North Sawyer Glacier in Tracy Arm, Alaska.
Photo © Aaron Saunders

Yesterday, approximately 16,000 passengers passed through Vancouver’s Canada Place and Ballantyne piers in the single-busiest day of the Alaska cruise season. 

With the exception of this extraordinary Sunday, the 2010 Alaska season was quieter than most; many ships pulled out in favor of warmer climates or the ballooning European cruise market.  But there was a reprieve earlier this year when a landfall of good news befell the state: the dreaded head tax, which had led to many lines reducing capacity in the region, would be reduced.  To top it off, both Disney Cruise Line and Oceania announced they would begin offering cruises to Alaska, for the first time, starting in 2011.

What does the Alaska 2011 season look like?  Read on.

Carnival Cruise Line
The Fun Ship returns to Alaska in 2011, with Carnival Spirit offering 7-day voyages operating round-trip out of Seattle.  The season is book-ended by a 6-day Alaska voyage from Vancouver to Seattle on May 4, 2011 and a 7-day voyage from Seattle to Vancouver on September 13, 2011.

Glacier Bay continues to be one of the must-see
destinations on any Alaska voyage.
Photo © Aaron Saunders 

Celebrity Cruises
Celebrity also returns to Alaska next year, offering voyages from both Seattle and Vancouver.  Celebrity Century will replace Celebrity Mercury, which leaves the fleet later this year.  The 1995-built Celebrity Century underwent an extensive, top-to-bottom refurbishment in 2006, and represents a good choice for prospective cruisers looking to sail round-trip from Vancouver.  Celebrity Infinity will continue to offer roundtrip voyages out of Seattle, and Celebrity Millennium will operate one-way voyages between Vancouver and Seward.

The historic White Pass Railroad remains
a popular attraction in Skagway, Alaska.
Photo © Aaron Saunders 

Crystal Cruises
 After a five-year hiatus from the Alaska market, upscale line Crystal returns with its Crystal Symphony – taking a far different stance than most lines.  Rather than base a ship in Seattle or Vancouver, Crystal Symphony sails a variety of 12-Night voyages roundtrip from San Francisco – a major plus for those living in or near the Bay area.  Their season, though, is slightly shorter, with cruises in operation from May to late August 2011.

Disney Cruise Line
The event that cruisers young and old are raving about is of course Disney’s announcement that they will be sending Disney Wonder to Alaska for the first time ever.  Sailing roundtrip from Vancouver, it also marks the first time Disney Wonder has left the Atlantic Ocean in her operational history.  With sailings from May to September, these voyages are certain to be some of the most sought-after in the 2011 lineup – and they come with a corresponding price.

Holland America’s Zuiderdam, seen here in Skagway,
returns for the 2011 Alaska season.
Photo © Aaron Saunders 

Holland America Line
Consistently one of the major players in the Alaska market, Holland America certainly doesn’t skimp in its 2011 deployment to the region.  Statendam and Zaandam will operate 7-day North/Southbound voyages between Vancouver and Seward, while Zuiderdam and Volendam will run the traditional 7-day Inside Passage cruises roundtrip from Vancouver.  From Seattle, Oosterdam and Westerdam sail roundtrip, calling in Victoria, BC on their return, and Amsterdam offers a fantastic 14-day roundtrip Seattle voyage we told you about in detail last week.  

 Popular favorite Norwegian Star also returns
for another Alaska season from Seattle.
Photo © Aaron Saunders

Norwegian Cruise Line
While the line may have pulled out of Vancouver, it hasn’t pulled out of the Alaska market entirely: popular favorites Norwegian Pearl and Norwegian Star return to offer a series of compelling cruises sailing roundtrip from Seattle.  The Pearl calls at Glacier Bay, Alaska, while the Norwegian Star gets its glacier fix in Tracy Arm Fjord.

Oceania Cruises
Aside from Disney, the second big newsmaker for 2011 is that boutique line Oceania plans to offer its first cruises to the region.  Regatta will sail a wide array of voyages between 10 and 14 days in length, operating roundtrip San Francisco, roundtrip Vancouver, and one-way between Vancouver and Anchorage.  Like Disney, the novelty of these voyages make them prime candidates to sell out early.

Golden Princess returns again to Alaska,
sailing roundtrip from Seattle, Washington.
Photo © 2010 Aaron Saunders 

Princess Cruises
“The Love Boat” returns to both Vancouver and Seattle in 2011, though there are a few fleet shakeups worth mentioning.  The unique 14-day roundtrip voyage from Seattle offered in 2009 and 2010 is gone, but the week-long voyages remain.  Coral, Diamond, and Island Princess return to Vancouver to offer 7-day North and Southbound voyages between the Canadian city and Whittier, Alaska.  South of the border in Seattle, Golden and Sapphire Princess offer week-long voyages roundtrip.  Rounding out the mix are a series of 10-day voyages from San Francisco aboard Sea Princess.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Seven Seas Navigator, which took over from former mainstay Seven Seas Mariner in 2010, returns for another run at the northernmost state next year.   Unlike most other lines, Navigator‘s voyages are tougher to pin down: the ship operates a wide variety of itineraries, including San Francisco to Vancouver, Vancouver to Anchorage and vice versa, and Vancouver to San Francisco.

 In 2011, cruise lines will once again call in
Wrangell, Alaska – home to Petroglyph Beach.
Photo © Aaron Saunders

Royal Caribbean
For the most part, The Nation of Why Not keeps its fleet deployment pretty much the same as this year, with Radiance of the Seas offering North/Southbound cruises between Vancouver and Seward, and Rhapsody of the Seas sailing roundtrip out of Seattle.  The line hasn’t offered a roundtrip Vancouver cruise since Serenade of the Seas left the region at the end of the 2009 Alaska season.

Silversea Cruises
Last but definitely not least, Silversea’s popular Silver Shadow returns for another season cruising Alaskan waters.  In 2011, Silversea plans to operate a series of week-long voyages between Vancouver and Anchorage and vice-versa.  On May 30, 2011, Silver Shadow operates one unique 10-day journey between Anchorage and Vancouver and calling at far-flung Valdez, Alaska along the way.  To see our complete photo-tour of the ultra-luxurious Silver Shadow, click here.

Regardless of what style of cruising you prefer, one thing is certain: the 2011 Alaska cruise season features voyages to suit every taste and style, and holds the promise of better times ahead for the industry as a whole.


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