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The 2011 Alaska Cruise Season is about to begin here in Vancouver, BC with the arrival of Crystal Cruises Crystal Symphony at Canada Place on Sunday. Although she’s just here on a port of call visit and not a turnaround, it’s still great to see ships passing under the Lions Gate Bridge once again.
Below is our article that originally ran this past Sunday in the Vancouver Province on the start of the season, and some of the unique vessels that are set to call here for the very first time.
Mark your calendars: Sunday. April 17th marks the official start of the 2011 Alaska cruise season in Vancouver. To kick things off, Crystal Cruises’ (www.crystalcruises.com) Crystal Symphony will sail under the Lions Gate Bridge and tie up alongside Canada Place for the first time in six years.
Crystal last operated Alaskan voyages in 2005; and while Crystal Symphony won’t be operating a turnaround here (that is, taking on new passengers; Vancouver is just a port of call for the luxury ship), her return is an indication of a better cruise season to come.
The following week, Holland America Line (www.hollandamerica.com) brings the elegant Zaandam to Canadian waters once again, docking at Canada Place on Sunday, April 24 from 7:00am to 5:00pm. Along with Princess Cruises (www.princess.com), Holland America continues to offer more departures, itineraries and ships than any other cruise line in the region. They also do a heck of a good job: warm wool blankets, hot chocolate and split pea soup are a few of the complimentary amenities handed out while viewing the magnificent glaciers in Glacier Bay National Park.
This year also marks several firsts for both the port of Vancouver, and the Alaskan cruise industry as a whole.
The biggest news is Disney Cruise Line’s (http://disneycruise.disney.go.com) first foray into northern waters with the 1999-built Disney Wonder. While families are the main draw here, don’t underestimate The Mouse: Disney’s onboard experience is so well-executed that even adult couples have been known to sail with the line. Starting May 3, the line will offer a series of weeklong departures calling on Tracy Arm, Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan.
If you’ve always dreamed of sailing from Vancouver to Alaska aboard a Disney Cruise ship, run to your travel agent and book it now. At a press conference in New York on Wednesday, Disney announced it would redeploy Disney Wonder to Alaska again next year – but out of Seattle instead of Vancouver. While the line didn’t rule out the possibility of a return to Canada Place at some point, the news still serves as a bitter reminder about the extremely mobile nature of the cruise industry.
Upscale line Oceania (www.oceaniacruises.com) also launches its maiden Alaska season from Vancouver. Having won numerous accolades for their fleet of midsize, club-like ships, Oceania has some of the most diverse itineraries available this season, like their 10-day roundtrip voyage departing June 7 and calling on Sitka, Icy Strait Point, Hubbard Glacier, Kodiak, Wrangell, and Ketchikan.
Celebrity Cruises (www.celebrity.com) shakes things up a bit this year by deploying their midsize Celebrity Century here for the first time, sailing weeklong Inside Passage cruises from Canada Place. The line’s Celebrity Millennium also returns, operating weeklong “one-way” cruises between Vancouver and Seward.
Royal Caribbean (www.royalcaribbean.com) brings its popular Radiance of the Seas back for another Alaskan season. Sporting floor-to-ceiling glass windows in almost every public room, she sails “one way” voyages between Vancouver and Seward.
Holland America’s brings their popular dam-ships, with their navy-blue hulls and white superstructures, back to Vancouver once again. Volendam and Zuiderdam sail week-long Inside Passage cruises roundtrip from Canada Place, while Statendam and Zaandam sail the one-way Glacier Discovery voyages between Vancouver and Seward. These week-long cruises can be combined into one fourteen-day voyage, leaving roundtrip from either port.
Princess Cruises also returns, with Coral Princess, Diamond Princess and Island Princess sailing week-long voyages between Vancouver and Whittier, Alaska. As with Holland America, these voyages can be combined into a fourteen-day, roundtrip sailing if guests wish to do so. The advantage of these north and southbound sailings is the ability to take passengers farther north than the average weeklong roundtrip sailing.
On the ultra-luxury end of the scale, Regent Seven Seas Cruises (www.rssc.com) brings back its Seven Seas Navigator, while Silversea (www.silversea.com) returns with their elegant Silver Shadow, which was recently given a complete makeover during a drydock in Singapore. Cruisers who like their Alaskan voyages to be as elegant and comfortable as they are scenic won’t go wrong with either line.
If you are a ship buff, you’ll definitely want to be down at Canada Place to catch these rare or maiden calls: (all times are approximate and subject to change)
- Sunday, April 17 – 7:00am to Midnight – Crystal Cruises – Crystal Symphony
- Tuesday, May 3 – 7:00am to 5:00pm – Disney Cruise Line – Disney Wonder
- Sunday, May 22 – 6:00am to 4:30pm – Celebrity Cruises – Celebrity Century
- Monday, May 23 – 7:00am to 4:00pm – Oceania Cruises – Regatta
- Monday, May 23 – 7:00am to 4:00pm – P&O Cruises UK – Arcadia
- Friday, July 15 - 6:00am to Midnight – Hapag-Lloyd Cruises – Bremen
Sunday, September 25 will be the busiest day of the season, with five ships docked in Vancouver: Zaandam, Westerdam and Statendam at Canada Place, and Norwegian Pearl and Golden Princess at Ballantyne Pier. The season comes to a close on Tuesday, October 4 with the arrival of Holland America Line’s West Coast favourite, the 2003-built Oosterdam.
If you’ve never sailed to Alaska, there’s never been a better time than now to go. This year boasts an incredible variety of ships and itineraries leaving conveniently from Canada Place. Alaska is truly one of the most spectacularly scenic cruises you can take anywhere in the world, and it exists right in our own backyard.
With the price of airfare these days, a homeport cruise looks very appealing indeed.
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