Will The Alaska Cruise Gold Rush Continue?

Bruce Parkinson, Open Jaw

The last two years have seen extraordinarily strong Alaska business, and early indications see that trend continuing in 2018.  And the growth is coming at a time when dramatic changes in Alaska capacity draw near.

Norwegian Bliss is the most talked about addition to Alaska, in part because it's so different from what's up there now, and in part because it's seen as appealing to a different market than Alaska capacity leaders Princess and Holland America Line.

“It’s kind of a new market," one agent told Cruise Week, adding that go-karts in Alaska is not a feature that most Holland America Line clientele would be interested in. Yes, Bliss represents a lot of beds to fill -- 4,004 double occupancy -- but she says that he timing couldn't be better.

Norwegian is perceived by some retailers to be aiming at a younger market than a typical Alaska crowd. Furthermore, some Bliss features, like the expansive observation lounges, are a plus for appreciating Alaska’s natural beauty.

NCL President/CEO Andy Stuart sees growth opportunities for Norwegian in ‘The Last Frontier.’

"This is the first purpose-built brand new ship we have built for cruising in Alaska," he said. "We believe that bringing our newest ship to Alaska will broaden the market, both bringing back past guests of Norwegian, but also attracting a lot of new cruisers to the Norwegian brand."

Another challenger for Alaska business comes in 2019. That's when Royal Caribbean's Ovation of the Seas arrives, in a move that surprised many. It's almost as if Royal asked, why cede this increasingly popular summer family market to Norwegian? It too might entice a different type of consumer, one that would appreciate features like the first robot bartenders on a cruise ship in Alaska.

Also debuting in Alaska in 2019 is Viking, while Cunard will add a series of roundtrip Vancouver 10-day itineraries on Queen Elizabeth. Celebrity announced it will add additional tonnage in 2019, and with Carnival hinting of more to come, it’s plain to see that the cruise lines like their chances of striking more northern gold. 

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