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In The News

Book Alaska cruises early, ships are crowded- Sunday news article in the Chicago Tribune, Newsday and other newspapers around the country 

Book Alaska cruises early,

ships are crowded
Passengers think first of the last frontier
Alaska cruises gaining in popularity
Tourism sizzles on the "Last Frontier"
Passengers, cruise lines love Alaska
Alaska cruises are heating up

BY ARLINE BLEECKER AND SAM BLEECKER

Updated February 18, 2013

 

Glacier Bay, Alaska

Article: Alaska - The Last Cruise Frontier  

by Chris Dikmen - Cruise Report May 2012

A destination that should be at the top of every cruise enthusiasts bucket list


 

This story first appeared January 20, 2008 in the following publications.
Newsday
Pittsburgh Post- Gazette
Wichita Eagle
Kentucky Star
Alaska Magazine
Winnipeg Free Press

February 10, 2008
Chicago Tribune
March 01, 2008
Orange Country Register ( California )
Hartford Courant

March 02, 2008
Sydney Morning Herald
South Florida Sun Sentinel
Orlando Sentinel

May 17, 2008
Arkansas Democrat
The Buffalo News

Alaska is hot.
If that sounds counterintuitive, hang onto your mittens!
As a tourist destination, the last frontier sizzles and, consequently, space aboard the flotilla of ships that call the 49th state home from May through September fill quickly. In the 22 years from 1990 to 2012, for example, the number of cruisers who've sailed there has nearly quadrupled from 235,000 to a more than a million, says Marty Trencher, owner and managing director of Travel Direct and Alaska Cruises Direct, a 12-year-old firm specializing in vacations to the "Last Frontier." In total, a dozen large and small cruise lines will ply Alaska's waters in 2008 -- Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Carnival Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Oceania Cruises, Lindblad Expeditions, and Silversea Cruises.

According to Trencher, Holland America and Princess together attract 90 percent of all passengers to Alaska and offer the majority of cruises and tours to this wilderness landscape. But there's more to Alaska cruising than just these two lines.

Alaska is awash with "so many possibilities, so many ways to travel," Trencher says, that any vacation "requires research, research and more research," he advises. In fact, there are enough options to make your head spin. You can narrow your options by choosing from a handful of ships with less than a hundred passengers, including a paddle wheeler, to dozens of vessels that carry well over 2,000.

Marty Trencher

The larger ships offer a host of amenities, dining options, entertainments and "the excitement of crowds, which is impossible on smaller vessels," Trencher notes. On the other hand, "small ships go places where big ships can't. They get closer to the glaciers and the wildlife," he adds.

Keep in mind, too, that you're not really seeing Alaska unless you step off the ship and get up close and personal with the wilderness.
Here the possibilities seem endless.

Most cruise ships not only sail Alaska's Inside Passage, featuring sailing in either Glacier Bay or Sawyer Glacier, but also visit quaint ports teeming with people (although many of those people will be cruise passengers pouring off of cruise ships) such as Juneau, Ketchikan, Sitka, Wrangell and Skaway, and lesser known stops like Petersburg. Essentially, these ports are gateways to snow-capped mountains and glacier riddled bays and to wilderness adventures that include whale watching, bear sighting, and bald eagle spotting.

Depending on the cruise line, the itinerary and the shore excursions you choose, you also can explore any one of 14 national parks and wilderness areas, including Kenai Fjords, Gates of the Arctic, Klondike (Skagway), Wrangell-St. Elias and Sitka national parks, plus the Klondike Historic Site (Dawson City), Yukon Charley National Preserve, Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Misty Fjords National Monument and Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge.

To capitalize on the majesty of the state, many lines also offer cruisetours, which let you augment your cruise with a land stay. Holland America, for instance, offers vacation packages combining 3- or 4-night cruises with 6-, 8-, or 9-day land tours. In all, Holland America has 29 distinct cruisetours ranging from 10 to 20 days and Princess offers 24 ranging from 10 to 16. Celebrity, Regent and Royal Caribbean also offer escorted land tours, Trencher notes.

According to Trencher the most unusual shore excursions are fishing off a float plane from Ketchikan or Juneau, river rafting on the Haines or Skeena Rivers, a backcountry safari and a visit to Denali Park, dog sledding without snow and on wheels in Whittier, and heli hiking, where passengers are flown by helicopter to a mountain top around Mt. McKinley and then hike down.

The list doesn't end there, however. You can trek glaciers, take a mile-long zipline-canopy tour at Icy Strait Point, Klondike rock climb or rappel in Skagway, canoe or kayak almost anywhere, and even go underwater in semi-submersibles. In Campbell River, Regent passengers can accompany an authentic Alaskan mail floatplane making deliveries.

There is a downside to popularity, however. Because of the state's allure, Trencher warns "There are no real bargains in Alaska as there are in the Caribbean."
"Alaska is a once-in-a-lifetime vacation and high priced," he says. On average a 13-day cruise tour in a balcony cabin on a larger ship will run around $2,700 per person without airfare on the season's shoulders (May or September) and about $3,000 in peak season.

But book early and some deals emerge. For example, Norwegian sails three ships (Norwegian Pearl, Norwegian Star and Norwegian Sun) at published fares ranging from $729 to $1,399 per person, based on double occupancy, for an inside stateroom. Prices drop dramatically if you book early and range from $599 to $699 for lower category accommodations. An early booking special from Holland America will take you on a 7-day Glacier Discovery cruise for $549. Carnival's 7-day Glacier Bay cruises start at $879.

Of course, luxury comes at a price. Step up the gangway on Regent's Seven Seas Mariner and you'll lighten your wallet by $4,195 to $16,750 for 7-, 8- or 11-day cruises sailing between Seward, Alaska and Vancouver, B.C.

End of Article


Alaska - The Last Cruise Frontier  

A destination that should be at the top of every cruise enthusiasts bucket list

   by Chris Dikmen Cruise Report May 2012
  Alaska is one of the most popular cruise destinations in the world. And, for those of you fortunate enough to have visited the 49th state, you know why. The scenery is breathtaking and the wildlife awe-inspiring. Alaska is one of the "must see" destinations in the world, and there is no better way to see it than by cruise ship.
 

Hike the Tongass National Forest

The cruise industry in Alaska has grown steadily over the past 20 years. The number of people visiting Alaska by cruise ship rivals the total number who arrive by air! And, when you consider that many who arrive by air are probably doing so to board a cruise ship, the impact of the cruise industry on the Alaska economy is pretty clear.
 


Rent a Harley and go for a guided two-wheel tour in Ketchikan, Alaska
 

What makes Alaska such a great cruise destination? Take your pick! Abundant wildlife, amazing scenery, an unspoiled environment, and much more. Simply put, there is no place on Earth like Alaska.
 
"Animals outnumber people in Alaska, sunlight shines at midnight and nature reigns," says Marty Trencher, Managing Director of Alaska Cruises Direct. Beyond Alaska's breathtaking glaciers lie scenic ports of call, treasured national parks, and abundant wildlife. And, with more than 1,400 miles north to south and 2,400 miles east to west, it's truly a land of epic proportions."

Marty Trencher

 


A humpback whale breaching within 100 yards of our ship!

As journalists for CruiseReport.com, we have been to Alaska five times in the past eight years, and each time we see something new and different. We have been on large ships with 2,500 guests and small ships with as few as 65 people. There are more than a dozen cruise lines operating in Alaska and all of them have something special to offer.

Alaska is awash with "so many possibilities, so many ways to travel," Trencher says, that any vacation "requires research, research and more research," he advises.


The larger ships offer a host of amenities, dining options, entertainment and "the excitement of crowds, which is impossible on smaller vessels," Trencher notes. On the other hand, "small ships go places where big ships can't. They get closer to the glaciers and the wildlife," he adds.
 


Holland America Oosterdam in Alaska
 

Keep in mind, too, that you're not really seeing Alaska unless you step off the ship and get up close and personal with the wilderness. Here the possibilities seem endless.

Most cruise ships not only sail Alaska's Inside Passage, featuring sailing in either Glacier Bay or Sawyer Glacier, but also visit quaint ports teeming with people (although many of those people will be cruise passengers pouring off of cruise ships) such as Juneau, Ketchikan, Sitka, Wrangell and Skagway, and lesser known stops like Petersburg. Essentially, these ports are gateways to snow-capped mountains and glacier-riddled bays and to wilderness adventures that include whale watching, bear sighting, and bald eagle spotting.

 


Kayaking the calm waters of Alaska's Inside Passage on Innersea Discoveries

Depending on the cruise line, the itinerary and the shore excursions you choose, you also can explore any one of 14 national parks and wilderness areas, including Kenai Fjords, Gates of the Arctic, Klondike (Skagway), Wrangell-St. Elias and Sitka national parks, plus the Klondike Historic Site (Dawson City), Yukon Charley National Preserve, Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Misty Fjords National Monument and Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge.


Enjoy a glass of wine in a field of icebergs!
 
To capitalize on the majesty of the state, many lines also offer cruisetours which let you augment your cruise with a land stay. Holland America, for instance, offers vacation packages combining 3- or 4-night cruises with 6-, 8-, or 9-day land tours. In all, Holland America has 29 distinct cruisetours ranging from 10 to 20 days and Princess offers 24 ranging from 10 to 16 days. Celebrity, Regent and Royal Caribbean also offer escorted land tours, according to Trencher.

Per Trencher, the most unusual shore excursions are fishing off a float plane from Ketchikan or Juneau, river rafting on the Haines or Skeena Rivers, a backcountry safari and a visit to Denali Park, dog sledding without snow and on wheels in Whittier, and heli hiking, where passengers are flown by helicopter to a mountain top around Mt. McKinley and then hike down.

 

Take a train ride and re-live the days of the gold rush!
 
The list doesn't end there, however. You can trek glaciers, take a mile-long zipline-canopy tour at Icy Strait Point, Klondike rock climb or rappel in Skagway, canoe or kayak almost anywhere, and even go underwater in semi-submersibles. In Campbell River, Regent passengers can accompany an authentic Alaskan mail floatplane making deliveries.

There is a downside to popularity, however. Because of the state's allure, Trencher warns, "There are no huge bargains in Alaska like there are in the Caribbean."


"Alaska is a once-in-a-lifetime vacation and high priced," he says. On average a 13-day cruise tour in a balcony cabin on a larger ship will run around $2,400 per person without airfare on the season's shoulders (May or September) and about $3,600 in peak season.


 

Split pea soup on the deck in Alaska is a Holland America tradition
 
But book early and some deals emerge. For example, Norwegian sails three ships (Norwegian Pearl, Norwegian Star and Norwegian Sun) at published fares ranging in the $800 to $1,500 range (per person), based on double occupancy, for an inside stateroom. Prices drop dramatically if you book early and range from $599 to $699 for lower category accommodations. An early booking special from Holland America will take you on a 7-day Glacier Discovery cruise for $549. Carnival's 7-day Glacier Bay cruises start at $879.
 

Killer whales! Oh yeah, Alaska's got those, too!
 
Of course, luxury comes at a price. Step up the gangway on Regent's Seven Seas Mariner and you'll lighten your wallet by $4,000 to $16,000 for 7-, 8- or 11-day cruises sailing between Seward, Alaska and Vancouver, B.C.

In our opinion, Alaska is one of the must-see cruise destinations that should be at the top of any cruise enthusiast's "bucket list". If your cruise experience has been restricted to the Caribbean, or the typically warmer climates, you simply don't know what you are missing. After all, they call this "The Last Frontier" for a reason.

Special thanks to Marty Trencher, Managing Director of Alaska Cruises Direct, part of Cruise Direct Online (www.AlaskaCruisesDirect.com)

End of Article

2012 alaskacruisesdirect.com / 2013 Cruise Direct Online. A Travel Direct Company ALL RIGHTS RESERVED - Fla. Seller of Travel Reg. No. ST-31254