(7:15 p.m. EDT) -- One week after Alaska's state legislature approved a bill that will reduce a controversial head tax for cruise passengers, Oceania Cruises has announced that it will sail the region for the first time ever, beginning in 2011.
Although rumors about Oceania's decision have been circulating in the Cruise Critic office for months, the line made its official announcement Friday, saying it will start accepting bookings on April 28, 2010, for 10 sailings aboard Regatta.
In a statement, Frank Del Rio, Oceania Cruises' founder and chairman/CEO of parent company Prestige Cruise Holdings, thanked Alaska Governor Sean Parnell for working to lower the tax and called it "an important consideration in evaluating...deployment alternatives."
Read on for a bit about each type of itinerary.
Majestic Alaska: These 14-night cruises sail roundtrip from San Francisco, a maiden port for Oceania Cruises, on May 12 and August 26, 2011. Ports on these itineraries include Victoria and Vancouver, British Columbia; Sitka, Hoonah, Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan, Alaska; and Astoria, Oregon.
Alaskan Grandeur: Two 12-night sailings between San Francisco and Vancouver depart on May 26 and August 14, 2011. These voyages will stop in Astoria and Victoria, as well as Wrangell, Juneau, Hoonah, Sitka and Ketchikan.
Frontiers and Glaciers: Sailing roundtrip from Vancouver, these 10-night sailings depart on June 7 and August 4, 2011. Along the way, passengers will pay visits to Sitka, Hoonah, Kodiak, Wrangell and Ketchikan.
Glacial Wilderness: Four 12-night voyages between Vancouver and Anchorage will call in Ketchikan, Wrangell, Juneau, Hoonah, Skagway, Sitka, Seward and Homer. Departure dates include June 17 and 29, and July 11 and 23, 2011.
Fares start at $3,499 for 10-night cruises, with offers for two-for-one, air-inclusive pricing. Oceania always includes all taxes, fees, meals in multiple dining venues, and bottled water and soft drinks onboard in its cruise fares.
Will other lines follow Oceania's example and return ships to the region soon? Only time will tell. In exchange for the passing of the head tax reduction bill, cruise lines (including Royal Caribbean, Holland America and Princess) have officially dropped a lawsuit filed against the state. However, the agreement between the state government and the cruise lines only encourages, but does not require, lines to return cruise ships to the region. We'll keep you posted as they announce their plans for future Alaska cruise seasons.
In related news, Oceania has also announced two new Canada and New England cruises, which Regatta will sail in October, at the conclusion of its Alaska season. These 12-night voyages, departing on September 30 and October 12, 2011, start at $3,999 and include stops in Newport, Rockland, Bar Harbor, Saint John, Halifax, Sydney, Charlottetown, Corner Brook and Quebec City.
--by Ashley Kosciolek, Copy Editor
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Head Tax Headway? Oceania Announces Its First-Ever Alaska Cruises
April 23, 2010