Alaska Cruise Race Heating Up

The first All-Alaska Sweepstakes was over 100 years ago. It was a dog race, not to be confused with Alaska’s famous Iditarod. Its home is in Nome, a place you probably don’t want to go at this time of year, on the far reaches of west Alaska. The race has been run only 12 times,  most recently in 2008.

There is a different kind of Alaska Sweepstakes underway once again and this one is cruisers, not mushers.

Norwegian is upping its ante in Alaska. The Norwegian Sun, a ship for which we’ll always have a soft spot after spending 19 days on her, is increasing NCL’s Alaskan fleet by 50%. From two ships to three. This comes in 2013, and in response to renewed interest in Alaska cruises. It also comes four years after Norwegian pulled its third ship out of Alaska.

Our impression is that when it comes to Alaska, Princess is the industry leader, in part because it has invested heavily in land excursions and lodges. NCL’s enhancements in 2013 includes land packages of four to six days, for the first time. Obviously NCL noticed the success Princess was enjoying.

But a little perspective is important, too.

In 2012, the alleged “big six” of the cruise lines — Royal Caribbean, Princess, Celebrity, Norwegian, Carnival and Holland America — will sell 342 cruises either to or from Alaska. Holland America is the leader in cruises with 126, Princess will have 72 and Celebrity 53. Only Carnival (20) will have fewer cruises than Norwegian’s 34.

In 2013, if the other five cruise lines remain the same, adding the Sun will move NCL into fourth place, a cruise or two behind Celebrity.

Holland America will have seven ships in Alaska next year. Princess will have four, Celebrity three, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian two each and Carnival one. There are more upscale cruise lines that also sail Alaska — like Regent Seven Seas, Crystal, Silversea and Disney — but not with the same volume of passengers as the mainstream lines.

So there is plenty of choice if you’re interested in an Alaska cruise, and anybody who has never been should be interested.

Just don’t expect any of them to take you to Nome, even if the weather is bearable.

DAILY DEAL:
Coral Princess
14 nights
December 20, 2011
Los Angeles to Fort Lauderdale: Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Aruba
Inside $1,499
www.princess.com

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