Thinking about an Alaska cruise this summer? You've got tons of options along the sea routes of "the Great Land" in 2006. And few, if any, passengers who make the trip will return home disappointed in this region of towering mountains, lush forests, endless acres of untrammeled wilderness, whales in the water and brown (grizzly) bears on shore. Equally exciting: Alaska Native cultures still vibrant and living, and "Sourdough" goldrush history still reflected in many structures and sites connected to the Klondike stampede to the Yukon.
16 Cruiselines, 47 Vessel in '06 Among voyaging choices: No fewer than 16 cruiselines will dispatch a total of 47 big and little vessels on literally hundreds of sailings this spring, summer, and fall. And that doesn't include Alaska's 11 wide-ranging state-owned passenger and vehicle ferries, most with staterooms and food service. You can board a couple of these ships as far south as Bellingham, Washington.
Some of the major vessels in the cruiseliner fleet -- floating grand resorts actually, with swimming pools, fitness centers, Vegas-style shows, casinos, movie theaters, and lounges -- will accommodate more than 2,000 passengers per sailing. In contrast, some of the smallest ships will pamper only a dozen or so. Departure Ports Cruiseship ports of departure include Seattle, San Francisco, Vancouver, and Prince Rupert, plus a number Alaska coastal communities - among them Ketchikan, Petersburg, Sitka, Juneau, Cordova, Whittier, and Seward. Cruise lengths vary. You can book a short cruise of three nights/four days in Prince William Sound or you can sign up for a traditional seven-night/eight-day roundtrip "Inside Passage" voyage from Seattle or Vancouver to Southeast Alaska and return (longer from San Francisco).
Or you can book a seven-night/eight-day one-way "Gulf and Glaciers" cruise between Vancouver and Seward or Whittier. If you have the time (and budget) you may opt for an "expedition" sailing. Longest is 24 nights/25 days and includes the Bering Sea and even Russian ports and cruising areas.
Glaciers Of course, an Alaska cruise would hardly be an Alaska cruise without a day or more at major glacier viewing sites, among them: Glacier Bay National Park north of Juneau; Hubbard Glacier, which "flows" off Wrangell-St.Elias National Park into Disenchantment Bay and Russell Fjord north of Yakutat; twin Sawyer glaciers within the U.S. Forest Service's Tracy Arm-Ford's Terror Wilderness Area between Juneau and Petersburg; and Southcentral Alaska's Prince William Sound with College Fjord and other glacier-rich sites.
If you want more than sea travel you can book the increasingly popular option of a "cruisetour." That is, before or after your cruise you can experience the likes of a tour to Denali National Park, Fairbanks, Prudhoe Bay (on the shores of the Arctic Ocean), Canada's Yukon Territory, or other popular land destinations. For cruiseline-by-cruiseline itineraries and options, following are the names, phone contacts, and websites of the 16 companies cruising Alaska in 2006. Large-ship Cruiselines, 1,000 to 2,672 passengers Carnival Cruise Lines, 1-800-CARNIVAL (http://www.
carnival.com) Celebrity Cruises, 1-800-437-3111 (http://www.celebrity.com) Holland America Line, 1-800-637-5029 (http://www.hollandamerica.com) Norwegian Cruise Line, 1-800-327-7030 (http://www.
ncl.com) Princess Cruises, 1-800-PRINCESS (http://www.princess.com) Royal Caribbean International, 1-800-722-5045 (http://www.royalcaribbean.
com) Companies With Mid-Size Vessels, 300 to 999 Guests Radisson Seven Seas Cruises, 1-866-314-3213 (http://www.rssc.com) Silversea Cruises, 1-800-722-9955 (http://www.
silverseacruises.com) Smallship Lines, Serving a Dozen Guests to 299 American Safari Cruises, 1-888-862-8881 (http://www.americansafaricruises.com) American West Steamboat Co., 1-800-434-1232 (http://www.americanweststeamboat.
com) The Boat Company, 1-360-697-4242 (http://www.theboatcompany.com) Clipper Cruise Line, 1-800-325-0010 (http://www.clippercruise.com) Cruise West, 1-800-888-9378 (http://www.cruisewest.
com) Discovery Voyages, 1-800-324-7602 (http://www.discoveryvoyages.com) Lindblad Expeditions, 1-800-EXPEDITION (http://www.
expeditions.com) Maple Leaf Adventures, 1-888-599-5323 (http://www.mapleleafadventures.com) Ferries Alaska Marine Highway System, 1-800-642-0066 (http://www.
FerryAlaska.com) BC Ferries, 1-250-386-3431 (http://www.bcferries.com) Copyright © 2006 by Mike Miller.
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By: Mike Miller