After a nonexistent 2020 season and an abbreviated 2021 season, Alaska travel is gearing up across the board for a return to normal. Cruise lines expect to be back with a full slate of sailings, bringing up to 1.5 million passengers to Alaska’s coastal communities. Elsewhere there are hotel happenings, anniversary celebrations and destination developments across the state. All this is subject to a couple of important caveats: Will COVID force another pullback of travel operations? Will Transport Canada allow cruise ships into Canadian ports? Here’s a look at what’s new for Alaska in 2022, assuming all goes as planned:
Princess Cruises leads the charge with six MedallionClass ships, featuring the Discovery Princess, the line’s newest ship and the youngest sailing in Alaska. Altogether Princess offers 12 cruise itineraries, 25 cruise-tour options and a choice of four embarkation points including Seattle, Vancouver, Whittier and San Francisco.
Norwegian Cruise Line sends five ships to Alaska for the first time ever: The Norwegian Bliss, Norwegian Encore, Norwegian Sun, Norwegian Jewel and Norwegian Spirit sail five- to 11-day cruises departing Seattle, Seward and Vancouver. Longer repositioning cruises to begin and end the season also are scheduled, such as 16-day voyages between Alaska and Hawaii or Japan.
Royal Caribbean International fields its first four-ship Alaska deployment. Two Quantum-class ships—the Ovation of the Seas and Quantum of the Seas—sail seven-day cruises roundtrip from Seattle. Two Radiance-class ships—the Radiance of the Seas and Serenade of the Seas—sail one-way, seven-day Gulf of Alaska cruises between Seward and Vancouver.
Carnival Cruise Line returns with three ships sailing the Inside Passage. The Carnival Spirit and Carnival Splendor depart on six- to eight-day cruises from Seattle, while the Carnival Miracle sails on 10-day cruises from San Francisco.
Windstar Cruises introduces the newly transformed, all-suite Star Breeze on itineraries as short as seven days. The Star Breeze features a whole new look since its lengthening with new suites and expanded restaurant facilities, plus an enlarged pool and spa.
Hurtigruten resumes its Alaska expedition cruises with a series of 14- and 18-day itineraries to the Aleutian Islands and Inside Passage. The Roald Amundsen remains the only hybrid, battery-powered ship in the region.
Lindblad Expeditions adds two ships to its Alaska fleet for a total of five vessels. The National Geographic Sea Bird, Sea Lion, Quest, Venture and Orion will sail eight itineraries of six to 15 days exploring the Inside Passage and Bering Sea.
American Queen Voyages (the new name for American Queen Steamboat Company, which includes Victory Cruise Lines) debuts Alaska expeditions with 12- and 13-day journeys aboard the brand-new Ocean Victory—one of a new generation of expedition ships featuring an x-bow for comfort and spacious staterooms with private balconies. Rail-tour extensions are available through Rocky Mountaineer.
Alyeska Resort, located 40 miles south of Anchorage, plans to open Alaska’s first-ever Nordic spa. Facilities will include a variety of indoor/outdoor hydrotherapy pools, steam rooms and saunas, plus an on-site wellness bistro.
The Anchorage Marriott has received a top-to-bottom facelift, upgrading its public spaces, dining areas and all 392 guest rooms. The renovation drew inspiration from the beauty of Alaska’s great outdoors that lies at the doorstep of the state’s largest city.
The Gustavus Inn at Glacier Bay reopens under new Native ownership by the Hoonah Indian Association and will once again serve as a base for visitors to experience Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.
Glacier Bay Lodge reopens in May, offering the only overnight lodging accommodations within the boundaries of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. Activities include a day-boat tour of the park’s tidewater glaciers or a visit to the Huna Tribal House, where Huna Tlingit guides share their ancestral connection to the land.
John Hall’s Alaska celebrates 40 years of bringing visitors to Alaska with an expanded lineup of itineraries. The family-owned company specializes in fully guided, inclusive cruises and tours and is Adventure Green certified for being environmentally responsible.
The Iditarod Sled Dog Race takes off for the 50th time on March 5 in Anchorage on its traditional route after an abbreviated course last year. The winner will cross the finish line some two weeks later in Nome—a historic journey of about 1,000 miles.
Holland America Line commemorates 75 years of bringing travelers to Alaska—longer than any other cruise line—with special programming aboard six ships. Three-, four- or seven-day cruises can be combined with land options as far afield as the Canadian Yukon for a total of 16 different Land+Sea Journeys.
Icy Strait Point opens its Mountain Top Gondola at the new Wilderness Landing complex, leading to hiking trails and scenic overlooks. This will be the second high-speed gondola in Alaska, joining the destination’s transporter gondola that began operation in 2021.
Whittier welcomes two new ships from Holland America Line, the Nieuw Amsterdam and Noordam, on turnaround calls from June through September. HAL joins sister line Princess in using Whittier as the northern terminus for its Gulf of Alaska cruises.
Travel Juneau and UnCruise Adventures have joined together to promote Juneau’s “Ironman” triathlon competition on August 7. UnCruise will be the exclusive small-ship partner for the event, offering a 12-night VIP post-race adventure cruise of the Inside Passage and Glacier Bay.
Ketchikan’s new Ward Cove docking facility north of town will be in full swing after a soft opening last year. Ships from Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International are among those scheduled to call.
Sitka anticipates a surge of cruise passengers thanks to its new 40,000-square-foot cruise terminal. The first call is scheduled for May 2 when Radiance of the Seas visits. The terminal features a restaurant, tap room with locally brewed beer, locally owned retail shops and a staging area for shore excursions.
Fairbanks expects a big boost in arrivals as cruise passengers, which make up 41 percent of its summertime visitors, return after a prolonged absence. Almost 250,000 cruise passengers rode the train to Fairbanks in 2019. That dropped to zero the past two years.
For more information on visiting Alaska for 2022—including the latest COVID guidelines—visit the Alaska Travel Industry Association’s website at www.travelalaska.com.
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