21 cruiselines will deploy variously-sized vessels to the waters of Alaska, in 2012. Travelers can choose between 4 basic cruising patterns and hundreds of sailings: 1) Traditional-style round trips include the Inside Passage voyage from Seattle or Vancouver, B.C. to Southeast Alaska and return in 1 week or 2. A smaller number of cruises sail from San Francisco and other west coast ports; 2) 1-way Gulf and Glaciers Cruises north or south between Vancouver and Southcentral Alaska ports Seward or Whittier; 3) Small-ship companies offer Cruises within Alaska. These sail within Southeast or Southcentral waters and 4) book an Extended Voyage and explore Aleutian Islands or even call at ports in Russia or far-east Asia.
Carnival Cruiselines: Carnival continues its 7-night Alaska cruise tradition scheduling all but 2 voyages aboard the Carnival Spirit (2,124 guests) as roundtrips from Seattle. Exceptions are open-jaw positioning voyages: The cruiseline’s 7-night season opener embarks May 1 from Vancouver, B.C. and disembarks in Seattle after calls in Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan plus cruising Glacier Bay. The line’s 7-night Alaska closer embarks September 11 from Seattle and disembarks in Vancouver. 2012’s core season features 7-night round-trip voyages from Seattle between May and September. Viewing areas and ports of call feature Tracy Arm Fiord, Skagway, Juneau, Ketchikan, and Victoria, B.C. Information from www.carni
Celebrity Cruises: A May 11 departure from Seattle starts the 7-night/8-day “Alaska Tracy Arm Fjord Cruise” aboard the Celebrity Infinity (1,950 guests). The round-trip itinerary includes: Ketchikan, Tracy Arm Fjord and glaciers, Juneau, Skagway, and Victoria, B.C. The vessel’s final 2012 cruise will embark September 14. Celebrity Century (1,750 guests) embarks May 13 from Vancouver on the “Alaska Hubbard Glacier Cruise” with round trip stops to include: Sitka, Juneau, Skagway, Hubbard Glacier (with massive 6-mile-long ice face), and Ketchikan. A single roundtrip “Ultimate Alaska Cruise” in 9 nights, ends the season departing September 16 from Vancouver. Highlights include Sitka, Juneau, Skagway, Icy Strait Point, Hubbard Glacier, and Ketchikan with return to Vancouver. Celebrity Millennium (1,950 guests) will alternate 7-night northbound and southbound cruises between Vancouver and Seward from June 1 to the season’s final Vancouver departure September 7. These cruises will visit Icy Strait Point in addition to Juneau, Ketchikan, and Skagway and will additionally cruise the face of Hubbard Glacier. Information from www.celebritycruises.com/1-800-437-3111.
Disney Cruise Line: The Disney Wonder (2,064 guests) will homeport in Seattle and sail 7-night roundtrip cruises which include Tracy Arm Fiord and glaciers as well as communities Skagway, Juneau, and Ketchikan. Although singles and adults without children are hardly a threatened species aboard Disney vessels, the line is probably most recognized as a family-friendly fleet that offers a wide variety of events and activities catering to the entire family. Information from www.disneycruise.com/1-888-352-2500.
Holland America Line: HAL will dispatch 7 vessels to Alaska in 2012, offering 4 7-night/8-day round-trip or 1-way options with departures from Seattle, Vancouver and Seward. There’s also a 13-night/14-day round-trip journey from Seattle that also includes less-visited ports. The line’s “Alaskan Explorer” journey departs weekly from Seattle aboard the Oosterdam or the Westerdam with city and glacier stops along the way. The company’s “Glacier Discovery” sailings (aboard the Statendam and Zaandam) depart northbound from Vancouver on alternate weeks and visit Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and Glacier Bay National Park with journey’s end in Seward. Southbound the vessels simply do the reverse order. The line’s “Inside Passage” round trip route features the Volendam or the Zuiderdam and departs from Vancouver calling at Ketchikan, Tracy Arm Fiord, Juneau, Skagway, and Glacier Bay, while the 14-day “Alaskan Explorer” features a 2-week round-trip from Seattle aboard the Amsterdam. Ports of call and cruising areas include Ketchikan, Tracy Arm Fjord and glaciers, Juneau, Homer, Anchorage, Kodiak, Icy Strait Point and Sitka. Information from www.hollandamerica.com/1-877-SAIL-HAL.
Norwegian Cruiseline: To start the 2012 season NCL has scheduled NCL Pearl (2,394 guests) to sail an open-jaw 7-night “Glacier Bay” voyage from Vancouver, B.C. on May 6 to Seattle with port visits in Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan and Victoria plus cruising in Glacier Bay. NCL Pearl will then spend the rest of the season sailing to these ports on “Glacier Bay” round trips out of Seattle with first departure May 13. Final voyage will embark September 16 on a “Glacier Bay” itinerary that disembarks in Vancouver. NCL Jewel (2,376 guests) inaugurates its Alaska season May 19 with a “7-Day Sawyer Glacier” open jaw voyage from Vancouver to Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Victoria and Seattle plus cruising time in Tracy Arm Fiord. On May 26 the vessel then inaugurates a summer series of 7-night “Sawyer Glacier” round trips from Vancouver to Alaska. Cruising areas include Tracy Arm Fiord and glaciers plus port calls at Ketchikan, Juneau, and goldrush Skagway within the Klondike Gold Rush National Monument. The journey also includes a visit to Victoria, B.C. NCL Jewel’s last “Sawyer Glacier” trip of 2012 will leave Seattle on September 16 en route to Alaska with return to Vancouver. Information from www.ncl.com/1-866-234-0292.
Princess Cruises: Princess Cruises arrives in Alaska in 2012 following a trans-Pacific cruise from Asia. Alaska cruises include: 1-way “Voyage of the Glaciers” sailings from Vancouver, B.C. northbound to Whittier, Alaska in 7 nights and “Voyage of the Glaciers” sailing southbound, Whittier to Vancouver, also in 7 nights. Port visits and viewing areas include Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and Glacier Bay National Park. Vessels sailing this route are: The Star Princess (2,590 guests and a new addition to the Alaska ship roster), Coral Princess (1,970 guests), Diamond Princess (2,670), Island Princess (1,970) and Sapphire Princess (2,670). The line also offers the long-time traditional pleaser “Inside Passage” roundtrip from Vancouver in 7 nights aboard the Diamond Princess, and Sapphire Princess. Ports and cruising areas include Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and Tracy Arm Fiord or Glacier Bay National Park. A more recent option is Princess’ “Inside Passage Roundtrip from Seattle.” Travelers have a choice of 2 vessels. Golden Princess (2,590) makes the trip in 7 nights, calling at Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and Victoria, B.C. plus cruising Tracy Arm Fjord and Sawyer Glacier or Glacier Bay National Park. Star Princess follows the same itinerary of ports plus Tracy Arm Fiord. The “Inside Passage Roundtrip from San Francisco,” runs 10 nights aboard Sea Princess (1,990 guests). Ports of call in cruising areas on this route include, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay National Park, Ketchikan and Victoria. Too, there’s a 5-night “Alaska Sampler” aboard the Star Princess that will embark May 15 upon an open-jaw voyage from Vancouver to Juneau and Ketchikan with disembarkation in Seattle. World travelers take note: At the end of the season, embarking on the Diamond Princess either from Vancouver (September 15) or Whittier (September 22), cruisers can stay aboard and sail from Alaska to Beijing, China. Information from www.princess.com/1-800-PRINCESS.
Royal Caribbean International: Radiance of the Seas (2,100 guests) embarks on a 7-night round trip from Vancouver to Icy Strait Point, May 4th. The vessel then continues north to Hubbard Glacier (cruising), followed by port calls in Juneau, Ketchikan, then return to Vancouver. On May 11 Radiance of the Seas will initiate a full summer schedule of 7-night northbound and southbound 1-way cruises between Vancouver and Seward, Alaska. En route attractions include Ketchikan, Icy Strait Point, Juneau, Skagway, and Hubbard Glacier. Last journey southbound departs September 7 from Seward. Rhapsody of the Seas (2,000) will initiate its season with an open-jaw positioning cruise May 4 from Vancouver to Juneau, Skagway, Tracy Arm Fiord, Ketchikan and Seattle in 7 nights. Following that cruise, the ship will base in Seattle for a series of 7-night round trips north to Juneau, Skagway, Tracy Arm Fiord, Victoria, B.C., and return to Seattle to continue till August 31. Information from www.royalcaribbean.com/1-800-327-6700.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises: This line has scheduled luxury-class Seven Seas Navigator (490 guests) for 13 Alaska cruises in 2012. The 11-night season opener from San Francisco on May 1 offers port stops at Astoria, OR, Alaska ports Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, and Sitka, plus Victoria, B.C. with journey’s end at Vancouver. In addition there’s glacier viewing within Tracy Arm Fiord in Tongass National Forest and at Hubbard Glacier.) From May 30 on, the Seven Seas Navigator sails 11 one-way northbound or southbound 7-night voyages between Vancouver and Seward taking in Ketchikan, Tracy Arm, Juneau, Skagway, and Sitka, plus cruising Hubbard Glacier. Last 2012 cruise (a 12-nighter) departs Seward August 22 and disembarks in San Francisco September 3. Information from www.RSSC.com or 1-800-285-1835.
Silversea Cruises: Silversea Cruises will likewise dispatch a luxury-class vessel, Silver Shadow (382 guests). It will arrive in Seward from Tokyo on May 31 (having embarked May 17) to begin a season of southbound or northbound 1-way Gulf and Glaciers voyages between Seward and Vancouver plus 2 roundtrip Inside Passage sailings from Vancouver. Ports and cruising areas on the 1-way 8-night voyages include Hubbard Glacier, Sitka, Tracy Arm Fiord, Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan. Ports and sites on an 11-night roundtrip leaving Vancouver July 5 visits Ketchikan, Wrangell, Skagway, Sitka, Prince Rupert, and Victoria. A 10-nighter starting July 16 omits Wrangell. Last Silversea voyage of the season sails from Vancouver to Seward embarking August 30. Information from www.silversea.com or 1-877-215-9986.
Small Cruise Vessels
Alaska Coastal Quest: This is one of the newer small-ship cruiselines in Southeast Alaska but it ranks as one of the most knowledgeable lines sailing the waters of the Inside Passage and especially Misty Fjords National Monument. The 60-foot expedition-class ship, Misty Fjord, accommodates 12 guests in 5 staterooms. The cruiseline offers varied charter and per-cabin booking options throughout Southeast Alaska. Among them: the opportunity to join a small group of professional photographers of international stature on a 10-day trip through most of the panhandle region. It departs Ketchikan with stops in Petersburg and Juneau en route to Chatham Straits and Peril Straits and into Sitka Sound. This vessel will visit St. Lazaria National Wildlife Refuge known for its populations of puffins, sea otters, seals, and sea lions. The trip will end in history-rich Sitka. More Information from www.akquest.com or 1-907-225-3498.
Alaskan Dream Cruises: Starting in May, 2 vessels—Alaskan Dream (40 guests) and Admiralty Dream (78)—will begin the company’s second season with 5 cruises: 10-night/11-day “Alaska’s Southeast Explorer” trips from Sitka to Ketchikan (or reverse); 7-night/8-day “Alaska’s Glacier Bay and Island Adventure” roundtrip from Sitka: 7-night/8-day 1-way “Alaska’s Inside Passage Sojourn” from Sitka to Ketchikan; 5-night/6-day “Alaska’s Tracy Arm Adventure” from Sitka to Juneau; and 2-night/3-day 1-way “Alaska’s Glacier Bay Quest” from Juneau to Sitka. Aboard both ships passengers enjoy days of viewing magnificent lush forests, mountains, glaciers and islands where, if you’re lucky, you will spot wildlife on shore. More information from www.AlaskaDreamCruises.com or 1-855-747-8100.
All Aboard Yacht Charters: This company may have “charters” in its name but in Alaska you can book passage aboard the 10-guest yacht Discovery (10 guests) just as you would any other cruiseship. And if you’re a nautical history buff, take note that Discovery is a historic 1931-vintage yacht created and maintained in the rich classic tradition. For Alaska in 2012, the vessel features 7-night Inside Passage cruises north or south between Ketchikan and Juneau as well as roundtrip voyages from each of the two panhandle communities. For southeastern trips the company website touts “humpback whales, bears, sea lions, Tracy Arm, and fishing.” The company also schedules 11-night northbound and southbound cruises from Seattle to Ketchikan and reverse on May 8th and September 25 respectively. For these cruises the company features “Great Bear Rain Forest, orcas, hot springs, and fishing.” Sailing schedules for 2012 are posted at the company website. Information from www.AlaskaCharters.com or 1-800-767-1024.
American Cruise Lines: This company inaugurates its maiden Alaska cruising season in 2012, scheduling 13 Inside Passage departures to and within Alaska from June 2 through September 1 aboard American Spirit (100 guests). First and last sailings are 11-nights from or to Seattle. Port calls include Anacortes and Friday Harbor in Washington plus Alaska’s Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg, Tracy Arm Fiord, Angoon, Icy Strait Point, Hoonah and Juneau. 11 core season cruises within Alaska will feature 7-night round trips from Juneau to Skagway, Glacier Bay, Icy Strait, Hoonah, Sitka, Petersburg, Tracy Arm Fiord and Dawes Glacier. The latter is one of Southeast Alaska’s less visited but most awesome classic glaciers. Information from www.americancruiselines.com or 1-800-460-4518.
American Safari Cruises and InnerSea Discoveries: This entry covers 2 brands within 1 company, allowing travelers who yearn for what the company calls an “uncruise” to browse a single combined website detailing each line’s active adventures aboard expedition ships and upscale yachts. With too many highlights to mention, this is a light overview of their offering: American Safari Cruise’s new addition is an 86-guest small ship to its fleet of three yachts. The vessel, Safari Endeavour (100 guests), has been renovated as an upscale vessel and cruises from Seattle to Juneau and reverse in spring and fall. Highlights includes San Juan Islands/Friday Harbor (WA), Misty Fjords National Monument, Ketchikan, Petersburg, Baird Glacier, Glacier Bay, Icy Strait, and Alaska’s capital city Juneau. The yacht-style vessel will sail Alaska’s Inside Passage from May to September. Core season cruises, June through August, will include Safari Explorer (36 guests) “Juneau Roundtrip” journeys to Glacier Bay National Park, Icy Strait, Chichagof Island, Frederick Sound, Endicott Arm, and return to Juneau. Safari Quest (22 guests) will likewise sail the “Juneau Roundtrip” route in May through August as well as a return cruise to Seattle in late August. The smaller, Safari Spirit (12 guests) will cruise from Seattle to Juneau in April and return to Seattle in September. In the months between, the 2 vessels also will offer the popular “Juneau Roundtrip” route. The company’s InnerSea Discoveries brand likewise calls its journeys “uncruises” and aside from embarkation cities Juneau and Ketchikan on its respective 7-night, 8-day voyages there’s little time in urban settings. Instead, the recently refurbished vessels Wilderness Adventurer (66 guests), Wilderness Discoverer (80 guests), and Wilderness Explorer (76 guests) will carry passengers off the beaten path to authentic Alaska Native villages and Alaska’s scenic beauty. Another “uncruise” option, the “Alaska Inside Passage Ultimate Adventure” operates round trip from Juneau to Ketchikan and return to Juneau in 14 nights. The newly acquired Wilderness Explorer will sail weeklong un-cruise adventures from Juneau to Sitka (or reverse) with 3 days spent exploring within Glacier Bay National Park. Non-overlapping cruises may be combined to create longer voyages. More information at www.innerseadiscoveries.com/1-888-862-8881 for American Safari Cruises; 1-877-901-1009 for Innersea Discoveries.
The Boat Company: This line emphasizes environmental awareness while offering programs from Juneau and Sitka that combine wildlife viewing on land and sea, shore excursions, fishing, and kayaking. 2 vessels are deployed: 20-guest Liseron, a now-upscale converted 1940s minesweeper, and 24-guest Mist Cove, a decidedly upscale replica, each sail 7-night, 8-day voyages between Sitka and Juneau. The itineraries are flexible and spontaneous. Featuring a ratio of 2 guests per 1 crew member each guest can be accommodated without difficulty. Hikers can freely hike Forest Service trails, beachcomb the tide flats, walk stream beds or take leisurely strolls along the beaches with trained naturalists. Fishermen can stream fish or take out skiffs with guides. Canoes and kayaks can explore hidden coves and scenic shorelines. Gourmet chef, wine with dinner, and an open bar, round out the dining experience. The crew will clean and pack guest-caught salmon, halibut, and other catch for shipment home. Information from www.theboatcompany.com or (360) 697-4242.
Discovery Voyages: Prince William Sound pioneer, this cruise company operates the comfortably refurbished former missionary vessel Discovery (12 guests). 2012 itineraries are: “Grand Prince William Sound,” a 6-night journey aboard the Discovery plus 2 nights B&B accommodations in Anchorage and the possibility of a visit to the picturesque fishing community of Cordova. A “3-Day Discovery Voyage,” featuring 2 nights/3 days aboard the Discovery and 2 additional nights in Anchorage. The line’s traditional “Hike and Kayak Voyage” sailings with 4 nights aboard Discovery and 2 nights B&B in Anchorage; “Adventure! Voyage,” featuring 5 nights aboard ship, 2 nights B&B in Anchorage; “Grand Alaska Voyage,” a 4-night classic Discovery voyage plus land-based travel to and within interior Alaska’s Denali National Park plus travel to Fairbanks. Escorted by naturalist Hugh Rose, 3 “classic” voyages will be offered: one as a 5-night/6-day” journey aboard Discovery; another as a Grand Classic Voyage in 4 nights/5 days aboard ship; and to close the season in September an “Autumn Classic Voyage.” Each option includes 2 nights B&B in Anchorage. Discounts for kids. More information at www.discoveryvoyages.com or 1-800-324-7602.
Fantasy Cruises: The company has scheduled a 2012 summer season of mostly 8-night voyages aboard the Island Spirit (32 guests). The line will initiate the season with a slightly longer 2-week northbound trip May 5 to May 20 from Seattle to Juneau. Following this, the ship will begin sailing a series of alternating southbound or northbound trips between historic Sitka and “Little Norway” Petersburg, each in 8 nights. Cruises include glacier viewing, beach hikes, exploring small coves, forest trail walks, and other outdoor activities. Staterooms are unique in that there is an opening window for maximum viewing and ventilation. Many amenities round out this boutique style cruise. Information from www.smallalaskaship.com or 1-800-234-3861.
Lindblad Expeditions: Featuring twin vessels, National Geographic Sea Lion and National Geographic Sea Bird (62 guests each), Lindblad Expeditions returns to Alaska with an 11-night, northbound positioning cruise from Seattle to Juneau (called “Alaska, British Columbia, and San Juan Islands”) on May 1 aboard the National Geographic Sea Lion. Southbound season closer departs Sitka, September 1 aboard the National Geographic Sea Lion. The company’s season-long staple is a 7-night one-way cruise between Juneau and Sitka (or reverse) called “Alaska’s Coastal Wilderness.” This itinerary features: Tracy Arm Fjord, Ford’s Terror wilderness, a Petersburg port visit, whale watching plus cruising a full day in Glacier Bay National Park. Many maritime and shore activities available including historic sites and Zodiak expeditions. More information at www.expeditions.com or 1-800-EXPEDITION.
Maple Leaf Adventures: The 92-foot authentic “tall ship” sailing schooner the Maple Leaf, accommodates 8 guests. In 2012 Maple Leaf will make 2 1-way Alaska voyages (under sail whenever possible): 1 trip northbound and 1 southbound between Prince Rupert, B.C. and historic Sitka. These 11-night voyages include Ketchikan, Petersburg, tiny Baranof (in Warm Springs Bay), remote hot springs for outdoor soaking, beach and forest sites for hikes, whale and bear viewing and, of course, close-up glacier viewing. Departing July 7, journey’s end is July 14. Reverse trip will leave Sitka July 19 with arrival in Prince Rupert July 31. Too, there are 8-night family charter trips (all generations). More information from www.MapleLeafAdventures.com or phone 1-888-599-5323.
Sea Wolf Adventures: A small-ship cruiseline, this company specializes in Sunday-through-Friday cruises aboard the Sea Wolf (12 guests) through the wilderness waters of Glacier Bay National Park, in 15 cruises. Opportunities include hikes, kayak-paddling, and naturalist-style education on flora and fauna. More information from www.seawolfadventures.net or phone (907) 957-1438.
Travel Writer Mike Miller lives in Juneau where he writes for national media and publishes www.AlaskaCruisingReport.com and www.SoutheastAlaskaBnBs.com.