Tourism in Alaska continued to grow during 2015, reaching an all-time high of 1.78 million out-of-state visitors between May and September 2015 and is expected to keep rising.
With the abundance on new tours, cruise ship offerings, services and restaurants, it is no wonder why tourists are choosing Alaska.
As the second-largest cruise market in North America, Alaska is predicting a quality cruise return in 2016 with 30 large cruise ships scheduled to call in Alaska. The addition of seven new ships brings an increased opportunity to cruise to Alaska along with options for new and longer itineraries:
- New to the Alaska market this year is Crystal Serenity carrying 1,080 passengers on eight voyages, Explorer of Seas with 3,100 passengers making 17 voyages, Island Princess with 1,992 passengers making 18 voyages, Maasdam carrying 1,266 passengers making nine voyages, Nieuw Amsterdam with 2,100 making 22 voyages, Seven Seas Mariner with 700 passenger making 15 voyages and Sun Princess with 1,950 passengers and making one voyage. (cliaalaska.org). Three larger cruise ships are entering Alaska in 2016 and options for longer itineraries. Royal Caribbean will deploy Radiance of the Seas and Jewel of the Seas, both carrying more than 2,000 passengers each. (http://www.royalcaribbean.com) Dutch Harbor will be the first and last call of the year, the Crystal Serenity arrived April 23 and the Volendam leaves October 5. The ships are projected to bring in 1,013,00 passengers to Alaska.
- NEW ITINERARIES: Embark on an adventure north from Alaska through the Arctic with Crystal Cruises. New for 2016, depart on a 32-day expeditionary voyage from Anchorage to New York City with ports of call including Kodiak, Dutch Harbor and Nome in Alaska; Ulukhaktok, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Canada; Greenland; Bar Harbor, Maine; Boston; Newport, Rhode Island; and New York City. (http://bit.ly/1PjPVc7)
- NEW DOCKS: The new Icy Strait Point dock received its first call of the season and is expected to welcome 160,000 passengers this summer. The new 400-foot floating pier will improve accessibility for cruise ships by allowing them to dock right at the port without having to tender passengers. It is designed for year-round operation, maximizing its use by the coastal community (icystraitpoint.com). Juneau will also be opening the first of two new Panamax docks for the cruise season, each capable of handling a 1,000-foot ship.
The brewery and distillery scene is continuing to grow throughout the state, giving visitors an abundance of opportunities to taste these Alaska-made craft beverages. Odd Man Rush Brewing in Eagle River, Alaska, is a small neighborhood craft brewery providing unique ales that reflect local tastes (http://oddmanrushbrewing.com/). Bearpaw River Brewing Company, located in Wasilla, Alaska, is run by four local brothers with a passion for fresh, original beer. Offerings include an English Ale, American IPAs, a stout and a Belgian Ale (http://www.bearpawriverbrewing.com). Seward Brewing Company, opened late in 2015, provides Seward with inventive local craft beer, inspiring meals and impeccable service(http://www.sewardbrewery.com). Amalga Distillery in Juneau, Alaska, is set to open summer 2016 and offer single malt whiskey (www.amalgadistillery.com). Double Shovel Cider Company, set to open summer 2016 in Anchorage, is Alaska’s first micro-cidery. The cider company will offer hard ciders crafted from hand-picked Alaska apples, berries and syrups along with Washington apples (http://www.doubleshovelcider.co/).
New tours and offerings
- Rust’s Flying Service is now offering bear viewing tours all summer long. The new Chinitna Bay Bear Viewing experience takes guests to the southern end of Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, home to a multitude of brown bears. Travel by foot and 4WD where brown bears are most active and witness as they dig for clams, sun on the beach or feed in the meadow (http://www.flyrusts.com/bear-viewing/chinitna-bay-bear-viewing.html).
- Liquid Adventures, a sister company of Exit Glacier Guides, is offering a new full-day Holgate Glacier kayak excursion. The day begins with a wildlife cruise as travelers make their way from the Seward harbor to Holgate glacier. Once at the glacier, set off on kayak to explore the waters of Holgate Arm while gliding past floating ice and calving glaciers (http://www.liquid-adventures.com/).
- Big Swig Tours takes guests on a unique exploration of craft breweries near Anchorage and new this year is the Hops on the Rails and Anchorage Bike and Brew tours. The Anchorage Bike and Brews tour journey begins in downtown Anchorage where the “hoperator” transports guests to Kincaid Park for an 11-mile bike ride along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. During the afternoon, beer lovers will go behind the scenes of Midnight Sun Brewing Co., King Street Brewery and Chilkoot Charlie’s. The Hops on the Rail tour begins in Anchorage aboard the Alaska Railroad bound to Talkeetna where travelers will be escorted to local breweries including Denali Brewing Co., Arkose Brewery, Bearpaw River Brewing Co., Odd Man Rush and Resolution Brewing Co (http://www.bigswigtours.com/).
- Denali Park Zipline is introducing ziplining to Denali National Park and Preserve this summer. Visitors begin the day with a three-mile ride through the Alaska wilderness where six suspension bridges and eight ziplines await (http://www.denalizipline.com/).
For more information on traveling in Alaska, visit www.TravelAlaska.com.