renee Brincks

After tracking record-breaking cruise traffic in 2017, Alaska organizations expect to welcome even more passengers this season.

CLIA Alaska estimates that 1.165 million cruise guests will visit the state in 2018, up from the approximately 1.089 million passengers who cruised Alaska waters last year. This year's numbers include departures on 34 ships operated by major cruise lines who are members of the trade organization.

CLIA Alaska forecasts additional growth next year, according to recent numbers shared by the Alaska Travel Industry Association (ATIA). Approximately 1.3 million passengers are expected to travel on 37 cruise ships between May and September 2019.

An informal survey of six of Alaska's small-ship cruise lines show increased demand in that segment, as well. Those six companies have scheduled 265 sailings on 20 ships this year. The same operators are planning 305 voyages on 22 ships in 2019.

Fresh itineraries, new ships and higher capacities help explain the uptick.

Windstar Cruises returned to Alaska for the first time in 20 years with this month's arrival of the Star Legend, an all-suite motor yacht.

Norwegian Cruise Line's newest ship, the Norwegian Bliss, departs for its first Alaska itinerary in June. The custom-built vessel was designed to enhance the Alaska cruise experience.

Lindblad Expeditions rolled out its family-friendly cruise program in Alaska this season. Its National Geographic Global Explorers excursions are geared towards families with children under 18, with onboard and on-the-ground activities developed in partnership with National Geographic Education.

Princess Cruises increased its Alaska capacity by 15% this year. In 2019, the company will celebrate 50 years in the state with the inaugural Alaska season of the 3,500-passenger Royal Princess. It will be the largest Princess ship to sail the region.

Cunard will bring its Queen Elizabeth to Alaska in 2019, as well, offering 10-night Inside Passage tours that begin and end in Vancouver.

American Cruise Lines, UnCruise Adventures and Alaskan Dream Cruises are among other companies with recently expanded Alaska offerings.

Cruises continue to be the most popular mode of arrival for Alaska visitors, says the ATIA, followed by flights and then by road or ferry transit. The state topped the list of most-booked domestic destinations in the 2018 Travel Leaders Group Travel Trends Survey, up from fifth place in 2017.
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