Norwegian Cruise Line Puts the Spotlight on Alaska

Article Published: Sunday, March 26, 2017

Norwegian Cruise Line has been a major player in Alaska for decades, offering cruises from both Vancouver and Seattle aboard a trio of tried-and-tested favorites that call on some of Alaska's most popular ports. The 2017 Alaska cruise season is no exception, with dozens of departures to choose from. But the best may be yet to come.

From Seattle: A New Pier 66

Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Pearl sails out of Seattle. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Norwegian Cruise Line pioneered Alaskan cruising from Seattle back in 2000, so it should come as no surprise to see that the company has based two of its most popular ships from Seattle's Pier 66 for another season.

The 2,394-guest Norwegian Pearl and her sister, Norwegian Jewel, return to Seattle again for a full season of weeklong Alaska cruises. Both have been in the region for a number of years now and have proven to be popular choices for new and repeat guests alike. Both ships have expansive public areas with plenty of floor-to-ceiling glass windows, and it's tough to beat the gorgeous Thermal Suites aboard both ships that feature floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the bow.

Both ships operate a similar itinerary, with port calls in Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan, and the Canadian capital of British Columbia, Victoria. Their differences lie in the glaciers: Norwegian Pearl includes a full day of cruising through Glacier Bay National Park, while Norwegian Jewel favors the picturesque (but sometimes inaccessible) Sawyer Glaciers that lie at the end of Tracy Arm Fjord.

As a bonus, Norwegian Jewel's itineraries include scenic cruising through the Inside Passage, whereas Norwegian Pearl's journey to Alaska and back is conducted out on the open expanse of the Pacific Ocean.

Sweetening the appeal of cruising from Seattle is the promise of an all-new Pier 66: a $30-million renovation project was undertaken during the off-season in 2016-17, adding new interior décor, 86 new check-in kiosks and a new VIP passenger lounge. The goal: to have guests stepping aboard in just 15 minutes from their arrival curbside.

From Vancouver: The Classic Alaskan Cruise

Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Sun at Hubbard Glacier in Alaska. This year, she returns again to Vancouver’s Canada Place cruise terminal. Photo courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line.

Sailing from beneath the white sails of Vancouver's iconic Canada Place cruise terminal is the start of the quintessential Alaskan cruise experience. This year, Norwegian Cruise Line's venerable Norwegian Sun returns for another season of cruising the coastal waters of Alaska and British Columbia, just as she has done nearly every season since her launch in 2001.

The bulk of Norwegian Sun's 2017 Alaska season is made up of one-way voyages between Vancouver and Seward, near Anchorage. From June 5 to August 28, Norwegian Sun departs from Vancouver or Seward on alternating Mondays. These so-called "one way" cruises are great for those who intend to take a pre-or-post cruise tour, or for those looking to spend some time on their own in Alaska's northern reaches. These cruises call on the "big three" ports of Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan, and also include scenic cruising in Tracy Arm Fjord and Glacier Bay National Park.

Norwegian Sun also sails a handful of weeklong cruises roundtrip from Vancouver. Departing on May 29, September 11 and September 18, 2017, these seven-day cruises are a great choice for those who want to see the "classic" Alaska, but who don't want to have to deal with one-way airfare to or from Anchorage. Departing from Vancouver, these voyages cruise the Inside Passage before calling on Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan, with a day of scenic cruising off the Sawyer Glaciers in picturesque Tracy Arm.

While Norwegian Sun may not be the biggest or flashiest ship in the Norwegian fleet, she is perfectly suited to these itineraries. She holds just 1,936 guests and has an abundance of balcony and oceanview staterooms, not to mention plenty of oversized windows that adorn nearly every public room onboard. Of particular note is the ship's soaring atrium, which features crescent-shaped glass windows on two levels that expand out onto the ship's wraparound promenade deck. The atrium itself is topped with a glass dome, which lets plenty of natural light into the ship.

But because she's neither the largest nor the flashiest, her cruises tend to be more reasonably priced. She's also able to get closer to the action than many ultra-large cruise ships, and has enough personal space onboard to move around comfortably, even during scenic cruising.

Next year, however, Norwegian Cruise Line is really upping the bar in Alaska. For the first time in over a decade, the company plans to base its latest and greatest ship there.

Bliss Comes To Alaska in 2018

Norwegian Bliss will make her debut in Alaska in 2018. Rendering courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Next year, Norwegian Cruise Line is pulling out all the stops in Alaska, deploying the brand-new Norwegian Bliss on voyages to Alaska from Seattle beginning next summer.

"Norwegian was the first cruise line to begin cruising to Alaska from Seattle in 2000 and it's only fitting that we bring our newest ship, Norwegian Bliss, directly to this incredible location," said Andy Stuart, President and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line. "Alaska is one of the top destinations for our guests to explore and we are thrilled to be the first cruise line to offer our guests the opportunity to experience this coveted destination aboard a brand new, state-of-the-art cruise ship custom designed for Alaska, the first of its kind to ever debut in Seattle."

Norwegian Bliss will be the largest ship the line has ever deployed in Alaska. She'll follow in the wake of a long line of Norwegian ships that have whisked guests to the 49th state for decades.

Her 2018 voyages, and the 2017 voyages mentioned, are all available for booking.

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