|Norwegian Cruise Line has added Prince Rupert, a destination that, for most cruise travelers today, is an entirely new port of call, to its 2004 Alaska schedule. Norwegian Sky will make 18 calls at Prince Rupert throughout the summer season. The port city of Prince Rupert is located at the mouth of the Skeena River on the north coast of British Columbia, and is about 70 miles south of Ketchikan, the northern opening of the Inside Passage. Other ports on Sky’s itinerary, which is a roundtrip seven-day cruise from Seattle, include Juneau, Ketchikan and Skagway.|
Prince Rupert is known for many of the same style attractions found in mainstream Alaska ports like Skagway and Ketchikan – with primary activities including sport fishing, whale-watching, a grizzly bear sanctuary, and a very rich native heritage. Among its premier sites is the Museum of Northern British Columbia, which has one of the world’s top collections of north coast native art and artifacts in the world. The port also has unique shops, boutiques and restaurants. City developers are, as well, establishing a new train tour operation that will take travelers through the rugged Skeena river valley.
Beyond Prince Rupert’s attractions there are two reasons why there’s much excitement about the addition of a new and relatively unheard-of port. Cruise line itinerary planners face a limited menu of ports when plotting out voyages – and much of the innovation in the region has instead focused on enhancing pre- and post-cruise land tours.
Tourism denizens in British Columbia have, in fact, become quite committed to, beyond Prince Rupert, promoting other possible alternatives to the usual Skagway-Ketchikan-Juneau “Inside Passage” route. Among them include Victoria (already on some itineraries), Nanaimo, and Campbell River.
Which isn’t to say that Alaska is not promoting other ports-of-call also. Princess Cruises announced recently that it would replace Seward with Whittier next year on all 72 of its Gulf of Alaska voyages. Whittier, which in the past had lost out to Seward, won the coveted turn-around-port position as a result of significant infrastructure developments: a new port terminal and construction of a new highway into an existing railway tunnel that shortens the trip to Anchorage to a reasonable 65 miles.