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Comparing the Royal Caribbean ships sailing in Alaska 2022

In:
14 Dec 2021

Royal Caribbean will offer cruises to Alaska in 2022 on four of its cruise ships.

The Alaska cruise season in 2022 is shaping up to be a big season, with a full season of cruising following the partial 2021 Alaska cruise season.

No matter which Royal Caribbean ship you pick, each offers onboard activities, signature attractions and specialty dining options that will compliment a vacation to the Last Frontier quite well.

Since there are a few different options for a Royal Caribbean Alaska cruise, here is a breakdown of what to expect from each.

Ovation of the Seas

Homeport: Seattle, Washington

Ports: Victoria, British Columbia; the Inside Passage, Sitka, Skagway, Ketchikan and Juneau, Alaska. 

Once again, Royal Caribbean will send its Quantum Class favorite to Alaska to offer 7-night Alaska Glacier cruises .

Ovation of the Seas is one of the largest ships in the region, offering some of the latest innovations Royal Caribbean is known for onboard the ship. 

Being a Quantum Class ship, Quantum of the Seas offers a ton to experience onboard, which is perfect for families.

  • North Star observational pod takes guests 300 feet above sea level.
  • FlowRider surf simulator
  • Ripcord by iFly sky diving simulator
  • Izumi sushi
  • Chops Grille steakhouse
  • Jamie's Italian restaurant
  • Two70 theater
  • SeaPlex indoor gymnasium that offers basketball, roller skating, bumper cars and more.
  • Indoor pool for all ages
  • Solarium indoor pool for adults-only
  • Adventure Ocean children's programming
  • Nursery for babies
  • Outdoor movie screen

Sailing from Seattle, getting to Ovation of the Seas by air is the least-expensive and most convenient choice of Royal Caribbean's Alaska fleet. Flights within the United States tend to be cheaper to Seattle, compared to Vancouver departures.

Why pick Ovation of the Seas

Ovation of the Seas offers the greatest variety of activities, things to do and dining on a Royal Caribbean ship to Alaska. This means you are not compromising on the onboard experience by picking Ovation.

In fact, it is among the newest and largest ships to sail to Alaska, which means guests used to a certain level of amenities on their Royal Caribbean cruises in the Caribbean will not miss a beat.

The indoor pools for guests of all ages and the indoor SeaPlex provide significantly more activities for guests in a place where rain and chilly temperatures are constantly present. Pool deck life on other ships is nearly nonexistent compared to Ovation.

Moreover, the ship sails from the convenient port of Seattle, which makes airfare cheaper and more plentiful for Americans.

Quantum of the Seas

Homeport: Seattle, Washington

Ports: Victoria, British Columbia; the Inside Passage, Sitka, Skagway, Ketchikan and Juneau, Alaska. 

Quantum of the Seas will sail from the Pacific Northwest for the first time when she calls Seattle home in May 2022.

Just like Ovation of the Seas, Quantum will offer 7-night Alaska Glacier cruises departing on Mondays. Quantum of the Seas will begin her Alaska itineraries with a May 9 sailing, and her season will extend through the end of September 2022.

Being a Quantum Class ship, Quantum of the Seas offers a ton to experience onboard, which is perfect for families.

  • North Star observational pod takes guests 300 feet above sea level.
  • FlowRider surf simulator
  • Ripcord by iFly sky diving simulator
  • Izumi sushi
  • Chops Grille steakhouse
  • Jamie's Italian restaurant
  • Two70 theater
  • SeaPlex indoor gymnasium that offers basketball, roller skating, bumper cars and more.
  • Indoor pool for all ages
  • Solarium indoor pool for adults-only
  • Adventure Ocean children's programming
  • Nursery for babies
  • Outdoor movie screen

Why pick Quantum of the Seas

Just like Ovation of the Seas, you will not compromise with the onboard experience if you sail on Quantum of the Seas.

What makes Quantum of the Seas stand apart from Ovation is it is often less expensive than sailing on Ovation of the Seas. This means more money to spend on an amazing shore excursion.

Quantum sails from Seattle, which makes it easy and inexpensive to get to for most Americans.

Onboard the ship, you will find plenty to see, do and eat onboard.

Radiance of the Seas

Homeports: Vancouver, BC and Seward, Alaska

Ports: Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway, Icy Strait Point; the Inside Passage and Hubbard Glacier (scenic cruising).

Radiance of the Seas has been one of the most consistently deployed ships by Royal Caribbean to Alaska, and she returns in 2022 to offer 7-night Northbound/Southbound Glacier cruises, along with 9-13 night Alaskan & Canadian Cruisetours.

Sailing alternating, open-jaw itineraries between Vancouver and Seward, Radiance will introduce a second northbound itinerary that includes a visit to Icy Strait Point – a port owned and operated by native Alaskans. Southbound sailings will introduce an evening call to Haines.

Guests looking to maximize their time in Alaska can opt to add on a land tour that can extend their cruise before or after (or both) to visit destinations inland that would otherwise be unavailable to see on a cruise ship.

Radiance of the Seas is best known for:

  • Solarium indoor pool for adults-only
  • Chops Grille steakhouse
  • Giovanni's Table Italian restaurant
  • Izumi sushi
  • Rock climbing wall
  • Indoor movie theater
  • An abundance of glass walls and windows to provide views of the outdoors
  • Helipad access at bow of the ship for viewing
  • Mini golf
  • Adventure Ocean children's programming
  • Nursery for babies
  • Outdoor movie screen

Why pick Radiance of the Seas

Any cruiser that has been to Alaska multiple times will tell you that Radiance of the Seas has arguably the "superior" itinerary, in terms of what you will see and experience from the ship.  Radiance sails to more ports and sees more glaciers than Ovation of the Seas, which means opportunity to see far more of the impressive and best-known glaciers and wildlife in Alaska.

A Radiance Class ship is also famous for the views you can enjoy throughout the ship, since glass is incorporated in many places.  Views around the ship while still inside are plentiful.

If you have the means, an optional land tour can be combined with a Radiance of the Seas cruise to become truly immersed in Alaska.

Serenade of the Seas

Homeport: Seattle, Washington

Ports: Juneau, Skagway, the Inside Passage.

Serenade of the Seas is returning to Alaska and she will offer 7-night Alaska Glacier Experience roundtrip sailings from Vancouver, British Columbia.

First Royal Caribbean cruise ship to sail to Alaska in two years departs today | Royal Caribbean Blog

Serenade will also offer a full-day visit to Haines, in addition to a double glacier itinerary that features both the Endicott Arm and Dawes Glacier, and the Hubbard Glacier, the largest tidewater glacier in North America.

An Alaska cruise on Serenade of the Seas will offer sailings that cover 500 miles of shoreline that is the Inside Passage, calling on Ketchikan, Juneau and Icy Strait Point, Alaska, from Vancouver.

Guests on board Serenade can extend their stay with Royal Caribbean’s signature CruiseTours, a series of 2- to 6-night pre- or post-cruise land tours led by local experts. Royal Caribbean also offers 5- to 6-night Canada CruiseTour options with visits to Banff, Calgary and more.

Serenade of the Seas is best known for:

  • Solarium indoor pool for adults-only
  • Chops Grille steakhouse
  • Giovanni's Table Italian restaurant
  • Izumi sushi
  • Rock climbing wall
  • Indoor movie theater
  • An abundance of glass walls and windows to provide views of the outdoors
  • Helipad access at bow of the ship for viewing
  • Mini golf
  • Adventure Ocean childrens programming
  • Nursery for babies
  • Outdoor movie screen

Why pick Serenade of the Seas

Comparing Serenade of the Seas' sailings to sister ship Radiance of the Seas, the basic difference is Serenade offers a more convenient roundtrip sailing, instead of an open-jaw itinerary.

Like Radiance, Serenade offers add-on land tours as well to enhance the visit.

More Alaska cruise info

Want to learn more about a Royal Caribbean cruise to Alaska, as well as helpful tips and secrets? Check out these blog posts:

Royal Caribbean releases new 2023 Alaska cruises to book

In:
01 Dec 2021

Royal Caribbean has released its Alaska cruises for 2023 season.

The cruise line will send four cruise ships to Alaska in 2023, matching the amount of ships it had scheduled for the region prior to the truncated 2021 season.

The new sailings are posted on Royal Caribbean's website.

New Alaska 2022 cruises are available to book between April and September 2022.

Compared to the 2022 lineup, the only change is Enchantment of the Seas will replace Serenade of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean releases new Enchantment of the Seas 2022-2023 sailings from Baltimore | Royal Caribbean Blog

Enchantment of the Seas will sail from Vancouver and offer 7-night cruises, including some multi-glacier cruises that visit Hubbard Glacier in addition to Dawes Glacier.

Ovation of the Seas will return to Alaska in 2023, offering 7- and 8-night Alaska glacier cruises from Seattle.

Likewise, Quantum of the Seas will sail to Alaska and offer 7-night cruises from Seattle.

Bill to allow cruise ships to sail to Alaska without stopping in Canada passes U.S. Senate | Royal Caribbean Blog

Both Quantum Class ships will visit scenic cities and towns along the Northwest coastline, including Victoria, British Columbia; Sitka, Skagway, Ketchikan and Juneau, Alaska.

Rounding out the foursome of ships is Radiance of the Seas, which will sail from Vancouver and offer  7-10 night Alaska cruises that can also combine with Land Tours to offer immersive visits to Alaska, including in-land destinations such as Denali. 

Sailing alternating, open-jaw itineraries between Vancouver and Seward.

Royal Caribbean releases health protocols for first Alaska cruise ship | Royal Caribbean Blog

Be sure to consult the Royal Caribbean website or your travel professional for further assistance with itinerary options and booking.

More about Alaska cruises

Best things to do on an Alaska cruise

In:
20 Nov 2021

Preparing for a cruise to Alaska can seem a bit overwhelming. Whether selecting a ship or planning your time in port, you don’t want to miss out on all of the outdoor and cultural activities Alaska has to offer.

It’s best to research what activities fit within your interest, fitness level, and budget. Some passengers may want to view as much wildlife as possible whereas others may be looking to learn more about Alaska’s history and culture.

Here’s a look at some of the best things to do on an Alaskan cruise.

What to do in port

Explore nature

Alaska’s nature is colossal. As the biggest state in the US, it can be difficult to comprehend just how vast the nature in Alaska really is. If you’re hoping to explore the outdoors, there are excursions to fit any interest and fitness level.

In the warmer months, consider a Bike and Brew tour in Juneau, where you will bike along a series of trails through the Mendenhall Valley and Tongass National Forest with a visit to Mendenhall Glacier. And, just as the name implies, these bike tours end with a stop at a brewery in downtown Juneau.

If you like hiking, check out what day hikes are available in port. Ketchikan, as an example, has several hiking trails of various difficulty. If you’re up for a challenge, push yourself to reach the top of Deer Mountain. With three thousand feet of elevation change over seven miles, it is certainly not easy, but you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of Alaska in every direction.

There are plenty of ways to explore Alaska’s nature without breaking a sweat, though. After all, most excursions and activities focus on exploring the outdoors. For something relaxing and scenic, book a ticket on the White Pass & Yukon Railway in Skagway. This is a train ride that travels from Skagway into the mountains, passing through dense pine forests, waterfalls, and snowy mountain clearings.

Another less strenuous outdoor adventure is a whale watching tour. Whales are commonly spotted in Alaska’s southeast coast during the summer months. While you may be able to spot whales from the cruise ship, booking a whale watching tour allows you to get up close and personal with these magnificent sea creatures.

A helpful tip when looking for a shore excursion is to filter by “Activity Level” on Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner website. You can filter excursions by mild, moderate, and strenuous. This can be helpful to ensure an excursion fits within the fitness capabilities of yourself or your group.

Grab a drink at a saloon

Whereas the Caribbean has tiki bars, Alaska has saloons. In many Alaskan ports you will find a historic or western-themed saloon. These establishments can be a great place to eat and drink after a shore excursion or relax in before heading back to the ship.

A popular spot to visit in Juneau is the Red Dog Saloon. The saloon was established in the height of the city’s mining era and has been recognized as Juneau’s oldest man-made tourist destination. Walking into the saloon is like walking back in time to the early 1900s. The establishment is eclectic, with frontier-themed decor as well as some more funky decor such as a collection of dollar bills and business cards posted on the walls.

The saloon offers very reasonably priced drinks as well as standard American and Alaskan fare. Make sure to try some of the saloon’s special drinks, such as the Alaskan Duck Fart shot and draft root beer. Or cozy up with a warm Irish coffee as you listen to live music from a local guitarist.

Luckily, the Red Dog Saloon is located only a few blocks away from the ship, so if you happen to have a few too many drinks, it won’t take very long to get back onboard.

Consider a land tour before or after your cruise

Cruises to Alaska primarily visit the state’s southeast region. Many of Alaska’s most iconic landmarks, such as Denali National Park, are located further inland and inaccessible by a cruise ship.

Royal Caribbean recognizes that many passengers want to visit Alaska’s inland destinations. Thus, they offer Alaska Cruise Tours.

Alaska Cruise Tours are a combination of a one way cruise and a land tour of Alaska. Both pre and post-cruise tours are available, meaning that you can decide to fly one-way to Alaska, do a land tour, and take a cruise back to Seattle or Vancouver, or do it the other way around. Land tours range from an extra 2-5 nights on land in addition to your time on a cruise ship.

Land tours offer a mix of guided tours and independent exploring. All accommodation and transportation is organized by Royal Caribbean, making your time on land worry free. Activities and excursions on a land tour may include boarding the Wilderness Express scenic train ride to Denali, cruising the Chena River in Fairbanks, and enjoying a scenic ride on the Turnagain Arm Drive near Seward.

What to do at sea

View the scenery from public areas

Many cruises to Alaska offer a few hours of sightseeing in destinations like Hubbard Glacier and Endicott Arm & Dawes Glacier. On these days, the ship reaches a glacier and slows down, traveling along the glacier and turning the ship 360 degrees to ensure that passengers will get a chance to view the scenery from anywhere onboard.

Many passengers will opt to view the scenery from the comfort of their balconies, but this is not necessarily the best spot to do so.

Balconies usually only face one direction. If the ship is sailing past Hubbard Glacier, you will spend a significant amount of time there facing the opposite direction of the glacier from your balcony.

Viewing the glacier from a public area onboard, such as the pool deck, allows you to keep your eye on the scenery the entire time the ship is there. The glacier is on the ship’s starboard side? Simply walk over to that side of the pool deck. Now the best view is from the aft? Take a short stroll to the back of the ship.

A recommendation, especially if you do not have a balcony room, is to scope out the ship’s best areas for viewing the scenery when you get onboard. You may find a few “secret” areas, like the Solarium bridge wings or the outdoor seating area at the Windjammer, that offer fantastic views with fewer crowds.

Do nothing!

Funny enough, even though this article is about the best things to do on an Alaskan cruise, some of the most memorable moments onboard will be when you are doing nothing except relaxing and looking at the scenery around you.

A cruise to Alaska is less about the activities offered on a specific ship and more about the destination. Royal Caribbean takes very scenic routes through Alaska’s inside passage, meaning that a day “at sea” can also mean a day of sightseeing.

While some Royal Caribbean ships traveling to Alaska will offer more activities onboard than others, don’t let this be a deciding factor in which ship you choose. You may find that you spend less time doing activities indoors, anyway, and more time relaxing with a great view.

On the whole, an Alaskan cruise offers activities that fit various budgets and interests. And while the “best thing to do” on an Alaskan cruise might be relative, these options can be a great starting point for planning your trip.

If you’re looking for more inspiration on what to do on an Alaskan cruise, read our live blogs from Alaska on Explorer of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas for more ideas. In addition, don’t forget to check out our full ship tour of Ovation of the Seas if you will be sailing her to Alaska next summer.

Read more

What it's like to go on an Alaskan cruise at the end of the season

In:
16 Nov 2021

Cruising to Alaska is something that should be on everyone's bucket list. The state's southeast region, where cruises visit, is dotted with picturesque towns and gorgeous landscapes. Southeast Alaska has very few roads connecting its destinations, making a cruise an ideal way to visit the region.

The Alaskan cruise season generally operates between April and September each year. And while the peak season for an Alaskan cruise is between June and August, cruising in the shoulder season can have its perks.

If you’re looking at booking a cruise near the end of the Alaskan cruise season, such as in September, here are a few things to expect.

Colder and Wetter Weather

Most Alaskans you encounter at port will tell you that Alaska’s weather can change very suddenly. Southeast Alaska is a temperate rainforest. In fact, Ketchikan, a common port on an Alaskan cruise, can receive over thirteen feet of rain per year!

While visiting Alaska, you should expect and prepare for rain during any month. The two rainiest months of the year are September and October. Regardless of which month you cruise to Alaska, though, you should pack and plan accordingly with waterproof shoes, a raincoat, and a waterproof day bag for when you’re at port.

However, don’t let the rainier weather deter you from an Alaskan cruise later in the season. While it will likely rain during your cruise, it usually doesn’t last the whole day. On our most recent Alaskan cruise here at Royal Caribbean Blog, it did rain almost every day, but often only for a few minutes or hours. The rain was usually very light, so with proper rain gear, it was not a big deal.

Temperature-wise, expect a high in the mid-50s in September. While it won’t be extremely chilly, definitely pack layers. In Alaska, you might be wearing a winter jacket and a short sleeve shirt on the same day!

It’s worth noting that Alaska’s fall weather conditions might lead to higher seas and intense winds. When this happens, the outdoor decks are often temporarily closed and things may be swaying a bit more than usual onboard.

Autumn Sights

A change in seasons is noticeable in Alaska’s landscapes and wildlife viewing opportunities.

You can view diverse wildlife and landscapes at any time in Alaska, but each time of year can offer different sights. While bears begin hibernating in September, there are still plenty of opportunities to spot wildlife such as whales, eagles, and moose in the fall. Another plus of cruising later in the season is that there are fewer mosquitos to worry about while at port.

When it comes to landscape, the scenery in September can look much different than earlier in the year. Expect fall colors and snowy mountains, especially if you travel to a higher elevation while in port.

Additionally, as the daylight hours get shorter in September, there is a higher chance of spotting the northern lights. Though not guaranteed and dependent on cloud coverage, this is a perk of cruising to Alaska later in the season.

Lower prices

Cruising during the shoulder season in Alaska can mean finding better deals than in the peak summer months. Prices can be several hundred dollars more in July than in September.

If you’re traveling to Alaska on a budget or are looking to splurge on an upgraded stateroom or shore excursion, it might be worth it to cruise later in the season. That $300 you save on a cruise fare can be put toward excursions such as a helicopter tour of Mendenhall Glacier or a scenic train ride in Skagway. You may also wish to save on the cruise fare to splurge onboard with a dining or deluxe beverage package.

It’s never a good idea to book a cruise solely based on price, of course. If you like to spend most of your time on the pool deck, you probably don’t want to book a cruise to Alaska in September. But if you’re less concerned about the weather and are hoping to see snowier landscapes, don’t hesitate to book a cruise in the shoulder season.

Shorter Days

In the peak of summer, you can expect to see up to 18 hours of daylight while cruising in Alaska. In September, you may only have around 11-13 hours of daylight. In Juneau, for example, the sun may rise at 6:30AM and set at 7PM in mid-September.

Thus, a common concern of traveling to Alaska later in the season is the “lack” of daylight. And while there are less hours of daylight, this should not be a deterrent from booking a cruise later in the season.

After all, there are not many passengers walking around onboard before 6AM whether it is light outside or not. Therefore, when most passengers are waking up, the sun is also starting to rise.

Plus, more than likely, any time that you are in port will be during daylight hours. You don’t have to worry about walking around at night or missing a shore excursion opportunity due to the darkness.

The only time you may notice a change in the daytime hours on an Alaskan cruise is in the evening. In the summer, you’ll have the opportunity to stay outdoors at night for much longer to view the scenery. In September, though, it will probably be dark by 8PM.

The evening is a busy time onboard any Royal Caribbean cruise, though. Whether at dinner or a show, you will probably spend most of the evening indoors. Therefore, the earlier sunset may not affect your experience in the slightest.

Picking when to cruise to Alaska is a big decision. The views are outstanding at any time of year, and while there may not be as much sunshine later in the season, you get the added perks of the fall scenery and lower prices.

Ultimately, whether you cruise to Alaska in June or September, much of the experience on land or at sea will be more similar than different.

Cruising to Alaska: What I Did Right and Wrong

In:
02 Nov 2021

No matter how much research and planning you do before a cruise, there are bound to be a few surprises.

Royal Caribbean gets CDC approval to start test sailings on Ovation of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

Looking back on last month's cruise to Alaska on Ovation of the Seas, there were several things I think I did right, but also several mistakes I made along the way.

From packing for Alaska's unpredictable weather to rushing to make my flight home, here are a few takeaways and lessons learned from my sailing.

What I did right

Planning what to do in port in advance

A cruise to Alaska is less about lounging on a beach with a cocktail in hand and more about experiencing the nature and sights that each Alaskan port has to offer.

Do you want to book a whale watching tour? Go on the White Pass & Yukon Railway? Explore Mendenhall Glacier? Doing a little research on each port before arriving can make your time in port go much smoother. Not only that, but many popular excursions run the chance of selling out. Planning early ensures you can book an excursion when it is still available (and often at the best price).

Planning in advance doesn't just have to mean booking an excursion directly through Royal Caribbean, either. You can research local tour operators and transportation, too, as well as restaurants, bars, shopping, museums, and hikes you may want to check out.

While I don't recommend planning a day in port on a super strict schedule, it can be helpful to know the basics of what there is to do in each location before arriving.

Bringing binoculars

Binoculars may not be an object you use very often at home, but they come in handy on an Alaskan cruise.

Throughout my sailing, I was happy I brought binoculars with me. Alaska's scenery is stunning in every direction. Binoculars allowed me to feel closer to the state's gargantuan nature.

While sailing through Alaska's inside passage on the way to Endicott Arm & Dawes Glacier, I used my binoculars to look for eagles in the trees and watch waterfalls flow into the icy water.  At Mendenhall Glacier, binoculars allowed me to see the glacier "up close" even though I was standing several hundred feet away.

The basic binoculars I purchased for my Alaskan cruise ran only $30 and were worth every penny.

Being flexible

Royal Caribbean cannot, of course, control the weather. Itinerary changes and other unexpected events can happen on a cruise.

There are two ways to approach any unexpected changes: by going with the flow or by letting it negatively impact your vacation.

Your North Star reservation gets cancelled because of windy weather? A port changes due to high seas? Sure, it may not be the best news you've ever heard, but remember that Royal Caribbean's top priority is to keep everyone safe.

I encountered quite a few unexpected changes in Alaska, but embraced whatever new scenarios those changes brought.

When our itinerary dropped Sitka and added Ketchikan as a port, I found myself excited to explore a new place I did not know anything about. When our highly anticipated North Star experience was cancelled, we watched the scenery while enjoying a drink at the North Star Bar instead.

Being flexible is always important on a cruise, but especially in Alaska where the weather can change every five minutes!

What I did wrong:

While there are many things I did right on my Alaskan cruise, I did, of course, make a few mistakes.

Packing way too many clothes

I am usually a light packer and a big fan of traveling with just a carry on, but I packed WAY too many clothes for my Alaskan cruise.

When I looked at the weather forecast for Alaska, I panicked. It showed rain nearly every day and temperatures in the 40s. I packed my rain gear and winter gear. I packed daytime clothes to wear around the ship and dinner outfits. Plus swimwear. Plus pajamas.

My aforementioned light packing skills failed completely and I checked a 50lb bag filled with what felt like my entire wardrobe.

How many clothes did I end up wearing? About half of what I brought.

The old saying to pack a suitcase and take out half of the clothes before leaving for vacation rang true here, and I definitely regretted packing so much.

Cruising in cold weather is much different than in warm weather. In the Caribbean, for example, clothes tend to get dirtier much faster due to the sweltering heat, sand, and salt water.

In Alaska, where I was often shivering instead of sweating, I found that my clothes stayed cleaner for much longer.

In fact, I ended up wearing nearly the same exact outfit every day of the cruise: jeans, waterproof boots, a sweater, and a raincoat. Therefore, most of what I had packed remained untouched.

Booking my flight home before noon

I booked my departure flight from Seattle at 11:27AM on disembarkation day. Originally, we were set to arrive in Seattle at 6AM, leaving me plenty of time to get to the airport (or so I thought). Due to the sailing's itinerary change and unexpected delays, though, I did not have nearly as much time as I anticipated.

While I did make my flight home with nearly an hour to spare, I wish I had booked a flight just a little later to avoid the extra stress I encountered due to my early flight.

On the last morning of the cruise, I brought my suitcase to the Royal Esplanade to get in line for disembarkation. At around 7AM, there were only a few people ahead of me.

Then the departure process ran into several delays as we entered and docked in Seattle, leading to huge lines and a little bit of chaos. Many passengers were getting nervous about their early flights.

Luckily, since I was one of the first people in line for departure, I was able to quickly get an Uber and did not run into traffic on the way to the airport.

Was it worth the stress, though? Not really. While waiting at the airport longer before a flight isn't always enjoyable, it is certainly better than missing a flight if things go wrong. Disembarkation can be affected by many scenarios, so if you're sailing to Alaska, try to get a flight leaving Seattle at 1PM or later.

Ultimately, whether in Alaska, the Caribbean, or anywhere else, a little bit of planning and flexibility can go a long way.

And while I made a couple mistakes along the way, my cruise to Alaska was unbelievably beautiful and was an adventure I will definitely never forget.

New bill introduced to Congress so cruise ships can skip Canada on Alaska cruises

In:
23 Sep 2021

As promised, a new bill has been introduced that aims to always allow cruise ships to skip visits to Canada due to U.S. maritime law.

The Cruising for Alaska’s Workforce Act was introduced today by U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), which will provide a permanent exemption from the Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA) for cruises transporting passengers to Alaska from the U.S.

Senator Murkowski announced last week she would introduce this bill, and today it is now an official piece of legislation that will hopefully become law.

This new bill would be permanent policy, whereas the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act (ATRA) that was signed into law back in May is only temporary and applies only to 2021 cruises.

"This legislation is good news for Alaskans whose livelihood relies on tourism," Senator Murkowski shared on Twitter.

"I’m proud to introduce new legislation to provide a permanent exemption for cruises between any U.S. port and Alaska from the PVSA. My new bill guarantees the PVSA will not intrude on Alaska’s tourism economy, while also ensuring foreign-built ships do not compete with U.S.-built ships. "

Why this bill is important

The Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1886 is a piece of U.S. cabotage law that requires foreign-flagged ships to stop in a foreign destination while traveling between two U.S. points.

Nearly all cruise ships visiting Alaska are foreign-flagged. Royal Caribbean has its ships built outside the United States, and registers them outside the country as well.

This law was designed to protect the U.S. maritime industry, and many countries with coastal ports have similar laws. 

In its current form, the PVSA requires cruise ships to stop somewhere outside of the United States when offering cruises to Alaska.  In 2020 and 2021, Canada closed its borders to cruise ships, which made it impossible for cruise lines to operate sailings to Alaska.

Because southeast Alaska is so heavily dependent on cruise tourism, Senator Murkowski is seeking to ensure such a closure by Canada can not stop cruise ships from sailing again.

Inside the bill

The Cruising for Alaska’s Workforce Act would allow any ship carrying more than 1,000 passengers may transport passengers between a port in the State of Alaska and another port in the United States, directly or by way of a foreign port.

Senator Murkowski added a condition that this bill would cease to exist once there is a U.S.-built ship that carries more than 1,000 passengers, if U.S. shipbuilders ever aspired to build cruise ships.

Alaska Senator introduces bill to permanently allow cruise ships to sail to Alaska without stopping in Canada

In:
16 Sep 2021

A new bill aims to permanently circumvent U.S. cabotage laws so that cruise ships can always visit Alaska without needing to stop in Canada.

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) announced on Wednesday she will introduce a new bill to Congress that would permanently allow foreign flagged cruise ships to sail to Alaska without having to stop in Canada by creating a permanent exemption from the Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA).

At the onset of the global health crisis, Canada banned cruise ships from its waters, and that meant in 2021 when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) began allowing cruise ships to sail again, cruises to Alaska were still not possible due to the PVSA.

Senator Murkowski wants this bill to become law to prevent the same situation that happened in 2020 and early 2021 from ever happening again, where Canada's ban on cruise ships greatly impacted Alaska's economy.

"While the PVSA is well-intentioned to protect American jobs and businesses, it had the unintended consequence of putting Alaskan businesses at the mercy of the Canadian government. It nearly wiped out Southeast Alaskan economies as we saw business after business ready to welcome visitors, but unable to because Canadians would not respond to our requests to allow foreign stops at their ports to meet the requirement of PVSA. We cannot let that happen again," said Senator Murkowski. 

Foreign flagged cruise ships (which are all of Royal Caribbean's ships) are required to make a stop in a foreign port when sailing roundtrip from the United States.

The law is part of the Passenger Vessel Service Act (PVSA) of 1886, and if left in place, cruises to Alaska from Seattle, Washington would not be able to legally sail.

The justification for both the PVSA is to protect the U.S. Merchant Marine (the licensed (officers) and documented (trades) personnel on the ships) and to protect U.S. shipyards that both build and repair the ships.

Senator Murkowski believes while the still serves its purpose in the Lower 48, it became readily apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic that Alaska needed an exemption due to Canada closing its borders. 

She will introduce the legislation next week, which would permanently exempt Alaskan cruises carrying more than 1,000 passengers from the PVSA.

"Bottom line, we need to reform the PVSA so that Alaskans’ ability to engage in commerce isn’t derailed by the government of another country."

This is not the first time a bill like this has become law.

Senator Murkowski along with Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) managed to get a bill passed earlier this year to provide temporary relief from the PVSA for just this year in the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act. That bill passed both houses of Congress and was signed into law by President Joe Biden in May 2021.

First Royal Caribbean cruise ship to sail to Alaska in two years departs today

In:
19 Jul 2021

Another milestone in the cruise industry's recovery has been reached today, with the official restart of cruises to Alaska.

Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas is scheduled to depart Seattle on July 19.

After more than a year with cruising on pause, Serenade will sail from Pier 91 in Seattle  – a change from its previously scheduled homeport in Vancouver. 

The significance of this first sailing is as large for the cruise industry as it is for the people of Alaska.

Just like cruises to the Caribbean, cruises to Alaska have been shutdown since 2020. 

Without cruise tourists to Alaska since late 2019, the economic impact has been massive.

Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy (R-AK) has incurred a $3.3 billion loss in tourist dollars over that timeframe.

For Royal Caribbean, this is another ship back in service and another ship that has received approval from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) to sail again.

Each of Royal Caribbean's cruise ships must perform a test cruise, where various health protocols and social distancing rules are tested out to demonstrate the ship can be operated safely.

Serenade of the Seas conducted her 4-night test cruise back on July 7 with 300 fully vaccinated passengers onboard.

The week-long itinerary features a lineup of ports of call, including Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan and Icy Strait Point, Alaska, as well as Endicott Arm fjord and Dawes Glacier.

For Alaska sailings departing from Seattle, Washington before August 1, all Royal Caribbean guests age 16 and older must present proof of Covid-19 vaccination, with the final dose of their vaccine administered at least 14 days before sailing.

After August 1, that requirement drops to 12 years old.

Guests under the age of this requirement don’t need to be vaccinated and will receive a Covid-19 test at the terminal before boarding.

First cruise ship returns to Alaska in two years while on test cruise

In:
10 Jul 2021

Alaska celebrated the return of the first big cruise ship on Friday with the arrival of a Royal Caribbean cruise ship on a simulated voyage.

Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas pulled into Ketchikan to a warm welcome of state and local dignitaries.

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, Alaska Lieutenant Governor Kevin Meyer, and City of Ketchikan Mayor Bob Sivertsen joined members from the cruise industry to celebrate Serenade of the Seas being the first large cruise ship to return to Alaska following the suspension of cruise operations due to the pandemic.

While Serenade is there on a test cruise, she represents the return of cruise ship passengers that the Alaskan economy so heavily relies on.

Since cruise operations from U.S. ports were suspended in March 2020, it is estimated that more than 300,000 American jobs have been impacted or lost, with a corresponding loss of over $39 billion in economic activity. 

Nearly 70 percent of the industry’s economic contributions in Alaska benefited local small businesses in 2019 — the highest percentage of any state in the country.

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski spearheaded the effort this year to find a solution for ships to sail from the United States to Alaska this year at a time when Canada had shut its borders to cruise ship traffic.

"I’ve been committed to help bring tourism back for the 2021 season and keep Alaskans afloat through the hardships created by the pandemic," Murkowski said during a press conference at the cruise ship pier.

"I want to thank the other members of the delegation for working with me to get my legislation, the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act, across the finish line. This legislation made it possible to begin to bring cruise ships back to Alaska – so that our communities can have a productive tourist season."

Royal Caribbean was equally happy to be able to return to Alaska as well. Russell Benford, Vice President, Government Relations, Americas, Royal Caribbean Group spoke about the significance of Serenade of the Seas sailing to Alaska, "Proud, resourceful Alaskan communities, which have endured almost two seasons without cruising, will once again welcome cruise visitors to this magnificent destination and I’m sure Alaskan business owners look forward to reigniting the tourism economy and providing for their families."

According to Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), Nine large cruise ships are currently scheduled to operate in Alaska this year, with 78 sailings to take place through Oct. 21, 2021. 

Royal Caribbean has cruises planned to Alaska on two ships, Serenade of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas.

Assuming she passes her test cruise, Serenade of the Seas is scheduled to begin cruises next week.  Ovation of the Seas' first sailing to Alaska is August 13, although it is not yet known when her test cruise will be.

President Biden signs new bill into law to allow cruise ships to sail to Alaska in 2021

In:
24 May 2021

As expected, President Joe Biden signed a new bill into law that will allow cruise ships to sail to Alaska this year.

Late on Monday, President Joe Biden signed H.R. 1318, the "Alaska Tourism Restoration Act".

The Alaska Tourism Restoration Act  passed the House of Representatives in a vote last Thursday, and is awaiting the President's signature to become a law.

Now that it is law, cruise ships will be able to sail from State of Washington to Alaska without needing to stop in Canada.

Ms. Psaki said in a press conference on Monday, "This law will allow large cruise ships to visit Alaska this year, a critical step toward returning to normal in a state where one in 10 jobs is in the tourism industry."

Canada banned cruise ships from its waters due to the global health crisis, so if cruise ship travel in the United States were able to occur, cruises to Alaska would not have been legally possible unless this bill becomes law.

The Alaska Tourism Restoration Act essentially provides a way to circumvent the Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA) restrictions for cruise ships transporting passengers between the State of Washington and the State of Alaska.

The bill was introduced by Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) in February 2021 as a way for cruise ships to be able to sail to Alaska in 2021.

Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and NCL have all announced cruise restart plans for Alaska this summer, with Serenade of the Seas leading the pack with cruises beginning in July 2021.

Serenade of the Seas will begin sailing on July 19, 2021, and Ovation of the Seas will begin sailing on August 13, 2021.

Both ships will sail 7-night roundtrip cruises from Seattle, Washington, and sailings are available now to book.

Unless something changes, these Alaska cruises in summer 2021 could be the first Royal Caribbean cruises to sail from the United States since March 2020.

Cruise ships will still need approval to sail from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) due to the Framework for Conditional Sail Order, which remains in effect until November 2021.

Despite the major cruise lines announcing sailings to Alaska this summer, there has not been any announcement or confirmation the CDC will allow ships to sail.

In Carnival's announcement, they mentioned deciding to offer cruises again, "based on recent guidance from the CDC and close collaboration with Alaskan officials."

NCL said its plans were contingent on obtaining a Conditional Sailing Certificate, which it expected to be granted "in the coming days".

Royal Caribbean made no mention of its negotiations with the CDC during its announcement.

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