Watch out for cruise line turf wars in Alaska this season. Once a destination dominated by two cruise lines -- Holland America and Princess -- Alaska has become quite the summer playground for ships ranging from low-brow casual to high-brow black tie.
As a result of increased competition -- and more cruise ships trawling Alaska’s waterways than ever -- cruise lines are branching out in a variety of ways to distinguish their offerings. In the last couple of weeks alone, a handful have announced definitely-different (for their lines, anyway) programs and services, including:
*Carnival, a relative newcomer, not only has placed its newest, spiffiest ship -- Carnival Spirit -- here this summer but has unveiled a two night pre- and/or post land package that’s unusual for Carnival anywhere the line sails. In this case, passengers sailing the ship’s Seward/Vancouver route can spend a couple of days near Denali National Park where activities include a river safari by jet boat, nature hike and a tram ride to a mountain resort.
*Holland America, which already has a well-entrenched pre- and post- cruise infrastructure, has created a “dedicated help line.” Passengers (as well as travel agents) can dial the Alaska Expert Help Line, 800-553-2660, and ask anything they want about Alaska from how to pack to background on Native Indian cultures, not to mention history, culture, nature. The line is open from 7 a.m. - 5 p.m. (Pacific) and there’s no charge for the call or the information.
*Crystal Cruises is sticking-a-toe in the land-tour arena by offering its first escorted land-based trip. Offered as an add-on (pre and post) to two Crystal Harmony cruises (following the June 3rd Japan-Pacific itinerary, which winds up in Seward, and presaging the first Seward-San Francisco trip, beginning June 14), the five-night trip includes forays into Anchorage, Fairbanks and Denali.
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