Alaska Cruise Preview

By: Michael Miller

This is for would-be cruisers who had hoped 2006 would be their year for an Alaska cruise – but things didn't quite work out: Not to worry. 2007 is coming and you're not going to miss a thing. Virtually all the lines in the 2006 Alaska cruise trade, with one exception, have announced plans to return to Alaska cruising in year 2007 and it's going to be another blockbuster year up north. Alaska-sized choices will vary from the traditional “Inside Passage" sailings from Seattle and Vancouver – a choice that has pleased travelers for more than a century – to “expedition" sailings as far out as the Aleutian Islands chain. At least two lines have scheduled port calls in Russia.

15 Cruiselines, 45 Ships

At present, 15 companies have announced plans to dispatch 45 large and small cruising vessels. Passengers aboard these vessels will, as usual, cruise steep-walled fjords that make Norwegians homesick. They'll see mammoth glaciers (one of them five miles wide at its face) which “calve" giant thundering, splashing, wave-making icebergs the size of tour buses.

Sealife, Wildlife

Elsewhere, humpback whales will breach in full view then dive only to rise again, sometimes bursting completely out of the water. Travelers may spot white mountain goats negotiating precarious mountainside paths on lofty precipitous cliffs; along forested or rocky shores cruisers may see brown bears or blackies or Sitka black-tailed deer. Too, there are authentic 19th century goldrush towns where visitors can still pan for “color" in creeks and streams. Alaska Native communities and cultural centers offer fascinating glimpses into Alaska's rich human history from centuries past.

Great Variety in Vessels

The ships in Alaska's cruise fleet again vary greatly. They range from large and “mega" floating resorts (guest capacity up to 2,670) down to cruise yachts with staterooms for a pampered dozen. (There are even fewer guests aboard a century-old “tall ship" sailing vessel that accommodates ten.) Too, you can book passage aboard a converted and decidedly upscale former mine sweeper circa World War II, a genuine sternwheel paddle boat, or a completely modern vessel cleverly disguised as a turn-of-the-20th-century coastal packet steamer. Or, if you're a do-it-yourself cruiser you can plan your own itinerary and port calls by booking stateroom space aboard sailings of Alaska's state ferry system. Following are the lines that will dispatch their “ships of summer" to Alaska waters in 2007 along with phone contacts and internet URLs. Many companies offer reduced fares for early bookings.

Lines With Large to Mega Ships

Carnival Cruise Lines, 1-800-CARNIVAL,

Celebrity Cruises, 1-800-437-3111,

Holland America Line, 1-877-SAIL HAL,

Norwegian Cruise Line, 1-800-327-7030,

Princess Cruises, 1-800-PRINCESS,

Royal Caribbean International, 1-800-327-6700,

Mid-Size Vessels

Regent Seven Seas Cruises, 1-800-285-1835,

Smaller Ships

American Safari Cruises, 1-888-862-8881,

The Boat Company, 1-360-697- 4242,

Clipper Cruiseline, 1-800-325-0010,

Cruise West, 1-800-888-9378,

Discovery Voyages, 1-800-324-7602,

Lindblad Expeditions, 1-800-EXPEDITION,

Majestic America Line, 1-800-434-1232,

Maple Leaf Adventures, 1-888-599-5323,

Alaska Ferries

Alaska Marine Highway System, 1-800-642-0066, www.FerryAlaska.com Copyright ? 2006 by Mike Miller; All rights reserved

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