Thank you for subscribing!
Got it! Thank you!

What's New in Alaska Cruising in 2002

An update for our popular guide to Alaskan cruises.

Just like the glaciers, the world of Alaska travel is always changing. New ships come, and others go. Hotels open, and others change hands. Cruise lines add new shore excursions and land packages and enhance their onboard offerings. And in our travels, we discover new places of interest. In writing this book we've tried to keep track of the latest and greatest.

The following are some of the highlights.


The big news for 2002 is the introduction of the biggest ship ever to cruise Alaska waters, the 109,000-ton, 2,600-passenger Star Princess. She will join an already big fleet that was expanded still further in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks when several lines, based on a belief that passengers may prefer to stay closer to home, moved ships that had been scheduled to cruise in Europe to Alaska instead. Holland America and Princess both added a ship, bringing their number of vessels in the Alaska market to six each. (Holland America added its flagship Amsterdam on weeklong itineraries from Seattle, and Princess is bringing back the Regal Princess on 10-night cruises from San Francisco.) Celebrity, which had planned to deploy the Mercury in Europe, returned the ship, instead, to Alaska, where it had been for several years previously.

Luxury line Seabourn also said it would return to Alaska following a five-year absence, diverting its Seabourn Spirit from previously planned Mediterranean cruises. In the luxury end, this means passengers will have more options than ever before, with Seabourn offering a formal cruising experience on a small ship, Crystal doing the same on a bigger ship, and Radisson offering a more casual brand of luxury.

Four extra ships may not seem like a lot, but think of it these terms: It's 6,058 berths that nobody expected to be available. This means more competition in the market, which promises (a) to make life difficult for cruise-line marketers and (b) to produce what may be some incredible bargains for consumers as the cruise lines do battle along price lines.

Cruise lines also moved ships around a tad. Radisson Seven Seas, for instance, is bringing back to the market the all-suite Seven Seas Navigator, which replaces the bigger all-suite, all-balcony cabin Seven Seas Mariner, the line's ship in the Alaska market in 2001. (The Mariner is scheduled to cruise Europe in 2002.) Royal Caribbean is bringing its beautiful new Radiance of the Seas back to Alaska for a second year, where it will be joined by the older megaship Legend of the Seas. (Interestingly, both the Radiance, introduced in 2001, and Legend, introduced in 1995, were the first in their respective classes.)

In small ship news, American Safari Cruises adds a 12-passenger yacht, expanding its fleet to three vessels. Cruise West in 2001 retired the Spirit of Glacier Bay. And Alaska's Glacier Bay Tours & Cruises officially changed its name to Glacier Bay Cruiseline.

Onboard Changes

Cruise lines, of course, did all sorts of tweaking of their onboard products. Among the more noteworthy changes, Carnival introduced on its Carnival Spirit a new tipping policy in which passengers are automatically charged $9.75 per day.

Educationally-oriented World Explorer introduced an enhanced education program on its Universe Explorer that offers a series of classes for up to 40 participants and field trips personally guided by experts. T fee for the program is $180-$240 per person.)

With the Star Princess, Princess introduces to its Alaska fleet reservations-only alternative dining, with the ship boasting both upscale Italian and Mexican venues. (A fee is charged at both.)

A new casual dining option, in the form of an open-air grill, was introduced on the Crystal Harmony. And Glacier Bay's Wilderness Discoverer now boasts four recently added suites (the first such accommodations in that line's fleet).


The big news for Alaska cruisetours in 2002 is Princess' addition of optional add-on land tours to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, previously a rather inaccessible area, where Princess is building a new hotel (see below).

You'll see us talking more about Royal Caribbean/Celebrity's new land programs introduced in 2001. Jerry tried them, twice taking the company's new domed railcar between Anchorage and Fairbanks, by way of Denali Park, and was very impressed.

And World Explorer introduced a new Canadian Rockies rail tour program, from Calgary to Vancouver, available as a pre- or post-cruise option.


Princess plans to open in the spring, just in time for the 2002 season, its new 85-room Copper River Princess Wilderness Lodge. The property is in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, where Princess will also offer a new series of land tours.

And note these hotel name updates: The Regal Alaskan in Anchorage is now the Millennium Alaskan; Hotel Vancouver and the Waterfront Hotel in Vancouver are now The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver and The Fairmont Waterfront Hotel; the Baranof Hotel in Juneau is now the Westmark Baranof Hotel; and the Empress Hotel in Victoria (B.C.), one of the Pacific Northwest's (if not the world's) greatest addresses, is now The Fairmont Empress Hotel.

We've also added the Seward Windsong Lodge in Seward because the property offers incredible views as the only lodge in Kenai Fjords National Park.


Not a new attraction, but new in our book, for those who want to venture out of Vancouver is the touristy but fun Capilano Suspension Bridge (a narrow, high-up crossing of the Capilano River in North Vancouver). We've also added as organized tour options in Vancouver: Vancouver Stanley Park Horse-Drawn Tours, a firm that, as the name implies, offers horse-drawn tours of gorgeous Stanley Park; and Vancouver Trolley Company, which offers city tours using an old-fashioned street trolley.

In Victoria, we tried and liked a tour in a classic convertible on a beautiful sunny day, and that's why we've added the new tour option of Classic Car Tours. And because Fran's brother and sister-in-law particularly enjoyed it, we've added in Victoria the Miniature World attraction, located in back of The Fairmont Empress Hotel.

In Sitka, there's the additional organized tour option of a cultural tour by Native American-run Tribal Tours. In Skagway, we describe the new home and collection of the Skagway Museum & Archives. And in Valdez, we've added the Valdez Museum Annex, which is slightly off the beaten path--if you can be off the beaten path in such a small town. (It's four blocks from the main Valdez Museum.)

Shore Excursions

We're pretty excited about some of the new shore excursion options in Alaska, although we haven't gotten to try them all yet. These including a snorkeling adventure in Ketchikan ($79, including the use of an insulating wetsuit), a rain-forest walk in Juneau ($60-$64), horseback riding outside of Skagway ($120-$139), a bike excursion in Haines ($42), and sport-fishing in Valdez ($129), which, despite its fame as an oil-spill capital, offers some excellent fishing opportunities.

Glacier Bay

There was great debate at press time over how many ships should be allowed to visit Glacier Bay, based on concerns over the environmental impact. We detail the latest as we know it. The issue, of course, is the effect of ship traffic on the wildlife of the bay. And the question is how many permits the National Park Service will be allowed to issue. A federal court ruled last summer that access should be reduced by about 30, which caused a late season diversion of a few ships to Icy Straits, Hubbard Glacier, and other alternative spots. The lines hope that Congress will reverse the court's decision in time to allow them to operate a full schedule of Glacier Bay visits this year. But that's by no means certain. Whether the ship you're on will get to travel there remains to be seen (no matter what it says in the brochure). But don't worry, there are plenty of other fabulous glaciers to see. (You won't miss much if you skip Glacier Bay.)

Reader's Suggestion

We do listen, and one reader pointed out that small ships have tipping guidelines that can be different from those of big ships. So to help avoid any confusion, we've included a guideline on how to tip on a small ship in Frommer's Alaska Cruises & Ports of Call 2002 in chapter 6.