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Alaska’s 2018 cruise season set to break records

by Sally Macmillan

Alaska’s cruise season starts in May and this year promises to be the busiest the region has experienced. More cruise lines are heading there and the major players – Princess and Holland America Line – are sending a record number of ships.

CLIA Alaska estimates 1,165,500 passengers will cruise the Last Frontier in 2018, up from just over a million last year. CLIA Australasia says it’s an increasingly popular destination for Australian cruisers and numbers increased by 25 per cent in 2016.

If that conjures up images of cruise-ship traffic jams in the scenic Inside Passage, it’s worth remembering that more than a million passengers cruised Alaska in 2008. Although ports become crowded when several ships arrive at once – Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway are the most visited – there are dozens of exciting excursions on offer that get you away from the towns. And the increasing choice of cruise lines operating in Alaska means there are more itineraries calling at different ports.

Princess will have seven ships sailing in Alaska in 2018, offering 130 departures – and that doesn’t include its 22 cruise-tour options that combine cruises with stays in wilderness lodges. Holland America Line, which has been operating in Alaska for 70 years, has seven ships there this year (nearly half its fleet); Eurodam and Nieuw Amsterdam have capacity for 2100 passengers each. Like Princess, HAL offers cruise-tour combos in Denali National Park and the Yukon that include thrilling train trips.

Celebrity is also beefing up its presence in Alaska, deploying three ships there; sister line Royal Caribbean also cruises Alaska. Other mainstream lines include Disney and Carnival, with one and two ships respectively. Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest ship, the 4000-passenger Norwegian Bliss, will be by far the biggest in the region when it starts sailing in June, joining Norwegian Pearl and Norwegian Jewel.

At the smaller end of the scale, Windstar’s Star Legend kicks off the line’s Signature Expeditions in Alaska in May; Silversea is operating 36 cruises on Silver Shadow, Silver Explorer and Silver Muse; Seabourn Sojourn offers 14 cruises ranging from 11 to 21 days; Oceania Regatta and Crystal Symphony also offer 14 cruises; three Ponant ships will sail seven Alaska itineraries; four Lindblad ships will sail six- to 15-day itineraries; and Un-Cruise Adventures will have seven ships exploring off the beaten track.

Last but not least, Regent Seven Seas Mariner, fresh from an expensive makeover, will be in Alaska for the season – and I’ll be one of the first passengers to check out its glamorous new look. Watch this space.

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