It’s hard to believe, but this year’s Alaska cruise season will be drawing to a close in just a few short months. Odd as it may sound, this is actually the best time to start looking forward to the 2017 Alaska cruise season, for the simple reason that the itineraries are in place, most staterooms and suites are still wide-open, and every sailing date is on offer. If you’re looking for that suite (or two), or just a great deal on your favorite balcony stateroom, this is the time to book.
So what can you look forward to up in the Great North next year? Here’s our rundown:
Alaska is one of those destinations that’s like a comfortable old shoe: it’s reliable, and it doesn’t change very much. To that end, there aren’t a lot of brand-new ships sailing to this great state in 2017 – but there are a few noteworthy examples.
Holland America Line is sending its Eurodam to Alaska for the first time, where she will join Volendam and Nieuw Amsterdam in sailing roundtrip from Vancouver on the line’s classic Inside Passage voyages that call on Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway, and Glacier Bay.
Also new for 2017 is Seabourn’s Seabourn Sojourn, which makes her Alaska debut for the very first time next year. Sailing between June and September, she’ll sail from both Vancouver and Seward.
While not exactly new to the region, it’s worth noting that Royal Caribbean will be bringing its massive Explorer of the Seas to Alaska for her second season in 2017. She’ll operate roundtrip out of Seattle on weeklong cruises that visit Juneau, Skagway, Tracy Arm Fjord and Victoria. She is the largest ship operating in Alaska again in 2017, besting Princess Cruises’ Grand Class ships by a wide margin.
Old Favorites Are Back
Cruise lines rarely send their latest-and-greatest to Alaska. What they do, however, is send some of their best ships to Alaska. You know – the ones with the glass elevators and banks of floor-to-ceiling windows, the retractable covered pools, the panoramic forward observation lounges.
Royal Caribbean is once again sending the beautiful Radiance of the Seas to Alaska, where she will operate north and southbound voyages from Vancouver to Seward and reverse, as she has done for most of her service career.
Holland America, meanwhile, returns the venerable Volendam and Zaandam to Alaska again next year. However, it will be the first year in over two decades that an S-Class ship hasn’t sailed these waters. Indeed, Vancouver is the clear winner here, with the newer (and much larger) Nieuw Amsterdam and Noordam returning once again.
Longer Itineraries From Different Ports
With a few exceptions, most cruises to Alaska – particularly ones on mainstream lines – tend to be weeklong sailings that operate either roundtrip from Vancouver or Seattle, or so-called “one way” sailings between Vancouver and Whittier or Seward (for Anchorage) that allow guests to participate in overland cruisetour journeys through the heart of Alaska.
In 2017, there are more options than ever for those who want to experience a longer voyage to this great state.
Holland America returns to offer its unique 14-day roundtrip Seattle Great Alaskan Explorer voyages next year. Sailing aboard the gorgeous Amsterdam, guests will sail right into Anchorage, Alaska (a rarity) before heading off to Homer, Kodiak, Hubbard Glacier, Sitka and Victoria, British Columbia. These sailings are offered between May and September of 2017.
Princess Cruises will offer 10-day sailings to Alaska that operate roundtrip from San Francisco aboard Grand Princess. Operating between May and September of 2017, these voyages include port calls in Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, and Victoria, British Columbia, with a day of scenic cruising in Tracy Arm Fjord. A handful of itineraries on select dates (May 8, 18; June 27; July 27, and September 5, 2017) swap out Tracy Arm for the more-impressive Glacier Bay National Park.
Norwegian Cruise Line has some longer voyages on offer for next year, though they’re mainly repositioning cruises. Norwegian Sun will sail a 14-night Ultimate Alaska cruise from San Francisco to Vancouver on May 15, 2017, with ports of call that include Astoria, Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Icy Strait Point, Sitka, and the British Columbian towns of Nanaimo and Prince Rupert.
On September 23, 2017, Norwegian Jewel will cruise to Alaska for 10 days, beginning in Seattle and ending in Vancouver. Ports on this voyage include Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Icy Strait Point and Sitka.
Bigger Luxury Presence
Luxury cruises have always had a minor presence in Alaska. In the past, choices have been limited to Regent Seven Seas and Silversea, both of which operate out of Vancouver. Next year, luxury aficionados have even more choice.
Seabourn is returning to Alaska once again after a multi-year absence. Starting in June of 2017, Seabourn is sending the 450-guest Seabourn Sojourn on a series of 11, 12 and 14-day sailings that depart from the iconic Canadian city of Vancouver, British Columbia; or from Seward, the gateway to Anchorage, Alaska. For luxury cruise lovers and Seabourn’s loyal past passenger base, the return is a welcome one.
“Seabourn’s return to Alaska has been a long time coming and highly anticipated,” said John Delaney, Seabourn’s senior vice president, global marketing and sales. “We’re looking forward to sharing with our guests the highlights of Alaska, from the mountains and glaciers to the picturesque frontier towns and amazing wildlife. But they’ll also see an uncommon Alaska, a side that few visitors ever get to see. No other line can show them in such ultra-luxury Seabourn style.”
Crystal Cruises will also be sending one ship to Alaska next year for a full Alaska season that begins in June of 2017 and runs through August. Most of these voyages are operated roundtrip from Vancouver aboard the luxe Crystal Serenity. Crystal’s sailings will call at the big three ports of Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan, but they’ll also take time to visit more off-the-beaten-path ports like Prince Rupert, British Columbia.
There’s a lot to like about Alaska in 2017. If you’ve never been before, now is as good a time as any to experience the Last Frontier for yourself. And if you’ve already been, 2017 is shaping up to be a great year to plan your return.