It looks like cruise ships have finally run aground, at least in Alaska anyways. Holland America and Princess Cruises (both members of the Carnival Corporation family) have announced that they will indeed offer Alaska itineraries this summer—but with a big catch. Instead of welcoming people aboard ships at sea, the cruise lines’ new itineraries are all land-based, with no cruise ship required.
The inaugural summer tours will take advantage of being land-based and focus on Alaska’s interior and are a combined effort that will utilize Princess Alaska Lodges, Holland America Line’s Westmark Hotels, and Gray Line Alaska tour options.
Princess is the most booked cruise line for Alaska cruises, while Holland America has been exploring Alaska for nearly 75 years—longer than any other cruise line—and Gray Line Alaska has been taking tourists around Alaska via multi-day escorted tours and rail itineraries for seven decades now. All that to say, all three companies know their way around The Last Frontier.
The move to land-only tours in the time of COVID-19 isn’t too much of a shock—or a stretch—since many Alaska cruises function as land-and-sea itineraries. The new land-only itineraries come ready-made or can be customized as desired and feature bucket list activities like escorted wildlife tours of Denali National Park (where guests can try to spot Alaska’s Big Five—moose, grizzly bears, wolves, caribou, and Dall sheep), a Portage Glacier Cruise, and standbys like whitewater rafting, flightseeing excursions, and riverboat tours.
“We love Alaska, and we love that we get to share it with visitors from all over the world,” Dave McGlothlin, vice president of tour operations, said in a statement. “We’re committed to helping locals and visitors alike experience all the best parts of Alaska in a safe way. For the last year, many people stayed close to home, so this summer, as we’re able to reopen some of the land offerings, we are more ready than ever to welcome visitors back through our doors.”
Escorted tours will last around six or seven nights and provide a tour director. Explorer tours are a bit shorter at five to six nights and don’t include a dedicated tour director but will have point people set up along the way to help them run smoothly. Both levels include some sightseeing activities and select meals.
While Alaskan Rail travel is part of the Explorer and Escorted tours, there will also be a handful of rail tour options that will travel roundtrip by train for one to six nights from Anchorage to Denali to Fairbanks (or reverse). Stunning scenery included—but all meals and sightseeing activities cost extra. For folks who prefer a little more flexibility or a traditional vacation-style trip, the two cruise lines will also be offering hotel-only options with flexible add-ons for activities.