Royal Caribbean sells a mass-market style of cruising that's reasonably priced and offered aboard informal, well-run ships with nearly every diversion imaginable -- craft classes, horse racing, bingo, shuffleboard, deck games, line-dancing lessons, wine-and-cheese tastings, cooking demonstrations, art auctions, and the like -- plus elaborate health clubs and spas; covered swimming pools; large, open sun deck areas; and innumerable bars, lounges, and other entertainment centers. The Viking Crown Lounge and other glassed-in areas make excellent observation rooms from which to see the Alaska sights. Royal Caribbean spends big bucks on entertainment, which includes high-tech show productions. Headliners are often featured. Port lectures are offered on topics such as Alaska wildlife, and the line offers dozens of adventurous shore excursions. The line's children's activities are some of the most extensive afloat. The line offers 7-night Sawyer Glacier and Gulf of Alaska cruises.
Passenger Profile -- The crowd on Royal Caribbean ships, like the decor, rates pretty high on the party scale, though not quite at the Carnival level. Passengers represent an age mix from 30 to 60, and a good number of families are attracted by the line's well-established and fine-tuned kids' programs (the line's ships are a particularly good bet for tweens and teens, who love such trademark Royal Caribbean decktop offerings as climbing walls and miniature golf).
Ships -- Royal Caribbean owns the largest ships in the world, including the much-ballyhooed, 225,282-ton Oasis of the Seas, which set a new record for size when it debuted in December 2009. Although this groundbreaking 5,400-passenger ship -- which includes such innovative design features as an open-air Central Park with live trees, an outdoor AquaTheater for water shows, and onboard zip-lining -- is not in Alaska this year, Royal Caribbean does offer the very up-to-date 90,000-ton, 2,112-passenger Radiance of the Seas, sailing Gulf of Alaska cruises between Vancouver, B.C., and Seward. Also returning to Alaska in 2012 is the older (1997) but still up-to-date 1,998-passenger Rhapsody of the Seas, a Vision-class ship cruising out of Seattle. Sample nightly rates per person: Lowest-price inside cabin on the Radiance $78; lowest outside cabin $157; lowest suite $264 for a 7-night cruise.