Tuesday, March 1, 2011

"Alaska's Back"

Hubbard Glacier (photo by R. Keefe)
That was the message that Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor-in-Chief of CruiseCritic.com wanted to get out at a recent industry event.

And though she never used the name directly, she implied that Alaska's former governor had a big hand in both the drop in cruising to the 49th state and its return.

Under Governor Palin, the state levied a number of taxes on the cruise industry which so angered executives that they pulled ships from Alaskan waters for two summers. Those have since been rescinded and many of the old ships, plus several new ones (see below) are back. The state hasn't recovered its 2008 numbers, when, according to Jay Clarke of the Miami Herald, there were 1.3 million berths available for AK cruises. But they're doing a bit better than last year (there will be some 900,000 berths available to cruisers over the course of the 2011 season).

Interestingly, it may be Sarah Palin's reality TV show on Alaska that fills all of those cabins, as it has raised such interest in the state. It may also be part of the reason Disney is betting on Alaska this year. It will be sending its new ship, the Disney Wonder to the Inside Passage from May through September. Along with it, two small luxury-cruise companies will be debuting, using ships that were once part of the now-defunct Cruise West company.

So far, I'm not seeing great prices on Alaskan cruises. At their lowest levels (in the off-season months of May and September on Carnival and Royal Caribbean), cruises are currently priced at about $100 to $150 a day. That could change though, as we get closer to the season and if airfares start to peak.I'll be sure to watch the prices, and will report any drops that I see.

I highly recommend Clarke's article for a comprehensive look at all the cruise options in the region. For info on discounts, look at VacationsToGo.com, CruisesOnly.com, OnlineVacationCenter or CruiseStar.com.

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