Princess will reduce Alaska capacity by 16 percent (about 48,000 passengers) next year. The line has eight ships deployed to Alaska in 2009, but will drop to seven ships in 2010. According to spokeswoman Karen Candy, Star Princess will not be returning to Alaska in 2010 -- its new destination has yet to be announced -- and Sapphire Princess will take over its sister ship's seven-night, roundtrip, Seattle cruises. So in 2010, only three ships (Diamond Princess, Coral Princess and Island Princess) will offer Gulf of Alaska cruises between Vancouver and Whittier (compared to four in 2009), and two (Sapphire Princess and Golden Princess) will offer seven-night, roundtrip, Seattle itineraries. The sixth and seventh ships, yet to be named, will offer 10-night cruises, roundtrip from San Francisco, and 14-night cruises, roundtrip, from Seattle.
Holland America has a similar plan, as we learned from spokeswoman Sarah Scoltock. While it will keep eight ships in Alaska this year and next, it will decrease the number of ships sailing Gulf of Alaska cruises between Vancouver and Seward from three ships to two and will have four ships sailing, roundtrip, from Seattle. One of those, Amsterdam, will offer new, 14-night cruises with calls in less-frequented ports, including Homer and Kodiak, and -- for the first time ever for a big-ship cruise line -- regularly scheduled calls at the port of Anchorage (rather than the feeder ports of Seward or Whittier). While the number of ships will remain the same, Holland America will move ships around -- such that, ultimately, it will bring 11,000 fewer guests to Alaska.
Although both lines have yet to announce details of their 2010 land-tour offerings, fewer cruises starting or ending in Whittier and Seward will certainly mean less business for the buses, trains and hotels that both cruise lines own in Alaska. However, more Seattle roundtrips will be good news for travelers on tight budgets because Gulf of Alaska itineraries are, typically, more expensive for consumers, due to pricey, one-way airfares into Canada and out of Alaska (or vice versa).
--by Erica Silverstein, Senior Editor