Avid Cruiser Voyages: The Transpacific Crossing

In a past installment of Avid Cruiser Voyages, we told you about the magical experience that is the Transatlantic Crossing. But the Atlantic isn’t the only way to cross. In fact, one of the most adventurous ocean crossings you can make begins on the opposite side of North America.

One of the highlights of any Transpacific Crossing is a visit to the Russian town of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia / Creative Commons
One of the highlights of most Transpacific Crossings is a visit to the Russian town of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia / Creative Commons

The Transpacific Crossing is typically offered two times per year, as ships based in Asia for the winter months reposition to spend their summers cruising the scenic waters of Alaska, and vice-versa. Just like their Atlantic counterparts, Transpacific Crossings can range in length but typically run 14 to 15 days.

What makes these voyages truly special are the ports of call. With a mix of destinations in Asia, Alaska, British Columbia and even Russia, these itineraries potentially are some of the most memorable afloat. One unusual feature: You will experience the addition (or loss) of an extra day as your ship sails across the International Date Line in the Pacific Ocean.

There’s a number of embarkation and disembarkation options available, but one of the most typical Eastbound itineraries often begins in Tokyo. From there, guests can explore other Japanese ports of call like Hakodate or the burgeoning city of Kushiro, Japan.

Kushiro, Japan is vibrant and modern. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia / Creative Commons
Kushiro, Japan. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia / Creative Commons

Ships continue to cross the Pacific to one of the most remote places: the Russian port city of Petropavolvsk-Kamchatsky. With a population of just under 200,000, the city is surrounded by volcanoes that tower over the landscape.

The city’s remoteness is also highlighted by the fact that it lies some 4,000 miles from the Russian capital of Moscow. During the shoulder Transpacific months of May and September, temperatures here hover around 50 degrees Fahrenheit, or about 10 degrees Celsius. 

The city of Unalaska is located near Dutch Harbour, Alaska - made famous for its association with the reality TV series, Deadliest Catch. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia / Creative Commons
The city of Unalaska is located near Dutch Harbor, Alaska, made famous for its association with the reality TV series, Deadliest Catch. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia / Creative Commons

After departing Russia, the next big event heading Eastbound is the crossing of the International Date Line. This imaginary line separates one day from another; heading Eastbound, you will gain a day as clocks are wound back by a full 24 hours.

From here, many sailings call on Dutch Harbor, Alaska, a port of call arguably brought to worldwide recognition with the airing of the Discovery Channel series Deadliest Catch, which focuses on the lives of crab fisherman, the main source of industry in Dutch Harbor.

These transpacific sailings also provide the opportunity to explore some of the more “off-the-beaten-path” ports that Alaska has to offer, such as Kodiak, one of seven communities on Kodiak Island, Alaska.

Kodiak began as a Russian outpost for the fur trade industry in the late 1700s and became a center for commercial fishing when the United States purchased Alaska in 1867. Kodiak is also astonishingly difficult to visit, with all visitors (and indeed, supplies) having to arrive by sea or by air.

The Alaskan city of Kodiak around 1900. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia / Creative Commons
The Alaskan city of Kodiak as it looked around 1900. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia / Creative Commons

Another port on many Transpacific repositioning voyages is the city of Homer, Alaska, located along the Kenai Peninsula. It has also been nicknamed “the end of the road” due to its status as the last stop along the Alaska Highway system.

After that, many cruises journey to Seward, Alaska to disembark guests. Seward is convenient due to its proximity to Anchorage, which boasts a number of daily direct flights to various points in North America from Ted Stevens International Airport.

Longer itineraries have the opportunity to visit more off-the-beaten-path ports of call, like Wrangell, Alaska. Photo © Aaron Saunders
Longer itineraries have the opportunity to visit more off-the-beaten-path ports of call, like Wrangell, Alaska. Photo © Aaron Saunders

A few voyages may even carry on farther south to the standard Alaskan cruise ports of Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan before ending in the Canadian city Vancouver, British Columbia.

In September, Transpacific Crossings are once again offered as ships begin their long — but fascinating — journeys West, destined back to Japan and often on to China, Thailand and points beyond.

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