While this year’s Alaska cruise season has been mostly derailed by rules of U.S. law coupled with a Canadian port ban for cruise ships, it’s expected that by 2022 and beyond, cruise ships will be back in the “Last Frontier.” Looking at the future Alaska cruise waterscape, here’s a sampling of what’s planned by luxury lines.
In 2022, Crystal Cruises’ 980-passenger Crystal Serenity will sail voyages of seven or 11 nights between Vancouver, B.C. and Anchorage (Whittier), AK. On the ship’s week-long voyages, passengers will explore Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and soak in the scenic beauty of Hubbard Glacier while the longer voyage includes calls at such destinations as Hoonah (Icy Strait Point), AK, and Prince Rupert and Victoria, B.C.
During the Juneau port call, one “top dog” of shore excursions is the “Dog Sledding and Mendenhall Glacier by Helicopter” excursion, which combines scenic glacier views with a dog camp experience. The chopper will land at the dog camp (right on the glacier) where 240 Alaska Huskies await for visits with cruise guests.
A few dogs will be chosen to pull guests around in a sled. Cruisers can opt to drive the dog team themselves or leave the driving to a professional musher. Guests will have time to talk to the mushers, take photos with the dogs and meet the camp’s puppies, before reboarding the helicopter for the return flight and motorcoach transfer back to the pier.
Crystal’s guests also cite one of their favorite experiences as the “Wildlife Quest and Fin Island Lodge” shore experience in Sitka. Cruisers will board a high-speed, Alaskan-built vessel for a narrated cruise in search of Alaska’s native wildlife. That could include sea otters, whales, harbor seals, brown bears, Sitka black-tailed deer, bald eagles and a variety of marine birds.
Then the boat stops at Fin Island Lodge for an Alaskan feast. Guests will be treated to wild salmon cooked over an alder wood-fired grill, along with Alaskan king crab, prime rib, home-made side dishes and dessert, plus coffee, tea and soft drinks.
After the meal, guests can walk the grounds or cozy up to the beach fire, prior to returning via boat to Sitka.
Silversea’s Silver Shadow, here, and Silver Muse, below, will combine for 30 seven-day voyages between Seward, AK, and Vancouver in 2022.
Most luxury lines heading to the Great Land have good enrichment speakers, as that’s part of the tourism landscape. That said, Luxury Travel Advisor would characterize Cunard Line’s speaker line-up for 2022 Alaska as “a cut above” on the explorer scale. Cunard offers seven- and 10-day Alaska voyages as well as a few longer options to/from California, on the 2,081-passenger Queen Elizabeth in summer 2022.
One highly anticipated onboard lecturer on Queen Elizabeth’s 10-night voyage is Peter Hillary. The renowned adventurer and mountaineer has not only climbed the world’s tallest peak, Mt. Everest, and forged a new route to the South Pole, but has completed the Seven Summits of mountain climbing and also is the son of Sir Edmund Hillary, who with Sherpa guide Tenzing Norgay, first scaled Mt. Everest in the early 1950s. Hillary will be onboard the ship’s 10-night voyages sailing roundtrip from Vancouver on June 4, 2022 and June 14, 2022.
Among other speakers onboard Cunard in summer Alaska 2022 is Sir Ranulph Fiennes, once called “The Greatest Living Explorer” by the Guinness Book of Records. He’s onboard Queen Elizabeth for the 19-night “Japan and Alaska” voyage from Tokyo (Yokohama), Japan to Vancouver, departing May 17, 2022. Fiennes is the only man alive who has travelled around the Earth’s circumpolar surface (fewer people have completed this adventure than have landed on the Earth’s moon). His record-breaking expeditions include travel by riverboat, hovercraft, manhaul sledge, skidoo, Land Rover and skis.
Also lecturing onboard during summer 2022 will be British polar explorer Felicity Aston, an Antarctic scientist turned author, speaker and expedition leader. In 2012, she became the first woman to ski alone across Antarctica, a journey of 59 days that put her in the Guinness Book of World Records. She sails on a July 11, 2022 voyage.
And if Mt. Everest is of interest, speaker Kenton Cool is a great shipmate to have as he’s scaled it 14 times along with many other mountain peaks across the globe. He’s sailing on June 24, 2022 and July 1, 2022 departures.
Cruisers can also discover Alaska on 18 seven-night sailings in 2022 by Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ 700-passenger Seven Seas Mariner; multiple voyages are operated throughout the season between Vancouver and Seward.
For example, on June 1, 2022, the week-long “Inside Passage Wildlife Adventure” calls at Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and Hoonah Icy Strait Point as well as offers scenic viewing of Hubbard Glacier. It sails from Vancouver to Seward.
On the Hoonah port call, culinary buffs could opt for “In Alaska’s Wildest Kitchen.” On this foodie-focused shore excursion, they’ll join a local host and cooking experts in a hands-on approach to learning how to prepare and grill locally caught seafood including wild salmon and halibut. They’ll learn how to fillet the fish and add seasonings or sauces, before watching the meal cooked over an alder wood fire. Cruisers will dine on their own feast. Beer and wine can be purchased to accompany the meal.
For those cruisers who would like to view Alaskan native art on a Ketchikan port call, just outside town is the impressive Totem Bight State Park with numerous totem poles, or guests could opt for Seven Seas Mariner’s shore trip to the “Saxman Native Village.” Alternatively, eco- and wildlife fans should check out Regent Seven Seas’ “Eagles, Raptors and Rainforest” excursion.
Regent Seven Seas also offers dozens of other shore options in Ketchikan, everything from a crab feast to a fun lumberjack show or a pub crawl. Pre-cruise, the ultra-luxury line offers a “Vineyards, Vistas and Vancouver” add-on land package, as well as a five-day, post-cruise “Discover Denali” package.
In addition to its numerous week-long voyages for 2022, Regent Seven Seas also offers an appealing 12-night sailing including Alaska as well as Astoria, OR and San Francisco before the voyage ends in Los Angeles.
First Time with Two Ships
For the first time in its history, Silversea will operate two ships in Alaska during the 2022 summer season. That’s resulted in expanded options for guests with 30 voyages between the 388-passenger Silver Shadow and the 596-passenger Silver Muse, both sailing seven-day voyages between Seward, AK, and Vancouver.
In addition, an 18-day expedition voyage from Nome, AK, to Vancouver on the 274-passenger Silver Wind will take guests to explore remote cultures and the wildlife in Alaska and Russia’s Chukotka region. Guests will also view Hubbard Glacier and visit Sitka, Wrangell, Dutch Harbor and other destinations within Alaska.
Also new? During 2022, for the first time, one Alaska shore excursion per port will be included within Silversea’s cruise fares. Guests will have a choice of excursions.
During the Juneau call, one shore option is the half-day “Exclusive Luxury Whale Watch — Juneau,” allowing guests to enjoy scenic views of Juneau, the Inside Passage while looking for whales via a private yacht voyage. Guests could spot humpback whales, orcas, porpoise seals, sea lions, bald eagles and even possibly a bear. Along the way, the yacht’s USCG master captain and expert naturalist, both whale experts, will take guests to the best locations for wildlife spotting and share their local knowledge. Guests will have the opportunity to hold real baleen and learn to identify individual humpback whales by name.
Another fun Silversea option that’s popular with guests is the “Klondike Summit & Musher’s Camp Tour” in Skagway, AK. This excursion begins with an entertaining historic tour through downtown Skagway and along nine miles of coastline as the tour takes guests to Musher’s Camp in Dyea. It’s an authentic dog sledding summer camp and home to mushers who bring their dogs here for training in anticipation of winter activities. Some mushers and teams have competed in the Iditarod and Yukon Quest races.
Tour goers will board a specialized Unimog vehicle that will take them from the camp up a rugged mountain road. At the top, they’ll board a “summertime sled” that will be pulled by a team of Alaskan huskies. Guests will then head along a one-mile trail as they “mush” their way through the wilderness. The mushing experience is followed by a kennel talk with Q&A, time with puppies, and a drive to Skagway Overlook for scenic views. Finally, the motorcoach will travel up to the White Pass along the South Klondike Highway.
Starting May 27, 2022, Seabourn’s 458-passenger Seabourn Odyssey will sail to Alaska and British Columbia for a summer season of seven-, 10- and 11-day voyages, some between Vancouver and Juneau, others roundtrip from Vancouver. This will be the ship’s first time in Alaska.
New itineraries will include a 10-day “Alaska Fjords Odyssey” and 11-day “Inside Passage & Alaska Fjords,” which will sail roundtrip from Vancouver in June, August and September. Guests seeking a more in-depth Alaska voyage can combine seven-day voyages into 14-day round-trip sailings from Vancouver throughout the season. There are no repeating ports on those 14-day sailings.
From an adventure perspective, all itineraries will offer optional Ventures by Seabourn excursions featuring kayaking, Zodiac cruising, and hiking outings. Seabourn tells Luxury Travel Advisor that these are two of the most popular Ventures by Seabourn excursions that guests choose.
On the line’s “Inian Islands” experience, the Ventures by Seabourn expedition team will take guests via Zodiac or kayak to explore the Inian Islands and Cross Sound, a gateway for humpback whales to enter the sheltered waters of Alaska. Cruisers will look for Steller sea lions, humpback whales, horned and tufted puffins, sea otters, harbor seals, bald eagles and an abundance of other birdlife. There’s no other way to reach this area other than by sea.
Separately, Seabourn’s guests often choose Ventures by Seabourn excursion to “Misty Fjords” during which guests go by kayak or Zodiac to the end of the fjord, an isolated spot of great natural beauty. The ship itself cannot enter this narrow area.
Oceania Cruises’ Regatta also sails seven night and longer voyages in 2022 that include Alaska; one 10-night voyage departs July 22, 2022 roundtrip from Seattle with calls at Ketchikan, Juneau, Hoonah (Icy Strait Point), Haines, Sitka and Victoria, B.C. During summer 2022, Viking operates a series of 11-day “Alaska and the Inside Passage” cruises on the 930-passenger Viking Orion between Vancouver and Seward.
Many small-ship luxury cruise lines also sail to Alaska. Ponant will offer a 14-night “Alaska and the Fur Traders.” The 264-passenger L’Austral will depart from Nome, AK, on September 15, 2022. At press time, this voyage featured a waiver of the single supplement, subject to availability.
L’Austral will sail the Bering Strait, before heading south to reach Saint Paul in the Pribilof Islands. Guests will land via Zodiac at Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands, and, if desired, will head out on an organized hike. At Icy Bay, cruisers will discover a fjord surrounded by hanging glaciers and waterfalls. They’ll also go ashore to explore Tlingit culture and heritage at the village of Kake and look for whale in the waters of Alert Bay, B.C., before the cruise disembarks in Vancouver.
In 2022, Windstar Cruises’ newly revamped 312-passenger, all-suite Star Breeze will sail in Alaska for the first time. Recently, as part of the $250 million Star Plus Initiative, it was cut in half and lengthened with the addition of 50 new suites. Sizably renovated and reconfigured, it will also offer two new restaurants, a new World Spa by Windstar, and more efficient engines.
Windstar’s new seven-day “Scenic Alaska” itinerary is being offered on two dates in July 2022. This is the shortest offering Windstar has in Alaska, as the line has previously focused solely on longer/immersive itineraries. This new itinerary includes an inaugural stop in Haines, where new excursions include a Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve Float Trip, a photography discovery experience with a pro, and an outing to the Kroschel Wildlife Refuge (among other options).
The wildlife refuge visit takes place at the Kroschel private property, where orphaned Alaskan animals are living out the remainder of their lives in a natural setting. It’s an opportunity to photograph and touch wild animals as Steve Kroschel, known as Dr. Doolittle, does presentations and shares his vast knowledge of his family of animals.
Alaska is the only destination where Windstar offers its Signature Expeditions program with expert guides who give informative talks and take guests on optional adventures by foot, kayak, or Zodiac boat. For the Signature Expedition Alaska Kayak Tours, guests launch from the ship itself. Guests paddle with two kayak guides to explore icebergs and calving glaciers, wildlife, and scenic vistas.
For the first time, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ luxury expedition ship, the 230-passenger Hanseatic Inspiration, a ship with both English and German as “official” onboard languages, will sail to Alaska in 2022.
While the first cruise has already sold out, a 15-day expedition, the ship’s second cruise — while heavily booked — still had some availability at press time. That cruise sails from Vancouver to Seward on August 5, 2022, with calls at Kodiak Island, Chichagof Island, Kupreanof Island, Petersburg, Wrangell and Ketchikan, all in Alaska.
As for shoreside adventures, Hanseatic Inspiration’s guests can head out bear watching at Anan Creek, take a flight over the Misty Fjords or take a Jeep and canoe trip on Revillagigedo Island, among many other options.
Some small ships will still operate in the Great Land’s waters this summer. For example, Lindblad Expeditions will resume 2021 cruises in Alaska with six- and eight-day itineraries. Its 100-passenger, American-flagged National Geographic Quest and National Geographic Venture, will begin cruising on June 5 and June 6.
For 2022, luxury travelers with an explorer mindset should check out two Lindblad “bucket list” itineraries — a Northeast Passage sailing between Norway and Alaska, and a Northwest Passage cruise between Greenland and Alaska. For these “once-in-a-lifetime” adventures, cruisers will sail on the newest additions to the Lindblad fleet, National Geographic Endurance and National Geographic Resolution.
For many more options in Alaska 2022 and beyond, visit www.luxurytraveladvisor.com
Seabourn’s guests often choose Ventures by Seabourn’s excursion to Misty Fjords, during which guests go by kayak or Zodiac to the end of the fjord, an isolated spot of great natural beauty.
Better with Friends
As cruising restarts, travel advisors say luxury travelers are increasingly opting to sail with a small group of family members or other couples who are friends — people they haven’t seen much, if at all, during the pandemic. Some of these small groups include children or grandchildren. Not surprisingly, these travelers often seek a “big-ship experience” for multiple levels of accommodations, diverse specialty dining, supervised children’s clubs and plenty of activities and entertainment. The goal is “maximum choice” — something for everyone onboard.
Many big-ship lines will operate 2022 Alaska sailings. For example, Royal Caribbean International plans to send four ships to Alaska in 2022. That includes two amenity-laden Quantum-class vessels. The 4,180-passenger Ovation of the Seas will be joined by sister ship Quantum of the Seas in sailing seven-night roundtrip itineraries from Seattle, WA. Port calls will include Victoria, B.C. as well as Sitka, Skagway, Ketchikan and Juneau, AK.
On Quantum-class ships, cruisers will find it exhilarating to view Alaska’s stunning scenery including the 30-mile-long Endicott Arm and Dawes Glacier from the line’s “North Star,” a glass observation capsule that rises 300 feet above sea level from the ship. Cruisers can also fulfill their “adrenaline fix” at the ship’s FlowRider surf simulator, RipCord by iFly indoor skydiving experience, and SeaPlex, an active interior space offering rollerblading, sports games, circus training, table tennis, dodgems and more.