Winter just doesn’t work for some people, and even if the temperatures are down on what we normally see in Australia, the lure of the sun drives thousands of Aussies to cruise warmer waters in the Northern Hemisphere.
While Alaska is always a popular destination during its extremely limited cruise season each year, 2016 has seen a particular increase in patronage among Australian cruisers, with tens of thousands set to flock to the west coast of the United States in order to explore America’s 49th state and its abundance of natural wonders, which include glaciers, icebergs and plenty of wildlife including bears, birds and fish, all seeking cooler temperatures during the summer.
Celebrity Cruises, to take one line as an example, will welcome more than 5,500 Australians across three of its ships – a mammoth 65% jump in the number of Aussies cruising with the line this season.
So what has led to this spike in interest for cruising in Alaska? Here are our theories…
Perfect weather: There is an extremely limited window each year for cruising in Alaska, as the far northwest of the North American continent is largely uninhabitable during the cooler months and the winter from late September until late April each year. With only a five-month window at best in which to enjoy it, the popularity of the region sees plenty of ships sent to the region, meaning there’s always a good selection of cabins available.
During the Alaskan summer, the whole region is teeming with wildlife, particularly those species emerging from winter hibernation looking for a feed such as bears. You’ll also be on hand to see creatures such as eagles, otters, whales, bison, deer and many more. As such, travellers are placed in an excellent position via shore excursions to view these animals and many more in their natural habitat.
Great value on cabins: Holland America Line, for example, will have seven different ships cruising itineraries of different lengths in Alaska this season. Most of these will be seven-night round-trip cruises leaving from San Francisco, Seattle and Vancouver, while others will offer longer voyages and in some cases, passengers can take advantage of a one-way sailing which will enable them to extend their holiday with a lodge stay in one of many Alaskan towns which bloom into life for this part of the year.
This glut of cabins sees prices for a seven-night round-trip voyage in an interior stateroom starting from $1,549 per person twin share – very much on par with what you’ll find in Australia, with the only extra expense being the cost of flights to the US west coast to join your sailing. Incentives such as free beverage packages, internet deals and onboard credit are also on offer to sweeten the deal.
Familiar ships: Alaska is one of two major regions (Asia being the other) which sees many of the cruise ships loved so dearly by Australian travellers during our winter season. For those who are keen to see new shores from the familiar surroundings of a ship they already know and love, Alaska is where you’ll find many of the ships during the Australian off-season.
Cruising out of San Francisco, Seattle or Vancouver, you’ll find ships such as MS Noordam, Radiance of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas, Celebrity Solstice, Celebrity Millennium, Carnival Legend and MS Amsterdam, among others in American waters. Others such as MS Maasdam cruising in Alaska will head to Australia for the first time later this year. Then, as the Alaskan season starts to wind down again, these same ships will all turn around and head south west back to Australia for next summer. Here are some more details on the ships coming here.
If your budget permits, you’ll also find a wide range of cruise ships catering to the luxury market sailing Alaska during its annual season. These include Silver Shadow, Crystal Serenity and Seven Seas Mariner among others. Alaska is also well known for its ability to draw crowds on the small adventure cruise ships operated by Lindblad Expeditions, Un-Cruise Adventures, American Cruise Lines and many more.
So if you’re eager to escape the cold of Australia during winter, the more palatable shores of Alaska during the summer might be more your cup of tea for a mid-year cruise.