By DAN FOX

EDITOR

In 2016, Alaska ranked as the world’s sixth top destination; 2017 looks to continue that trend with an additional 35,000 visitors, breaking an all-time high record, according to a press release from Cruise Lines International Association Alaska (CLIA Alaska).

“For many years, global growth outpaced Alaska. It is so encouraging to see Alaska’s market share rising slightly, matching the incredible growth in the industry worldwide,” John Binkley, president of CLIA Alaska, said in the release.

Thirty-three ships will make 498 calls to Alaska in 2017, carrying 1,060,000 visitors with them.

The 2017 season is bringing a few changes for the Alaska cruise market along with it:

• New CLIA Alaska member Seabourn will return to Alaska for the first time in 15 years, bringing the 450-passenger Sojourn to the Last Frontier’s waters.

• The Carnival Legend will make two additional voyages to Alaska, for a total of 19.

• The Oosterdam of the Holland America Line moved to Europe during the 2016 season, but is returning to Alaska this year.

It will sail a total of 21 round-trips from Seattle. The Amsterdam is moving to a 14-day itinerary, and will make ten trips.

• The 3,092-passenger Emerald Princess is migrating from its home port in Southampton, U.K. to Seattle, where it will sail 19 round-trips up to Alaska.

• The Norwegian Cruise Lines returns three ships, with the Jewell adding one new sailing.

• The Disney Wonder is adding two journeys, for a total of 16 Alaska trips.

“Alaska is very hot right now in the cruise market,” Binkley said in a phone interview. “More people are wanting to come to Alaska, and so the cruise lines are responding by putting more ship capacity in the Alaska market.”

An increase in both ship count and ship size is foreseen for the Alaska cruise market. Binkley made reference to the Norwegian Bliss, a 4,004 passenger (double occupancy), 329.8-meter vessel coming to Alaska waters in the near future.

“And that requires a very large dock, so we need to make sure that the ports in Alaska are ready with infrastructure for that vessel,” Binkley said.