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April 23rd, 2009 by Temple City Tribune
To some, spring means wildflowers and mountain hikes. But to others, it is time for glaciers, rugged coastlines, wildlife viewing, boat planes and all-you-can-eat midnight buffets. To these people, spring is the start of the Alaskan cruise ship season.
From now through early September, roughly one million travelers will board nearly 30 ships and begin their annual northern migration to the country’s last frontier.
They go for sights no other cruise destination can offer. What is common in Alaska is foreign to most travelers. Where else can one see humpback whales breach beneath a stateroom balcony or glaciers drift past the window at dinner? Where can one sit by the pool and watch float planes and eagles soar above, or bears frolic on the shores of virgin forest?
So if a cruise to the Great Outdoors and Yukon sounds interesting, now is the time to act because ships are filling fast and deals are ready to be had.
Four of my favorite lines sailing around Alaska include Holland America, Cruise West, Norwegian, and Regent Seven Seas Cruises. Ports of call include Ketchikan, Sitka, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, Hubbard Glacier, Haines, Seward and more.
All cruises offer shore excursions that can include float plane and helicopter rides over glaciers and rivers, fishing for salmon, dog sledding, train trips, shopping and history, and much more. Extensive land tours into Denali National Park are also available.
Cruise prices can vary from less than $500 for an inside cabin to well over $5,000 for pure luxury at sea.
With a fleet of ships stationed in Alaska’s chilly waters, Holland America is probably the most recognizable line in the area. The line features a more adult atmosphere than a Carnival ship, with more passenger space, less crowds, and onboard lectures by expert naturalists and scientists. They also offer the popular “Club Hal” for kids, numerous land excursions and land tour add-ons. Departure ports include Vancouver, British Columbia. Visit www.hollandamerica.com.
For an intimate setting, Cruise West is offering eight Alaskan itineraries. These include 3- and 4-night getaways to Glacier Bay or Prince William Sound, Inside Passage trips, and epic 25-day cruises into the Bering Sea. Cruise West ships carry 78 to 138 passengers, which means guests can get a closer to nature than big ships. The vessels can sail up narrow channels, into secluded waterways and nearly touch the face of glaciers. Visit www.cruisewest.com.
Norwegian Cruise Lines, with the “youngest fleet on the planet,” is sailing three ships through Alaska, with stops in Sawyer Bay, Glacier Bay, and Alaska North and Southbound. The ships, which carry more than 2,300 passengers, are the Sun, Pearl and Star. Cruises begin in Seattle, Vancouver and Los Angeles. Visit: www.ncl.com.
For those who want to mix luxury with untamed nature, Regent Seven Seas Cruises is the way to go. The company’s four intimate ships are all-suite, all-ocean view masterpieces and carry between 330 and 700 passengers. For Alaska this year, Regent is offering 32 unique cruises, with prices starting at around $3,200. Visit: www.rssc.com.
By Greg Aragon