The upcoming Alaska cruise season is on track to be a record breaker, and the new alliance between Holland America Line and Oprah Winfrey is sure to ice the cake.
The premium cruise line recently unveiled an exclusive partnership with O, The Oprah Magazine, the mega-celebrity's consumer publication that will bring Winfrey herself onto a Holland America Alaska cruise this summer, along with magazine-inspired onboard activities.
She's slated to cruise aboard Eurodam July 15 to 22, along with some of the magazine's staff, on a themed sailing called “O, The Oprah Magazine Adventure of Your Life Cruise.” The alliance will continue with four more Oprah-themed cruises later this year and in 2018.
Savvy cruise retailers won't waste any time getting in on the action, since client lists are more than likely to include plenty of Winfrey fans. Consider this: “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” on TV since 1986, draws some 48 million viewers each week. Her network, called OWN, is in 80 million homes; her magazine has a circulation of 2 million.
The HAL/Winfrey alliance will get a lot of publicity, with promotions appearing in the magazine and in online and broadcast media throughout the partnership. That will create even more enthusiasm for an already in-demand Alaska cruise experience.
These are good times for Alaska tourism in general and for Alaska cruising in particular. Last year saw increased demand for the destination when more vacationers, concerned about terrorism and other issues overseas, opted for a domestic trip. Ditto for 2017: A new Travelzoo survey found that 60% of U.S. travelers surveyed pointed to a domestic trip as their primary vacation destination this year.
A spokesperson for CLIA Alaska told TMR that the cruise sector will break its all-time record in 2017, welcoming 1.06 million passengers. The previous record was set in 2008, with 1.03 million. The numbers have been steadily rising in recent years, she said. In 2015, cruise passengers numbered 999,600 and last year the total broke 1 million.
In 2017 Holland America Line will lead the way with seven ships in the destination – Oosterdam, Amsterdam, Eurodam, Nieuw Amsterdam, Noordam, Volendam and Zaandam – offering a total of 135 Alaska departures, more than any other cruise line.
She noted that HAL will reposition the Oosterdam to its Alaska fleet (last year it was in Europe) and is replacing the Westerdam, which sailed Alaska last year, with the bigger Eurodam.
“Alaska continues to see bigger ships and that trend is expected to continue. Demand for Alaska cruises remains strong, demonstrated through advanced bookings for [this summer],” the spokesperson added.
What makes 2017 an even more notable year for Holland America is the celebration of its 70th year cruising the Alaskan coast.
“Our award-winning Alaska cruises are at the heart of our global itineraries, and adding Oosterdam to the region will allow even more guests to join in celebrating the exciting milestone of our 70th year in Alaska,” Holland America Line’s president Orlando Ashford said at the line’s Alaska deployment.
Holland America Line will operate 126 seven-day cruises and 9 14-day Great Alaskan Explorer sailings that begin in late April and run through late September. Highlights include 46 weeklong cruises roundtrip from Vancouver, British Columbia, on Nieuw Amsterdam, Volendam, Noordam and Zaandam. In addition, Noordam and Zaandam each will sail 18 one-way alternating north-south seven-day cruises between Vancouver and Seward, Alaska.
Oosterdam is slated to sail 21 weeklong cruises roundtrip from Seattle between April and September. Eurodam will depart Seattle on 22 roundtrip seven-day cruises, while Amsterdam is scheduled to sail one seven-day itinerary from Seattle followed by nine 14-day Great Alaskan Explorer voyages.
Seabourn rejoins the party after a 15-year break
Another new ship on the Alaska route this summer will be Seabourn Sojourn. This deployment marks Seabourn's return to the destination for the first time in 15 years.
The luxury ship will operate a series of 11-, 12- and 14-day itineraries sailing from Vancouver and Seward starting in June.
"Exploring at sea level in the company of qualified guides and experts is a great way for guests to experience Alaska intimately, and we're pleased to offer many incredible and exclusive opportunities aboard Seabourn Sojourn over the season ahead," said Seabourn president Richard Meadows.
Among other major cruise lines looking to make a splash in Alaska this summer are Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian.
And for cruise agents who could use a primer on selling Alaska, consider these tips from Alaska.org, a locally produced trip planner site:
- Cruise season in Alaska runs from mid-May to mid-September.
- May and September are the “shoulder” seasons in Alaska, with better deals and fewer crowds. Cruise prices during those times may be lower, perhaps by a couple hundred dollars per person. Some shore and land excursions can also be cheaper.
- Spotting wildlife is always unpredictable in Alaska, but your client's best bet for snapping photos of wildlife ashore is probably late May and early June, when mothers and their calves or cubs tend to be out and about. One exception: If your client wants to do a bear-watching shore excursion, suggest late June or early July. And the salmon swim upstream in late August.
- Clients interested in seeing Alaska's fall foliage should visit the first week of September.
- Alaska is a chilly destination. For the warmest temperatures, clients should cruise between mid-June and mid-August.
Donna Tunney's Cruise Report alternates on a weekly basis with her Luxury Report. Agents and suppliers can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.