Cruising Alaska: A Guide to the Ships & Ports of Call 7th ed. by Norton and Clark - Read Online
Cruising Alaska
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This unique cruise guide offers concise, easy-to-read information on every vessel plying the popular Alaska region. Ship facts include stateroom size, dining options, passenger/crew ratio, crew nationality, ship registry and even when the last refurbishme
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ISBN: 9781588438188
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Cruising Alaska

7th Edition

Clark Norton

Hunter Publishing, Inc.

Acknowledgements

I want to give special thanks to those who helped make my researches more productive and enjoyable: Mike Miller of AlaskaCruisingReport.com; Elizabeth Arnett of the Juneau Convention & Visitors Bureau; Gordon Thorne, Susan Kelly, Amy Venema and the entire crew of American Safari Cruises; my favorite Aussie fellow travelers, Richard and Anne Church and Rob and Jill Robertson; Mike Frey, for pulling me out of the mud in Glacier Bay, and Diane Frey, for waking Mike up; talented NPS ranger Emily Mount for her insights into Glacier National Park; fellow New Yorker James Duffy for his wit and grit; Tim Gallagher, Vance Gullicksen and Joyce Oliva of Carnival Cruise Lines; Elizabeth Jakeway of Celebrity Cruises; Rose Abello and Mary Schimmelman of Holland America; AnneMarie Matthews, Courtney Recht and Susan Robison of Norwegian Cruise Line; Susanne Ferrull, Julie Benson and Karen Candy of Princess Cruises; Lynn Martenstein, Tracy Quan and Lyan Sierra-Caro of Royal Caribbean International; Dena DiOrio of Crystal Cruises; Brian Major and Andrew Poulton of Regent Seven Seas; Brad Ball of Silversea; Wendy Hooper-Greenhill of Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, who sustained me with Twiglets; Jerrol Golden and Terence Gallagher of Cruise West; my friends Peter Knego of Maritime Matters and Steve Kravitz of the Niche Cruise Marketing Alliance; and Lanie Fagan and Dawn Weissman at the Cruise Lines International Association. Many thanks also (for their trust and patience) to Kim Andre and Michael Hunter of Hunter Publishing, and finally to my supportive family, especially those who have accompanied me on cruises to Alaska: Catharine, Grael, Lia, Mary Beth, Mary E. and Clark F. Norton.

Preface 


Where would we take my parents for their 50th wedding anniversary? One destination quickly popped to mind: My mother and father had already traveled to 49 states; Alaska would be their 50th. And with seven of us  -  including my 70-something parents, my sister, my wife, and our two then-preteen kids - set to make the trip, we chose the one mode of transport guaranteed to please three generations: a cruise through southeastern Alaska's Inside Passage. 

It worked out beautifully. As we sailed north on a seven-night Royal Caribbean International ship out of Vancouver, each generation was able to pursue its own interests onboard. My parents seemed determined to partake in every shipboard activity geared toward anyone over school age - from power-walking the ship's jogging track (dressed in their sweats) to attending lectures on Alaska's natural wonders (taking copious notes) to applauding the stage shows offered in the evenings (some of them corny and amateurish, sure - but free!). My parents even participated in a shipboard version of the Newlywed Game, in which they were the token oldieweds (enough said about that). 

My kids - son Grael, age 11, and daughter Lia, age eight - immersed themselves in the supervised children's programs, which kept them busy with arts and crafts projects, games, and parties. Grael also sang in the shipboard talent show, performing his soprano version of Shenandoah that he had honed during his years with a boys chorus. Meanwhile my sister, my wife, and I took advantage of a week at sea - and the kids being otherwise occupied - to sit on deck reading, absorbing the scenery, watching for whales and eagles, and enjoying the late-August breezes. I also volunteered to organize the shipboard table tennis tournament - and still lost. We had plenty of family time together as well, joining up for three multi-course meals a day in the dining room, including one salmon dinner capped appropriately by baked Alaska, another by a celebratory wedding anniversary cake. We exploring every port call as a group. 

On this cruise, we stopped at Ketchikan, Skagway, Haines and Juneau, four of the most colorful and scenic ports along the Inside Passage, the protected waterway that wends its way past islands, villages, glaciers, fjords and mountain peaks. With seven of us, we couldn't afford most of the pricey official shore excursions, so we happily made do with strolling through the towns, soaking up the local color and pausing from time to time to browse through museums or souvenir shops. In Ketchikan, which exudes a frontier, almost Wild West atmosphere, we discovered parks and museums filled with totem poles, and intriguing wooden walkways that crossed creeks and led to twisting back alleyways. Skagway was another atmospheric frontier-style town, where we hiked out to a Gold Rush-era cemetery, peered into old-time saloons, and watched salmon spawning in a stream. Tiny Haines, just south of Skagway, occupies one of the most beautiful settings in the entire state, while the modern, bustling capital of Juneau is home to a nearby glacier, a mountain tramway, a Russian Orthodox church and the Alaska State Museum. 

We did splurge on one organized shore excursion, and it was a good one: the famous White Pass and Yukon Railroad out of Skagway. This vintage narrow-gauge railway climbs to the 2,865-foot White Pass summit following an 1890s-era Gold Rush trail to the Yukon, complete with views of waterfalls, gorges, and trestles. During the three-hour, 40-mile ride, passengers sit in parlor cars while listening to narrated Gold Rush tales. But some of the most memorable sights of the trip were visible right from the ship's deck. In Tracy Arm fjord, which the captain maneuvered about expertly, we were treated to close-up views of ice-blue glaciers, sheer cliffs, floating icebergs and cascading waterfalls. And when we saw a glacier calving - with huge chunks of ice breaking off and plunging into the water, creating a thundering roar that echoed down the narrow fjord - the entire shipload of passengers broke into a collective chorus of oohs and aahs.

That cruise was some years ago, and, while there have been changes on the Alaska cruising scene since then (see What's New in Alaska Cruising, below), much of what we discovered there remains. Recently back from my latest Alaska cruise - this one an adventure-oriented American Safari Cruises small-ship voyage through Glacier Bay and some lesser-known parts of the Inside Passage - I was struck once again by how the powerful allure of Alaska never seems to fade, no matter how many times one returns. Alaska's combination of scenic splendor, raw nature, native cultures, Gold Rush history, and extraordinary wildlife continues to seduce even the most jaded travelers, making it no surprise that Alaska has exploded in popularity as a cruise destination over the past two decades. Where else can Americans cruise through such an exotic wilderness without having to leave the country? Alaska cruises also make sense for practical reasons. Most ship itineraries last one week, long enough to really get away from it all but short enough to sustain everyone's interest throughout.  Most departures are from Seattle or Vancouver, B.C. (a few are from California), so North Americans don't have to cross an ocean to get there. And because of its far-north weather, the cruising season neatly coincides with summer vacation time - from May to mid-September, with peak season from June through August - when Alaskan temperatures average from the 50s up to the mid-70s. 

A few things to keep in mind: High demand, combined with a short season, means that Alaska cruises have traditionally been priced higher than those in Mexico or the Caribbean. Last-minute discounts may also be hard to come by, although in 2009's economic downturn, at least, they were plentiful. Generally speaking, though, to be assured of securing space on the ship you want, it's wise to book an Alaska cruise in January or February (especially if you require family-sized cabins in mid-summer). 

You have plenty of options: some 40 ships on 14 different lines - totaling hundreds of sailings - sailed Alaska itineraries in 2009. (You can also travel the Alaska Marine Highway system, ferries that make numerous stops and allow you to get on and off where and when you please; we cover that in Part 2 of this book.) Besides the ports that my family visited on that first Alaska voyage, many Inside Passage cruises include the historic town of Sitka, capital of 19th-century Russian colonial Alaska, with its colorful onion-domed churches and native Tlingit heritage. You can also venture beyond the Inside Passage north to the Gulf of Alaska, home of Prince William Sound, Kenai Fjords National Park, and the towns of Seward, Whittier, and Cordova as well as nearby Anchorage. Some ships even roam as far northwest as the Aleutian Islands and Russia. 

No matter where you go in Alaska, you'll take in sights that are found nowhere else in the country. But the way you see them - the vantage point and the experience - can vary greatly, depending largely on which type of ship you choose, particularly its size. Alaska cruise ships range from small yachts that carry a dozen passengers to mega-ships capable of hauling 2,500 people or more. For many cruisers, the larger ships, operated by Carnival, Celebrity, Norwegian, Holland America, Princess and Royal Caribbean cruise lines, have a lot to recommend them. Averaging around 2,000 passengers, they're geared toward satisfying a wide variety of tastes - visiting the most popular ports and serving up near-round-the-clock food and entertainment - and are loaded with shipboard activities of every type. The big ships also tend to be relatively easy on the budget, averaging much lower basic cruise rates than small ships. They tempt passengers with attractive shore excursions such as lumberjack shows, Tlingit dance exhibitions, salmon bakes, gold panning, dog sledding, glacial river floating and even bear-watching by floatplane. Keep in mind that while organized shore excursions can add a lot to a cruise experience, they can also add a lot to your expenses. 

At the other end of the spectrum, much smaller expedition-stylevessels, such as those operated by American Safari Cruises, Lindblad Expeditions, Cruise West, Discovery Voyages and others, offer a more adventurous cruising experience. Accompanied by naturalists and carrying no more than 120 passengers - often far fewer - these more maneuverable ships can visit out-of-the-way islands, ports, and inlets that the bigger ships can't reach. On many, passengers can board Zodiacs or kayaks to get even closer to whales and other attractions. Expect to pay handsomely for all this personal attention; small ships often come at luxury-line prices. And if you're just seeking plain old-fashioned luxury, you can opt for lines like Regent Seven Seas or Silversea, which have mid-size ships (400 to 700 passengers) and plenty of onboard amenities. We'll explore all of these options in greater depth later in the book. 

Contents 

Preface 

Part I: Introduction to Alaska & Cruising 

Cruising: A Hot Travel Trend 

What's New in Alaska Cruising 

A Brief Survey of Alaska 

Facts 

Alaskan Superlatives 

Geography 

Alaska's Parklands 

Alaskan History 

Alaskan People &Culture 

Alaskan Wildlife 

Part 2: Cruise Lines & Their Ships 

Setting Priorities 

Choosing the Right Cruise Line  

Selecting a Ship 

Settling on a Stateroom  

Alaska Cruising Itineraries 

Evaluating the Itineraries 

The Cruise Lines 

Interpreting the Ship Statistics 

Mainstream/Big Ship Lines 

Luxury Lines 

Small Ship/Expedition-Style Lines 

Other Lines (Segments of World Cruises) 

Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) 

Part 3: Onboard Sightseeing 

The Frozen World Of Glaciers 

Icebergs - Glacier Offpsring 

The Inside Passage  

Misty Fjords National Monument 

Tracy & Endicott Arms 

Lynn Canal  

Glacier Bay National Park  

Prince William Sound  

College Fjord 

Part 4: Ports of Call 

Options in Port 

Cruise Ship Shore Excursions 

Independent Organized Shore Excursions 

Exploring the Port On Your Own 

Inside Passage Ports 

Ketchikan 

Tourist Information  

Arrival 

Getting Around  

Internet Access 

A Day in Ketchikan  

Totem Poles - Silent Storytellers 

Other Attractions 

Entertainment 

Festivals 

Shopping 

Organized Excursions 

Sitka 

Travel Information 

Arrival  

Getting Around  

Internet access  

A Day in Sitka  

Other Sights 

Entertainment 

Festivals 

Shopping 

Sports & Recreation 

Juneau 

Travel Information 

Arrival 

Getting Around 

Internet Access 

A Day in Juneau 

Other Museums & Historic Attractions 

Food- & Drink-Related Attractions 

Attractions Outside Town  

Entertainment  

Shopping 

Sports & Recreation 

Skagway 

Travel Information  

Arrival  

Getting Around 

Entertainment  

Out-of-Town Excursions 

Shopping 

Sports & RcreationPorts of Call 

Cruise Ship Shore Excursions 

Less-Visited Inside Passage Ports  

Haines 

Travel Information 

Arrival 

Day Trip from Skagway 

Getting Around  

Internet Access 

A Day in Haines 

Festivals 

Attractions Outside Town  

Shopping 

Sports & Recreation 

Cruise Ship Shore Excursions 

Icy Strait Point 

Travel Information 

Arrival 

Getting Around 

A Day in Icy Strait Point 

Shopping 

Cruise Ship Shore Excursions 

Petersburg 

Travel Information 

Arrival 

Getting Around 

A Day in Petersburg 

Shopping 

Sports & Recreation 

Excursion to LeConte Glacier 

Wrangell 

Travel Information 

Arrival 

Getting Around 

Sightseeing 

Festivals  

Shopping 

Sports & Recreation 

Excursions 

Gulf of Alaska Ports 

Anchorage 

Travel Information 

Arrival & Departure 

Getting Around 

Internet Access 

A Day in Anchorage 

Museums 

Museums & Other Attractions Outside Town 

Public Art 

Parks 

Entertainment 

Shopping 

Sports & Recreation 

Cordova

Travel Information 

Arrival 

Getting Around 

A Day in Cordova 

Attractions Outside Town 

Sports & Recreation 

Homer 

Travel Information 

Arrival 

Getting Around  

A Day in Homer 

Shopping 

Sports & Recreation 

Kodiak 

Travel Information 

Arrival 

Getting Around 

Internet Access 

A Day in Kodiak 

Out of Town Attractions 

Shopping 

Sports & Recreation  

Seward & Kenai Fiords National Park 

Travel Information 

Arrival  

Departures 

Getting Around 

A Day in Seward  

Events 

Out of Town Attractions 

Sports & Recreation 

Kenai Fiords National Park 

Travel Information 

Exit Glacier  

Valdez 

Travel Information 

Arrival 

Getting Around 

Internet Access 

A Day in Valdez 

Sports & Recreation  

Whittier 

Travel Information 

Arrival  

Getting Around  

A Day in Whittier 

Cultural Attractions 

Sports & Recreation 

British Columbia (Canada) Ports 

Prince Rupert, BC 

Travel Information 

Arrival 

Getting Around 

Internet Access 

A Day in Prince Rupert 

Parks 

Out of Town Attractions  

Shopping 

Sports & Recreation 

Victoria, BC 

Travel Information 

Arrival  

Getting Around 

Internet Access 

A Day in Victoria 

Inner Harbor Attractions  

Out of Town Attractions 

Ports of Embarkation 

Seattle  

Travel Information 

Port Information 

Arrival 

Getting Around 

A Day in Seattle 

Vancouver, BC 

Travel Information  

Port Information  

Arrival  

Getting Around  

A Day in Vancouver 

Other Attractions  

North Vancouver 

Shopping 

Sports & Recreation  

Shore Excursions 

San Francisco Port & Visitor Information 

Part 5: Beyond the Cruise 

The Alaska Railroad 

Cruisetour Itineraries  

Bus Tours 

Driving a Car  

North of Anchorage (en Route to Denali)  

Sidetrip: The Matanuska Valley &Palmer  

Approaching Denali 

Denali National Park &Preserve 

Travel Information  

Arrival  

Getting Around   

Wildlife Viewing  

Dog Kennels  

Other Park Recreation   

Fairbanks  

Travel Information   

Arrival  

Getting Around  

Fairbanks Sightseeing  

Out of Town Attractions  

Attractions Farther Out of Town  

Shopping  

Sports & Recreation  

Part I: Introduction to Alaska & Cruising

Cruising: A Hot Travel Trend

With an annual 7.4% growth rate since 1990, and a 2,100% growth rate since 1970, cruising is the fastest-growing segment of the travel industry. Rather than strictly a luxury experience as it may once have been viewed, cruising has become one of the best deals in all of travel. Whether opting for a budget or a luxury cruise, you get your transportation, accommodations, food, and entertainment all for one price. And, once you've paid, you don't have to worry about the rise and fall of the dollar or exchanging big sums of other currencies as you travel. Compare the average $100 per day per person cost of a mainstream cruise (some are much cheaper, others much higher) to the cost of vacationing on land, where you could easily pay that much each day just for lodging. 

Cruising is also one of the easiest ways to travel. Rather than dashing from airport to airport or negotiating highways and traffic in unfamiliar lands, you can leave the navigating to the ship's captain and crew. If it's white-glove service you seek, you can still find it on many of the premium and luxury lines, harking back to the days of more genteel travel; even a number of mainstream lines still adhere to the traditions of periodic formal dressing for dinner. There's also the matter of convenience: everything is close at hand on your floating resort: restaurants, bars, theaters, nightclubs, spas, exercise equipment, swimming pools - all the while offering front-row views of passing landscapes, islands, marine life and deep blue sea. (For many people, just being out on the water is one of the most relaxing experiences there is.) If you crave variety in your travels, cruising is one of the best ways to achieve it - you may hit a new port, even a new country, every day you're at sea. And, once you're onboard, you only have to unpack once - no matter how many ports you visit. 

Worldwide, nearly 13 million people take a cruise each year, with more than 10 million of those hailing from the United States and Canada. (Passenger embarkations at U.S. ports totaled 9.18 million, nearly three-quarters of the global total.) And more than 50 million North Americans have indicated they intend to take a cruise over the next few years. Still, to date, a bit less than one-fifth of the U.S. population has cruised - so there's still plenty of room for growth. Meanwhile, the average age of cruise-goers is getting younger: 46 (as of 2010), down from 49 in 2006. Average annual household income is around $100,000, but many cruise-goers earn far less. Cruisers are big travelers in general: they take 39% more vacations per year than non-cruisers, with nearly one in four being a cruise. In surveys, they rank cruising as providing the best value of any type of travel. 

The cruise industry is responding by increasing capacity in a big way. A total of 34 new ships have been or will be added to the North American fleet by 2012. More than 100 new ships have been introduced since the year 2000. And the U.S. cruise industry contributed some $38 billion to the country's economy in 2007, creating more than 350,000 jobs. 

Still, some myths and misconceptions about cruising continue to persist. Here are a few:

Myth: Everyone (else) on board will be old. Fact: The average age of cruisers has dropped into the mid-40s, and on many ships you'll find a preponderance of families and young couples (not that there's anything wrong with being old!). 

Myth: You'll break your bank account. Fact: Actually, cruising is one of the best values in travel, with many of your major expenses coming in one prepaid package. While you can spend a lot on a cruise if you have the money, it's also possible to spend a week on a cruise ship - including transportation, food, accommodations and entertainment - for just a few hundred dollars. 

Myth: You'll feel too structured and confined. Fact: With larger ships and ever more choices being offered in dining and activities, passengers won't feel constrained by being out at sea for several days. Not to mention that most cruises make port stops nearly every day, allowing you plenty of time to stretch your legs on land.

Myth: You'll be bored on a cruise. Fact: Today's typical cruise ships are so loaded with amenities and entertainments that you can be busy any hour of the night or day, if you wish.

Myth: You'll probably get seasick. Fact: With today's sophisticated ship stabilizing systems, only a small percentage of passengers experience seasickness. If you are prone to queasiness, you can take easy preventative measures to avoid it. 

So if you haven't taken a cruise yet, maybe now's the time! 

What's New in Alaska Cruising

About one million people cruise in Alaska each year, the vast majority via one of the 2,000-plus ships that crowd into a handful of Alaska's largest ports. According to Cruise Lines International Association statistics, Alaska ranks fourth in regional cruise popularity after the Caribbean (still the giant among cruising destinations) and the increasingly popular areas of the Mediterranean and northern Europe. Among those who have cruised previously, however, Alaska ranks ahead of the Caribbean and is tied for first with Europe in the appealing places to cruise category. 

Despite a downturn in 2009 that carried over into 2010, these positive statistics have shot up dramatically over the past decade, in tandem with cruise passengers seeking new destinations beyond the Caribbean. Total passenger days spent on Alaska cruise ships jumped about 75% between 2000 and 2008 - reflecting both the growing popularity of the destination and the cruise lines providing both more and bigger ships to meet demand. Another factor is that more people are repeat Alaska cruisers; Alaska is no longer considered a once-in-a-lifetime destination. And more families are discovering that it's a great place to bring the kids; with all due respect to Disney World, Alaska is the real thing, not just a theme park. 

If you want to experience the wonders of the 49th state, which celebrated its 50th anniversary of statehood in 2009, a cruise there makes sense on many levels. Alaska is a huge and difficult place to tour on land; highways and railroads still lead to comparatively few destinations. Along the Inside Passage, which is the most popular Alaska cruise ship route, most ports are accessible only by air or sea, and flying is very expensive. So the easiest and least expensive way to see glaciers, wildlife and other Alaskan coastal wonders is from the deck of a ship. Add to that the convenience (and savings) of knowing where you're going to sleep each night and where you're going to eat all or most of your meals - not to mention taking advantage of all the activities readily available onboard ship - and cruising becomes the logical choice for most Alaskan travelers. (This doesn't mean that you can't or shouldn't add a land tour to your visit before or after your cruise, as many cruisers do; we'll explore these options in Part 5, Beyond the Cruise. You also have the option of exploring Alaska by ferry boat along Alaska's Marine Highway; we'll cover that in Part 2, Cruise Lines and Their Ships. 

One unmistakable trend over the past decade is that cruise lines have been deploying larger and more amenity-loaded ships to Alaskan waters - which has both its upsides and downsides. 

First, the upsides: With more cabins to fill, cruise lines have had to keep prices lower. Passengers get more cabin choices and more onboard activities, including climbing walls, skating rinks, fancy spas and multiple dining venues. Bigger ships also enable cruise lines to offer more shore excursions (though you should also think seriously about arranging your own excursions in Alaska, because traveling independently there can easily be arranged and geared to individual tastes - as well as save you some money). 

The downsides: Bigger ships provide a less intimate experience and are less capable of navigating small bays and waterways or docking in smaller ports where some of Alaska's best scenery and experiences are found. And with 2,000 passengers or so each, a number of big ships docked at once in even the larger Alaskan ports (which really aren't all that large to begin with) can overwhelm those communities with sheer waves of people.  But Alaska cruisers do have alternatives to the big ships: a number of small-ship cruise lines operate in these waters, offering the kind of intimate, close-up experiences that the mega-ships cannot. What they don't offer are the low prices of the big ships, nor all of the onboard amenities. 

So would-be Alaska cruisers have to decide which factors are most important for them. We'll talk more about how to make these choices in Part 2. (Keep in mind that on a big ship, you do have the option of taking shore excursions that will get you off the beaten track and replicate some of those small-ship experiences.) Besides greater ship size and variety, some other changes are afoot: Seattle has now surpassed Vancouver, B.C., as the leading embarkation point for Alaska cruises. Seattle hosted 210 cruise ships and 886,039 passengers in 2008, while Vancouver reported 854,453 passengers. Seattle is now home port for 12 cruise ships, and the city opened a new facility on Pier 91 in 2009. Carnival is one of the latest lines to switch from home-porting in Vancouver to Seattle; its one ship in Alaskan waters, the Carnival Spirit, sails out of Seattle now. 

Besides the new cruise ships that are coming on line, Alaska's Marine Highway ferry system is also due for an overhaul. With its 11-vessel fleet aging - four ferries were built before 1964 - officials are shooting to have a replacement plan for some of them in place soon..

Cruise lines have also been adding numerous new Alaska shore excursions and cruisetours - packages that include both cruises and land tours - to their offerings. Holland America, for instance, is increasing the number of its adventure-oriented shore excursions, including a four-by-four ride up to the top of a volcanic crater in Sitka and rainforest zipline adventures in Juneau and Ketchikan. 

With the general downturn in the economy (resulting in curtailed travel plans for many consumers), 2009 brought lower - sometimes drastically lower - Alaska cruise prices. Discounts were easy to find even into late spring of 2009; Princess was offering some week-long Alaska cruises for as little as $350 per passenger, virtually unheard of in the Alaska market for years. A Carnival cruise that cost $750 in spring 2008 was going for under $400 as well. Even the luxury lines were offering big discounts and incentives, such as shipboard credits and free airfare and shore excursions. Whether or not this trend continues depends largely on the economy. 

While price reductions sound like great news for the consumer, there is a downside. A number of major cruise lines - Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, Holland America and Princess - are reducing their Alaska service for 2010. Royal Caribbean is pulling the 2,100-passenger ship Serenade of the Seas from Alaska - reducing its ships there from three to two - while Norwegian has removed the Norwegian Sun from Alaska, also reducing its number of ships from three to two. Meanwhile, Holland America and Princess are cutting back on their Gulf of Alaska sailings, Holland America by 10 sailings aboard the Amsterdam and Princess by withdrawing one ship, the Star Princess, out of Alaskan waters altogether. 

Total Alaska capacity could be cut by 100,000 berths, including 42,000 on Royal Caribbean alone. The concept behind pulling the ships from their Alaska routes is to reduce supply and allow base prices to go back up a bit. Complicating this is the $50-a-passenger tax that the Alaska Legislature voted to impose on the cruise industry back in 2006, following a citizens' referendum approving the idea. Theoretically, the money was supposed to be used for improving port facilities and other support services to cope with the massive influx of cruise passengers, but it hasn't always been used that way. Ketchikan, for instance, is using $500,000 from the fund to build a performing arts center. In any event, the tax has the effect of adding $50 to every Alaska cruise price - or, in some cases, cutting into cruise line profits if they are forced to eat the cost themselves in an era of heavy discounting. 

All the cruise lines have cited the $50-a-passenger tax as a key reason for their 2010 cutbacks. Alaskan tourism officials fear that the taxes and subsequent cutbacks could help kill - or at least pluck some