Last updated: 03:16 PM ET, Fri March 25 2016

Growth In The Great Land

Alaska continues to evolve as a destination as it amps up its offerings.

Vacation Agent | Destination & Tourism | Mimi Kmet

Growth In The Great Land

PHOTO: The Northern Lights over the Aurora Ice Museum at Chena Hot Springs. (Travis Knauss/Chena Hot Springs Resort)

In recent years, Alaska has been evolving into an increasingly diverse destination.  Besides cruising, hiking and flightseeing, for example, visitors can now take in the state's vast wilderness via zipline.  In cities and towns like Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau and Haines, breweries and distilleries are turning out locally crafted beer and spirits. Food has also taken on a more prominent role, with new walking tours in Juneau and Anchorage focusing on local fare, and food trucks in Fairbanks serving up international delicacies.  

Heritage and history remain a big draw, as cultured centers like the Alaska State Museum (reopening in as May 2016) and the Sealaska Heritage Institute, both in Juneau, undergo enhancements.  The Alaska Gallery at the Achorage Museum also plans a renovation in summer 2016.  

Additionally, several companies that offer land tours, day cruises, lodge-based adventures, and multi-day cruises and cruise-tours in The Great adventures Land are amping up their offerings.  Following is a rundown: 


Alaska Wildland Adventures (, 800-334-8730) is launching niche tours in 2016. Among the limited-departure tours are an “Alaska Photo Journey” in August, available to guests at Camp Denali, featuring a lecture by documentary maker Ken Burns, and yoga retreats that visit Kenai Fjords and Denali National Parks. The company is promoting these small-group tours by word of mouth and does not feature them on its website. 

Located 60 miles northeast of Fairbanks, Chena Experience Hot Springs Resort (, 907-451-8104) has launched an "Ice Sculpting Experience."  Guests work with a champion ice-carving couple and leave their sculptures on display at the Aurora Ice Museum.  The resort also introduced a three-day "Dog Musher's Apprentice" program, teaching guests how to care for the canines and pilot a dogsled.  

CIRI Alaska Tourism (, 877-258-6877) is now partnering with Premier Alaska Tours to sell into the latter’s escorted one-week itineraries.  CIRI is also in talks with Gray Line to form a partnership.

These developments come on the heels of the razing and rebuilding of the main building of CIRI’s Kenai Fjords Wilderness Lodge, which took place in 2013.

The Waterfall Group's Steamboat Bay Fishing Club on Noyes Island near Ketchikan recently opened The Residence at Steamboat Bay (, 800-350-3474). The eight-guest building brings the property’s total capacity to 24.  Residence guests have access to all of the services at the main lodge, including meals, an open bar, massages, and outdoor activities.


Exit Glacier Guides (, 907-224-5569) has partnered with Liquid Adventures to offer kayaking, paddleboarding, and other water-oriented trips. The company’s land tours range from glacier climbing and ice hiking to backcountry glacier camping.

John Hall’s Alaska (, 800-325-2270) added a sixth National Park to its 19-day “National Parks of Alaska” cruise-tour; a choice of sailing on a small or large ship (previously, a large ship was the only option) on its 17-day “Three Bears of Alaska” cruise-tour; and an overnight stay at the Denali Backcountry Lodge on its 14-day “Denali Explorer” cruise-tour. 

Phillips Cruises & Tours (, 907-276-8023) introduced a new evening cruise tour to Blackstone Bay to view seven glaciers.  The tour, which is available July 1 through Aug. 15, runs from 7 to 10 p.m., and includes champagne and hors d’oeuvres. 

Starting May 30, White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad (, 800-343-7373) will offer a museum tour on its "Bennett Scenic Journey" itinerary.   The roundtrip excursion from Skagway will include a 45-minute layover in Bennett, B.C., where passengers can visit the Bennett Station Museum to learn about the area’s history. The company also launched Legacy Class luxury service using a special car with plush seating that accommodates 12 to 14 people.  Tickets include appetizers using locally sourced food; beverages, including a full bar; and a private tour guide. 


This year, Alaskan Dream Cruises (, 855-747-8100) will launch the 74-passenger Chichagof Dream, bringing its fleet to five ships. The vessel will feature five stateroom categories and four decks with expansive viewing areas as it cruises the Inside Passage on eight-, nine- and 11-day sailings.  The company also introduced “True Alaska Exploration,” a program that features unscripted days for adventures such as hikes, wildlife encounters and wilderness discovery. 

Holland America Line’s (, 206-281-3535) new Base Camp, a gathering area at the company’s 60-acre Denali-McKinley Chalet Resort in Denali National Park, will open in time for the 2016 Alaska cruise-tour season.  It will feature an amphitheater with live entertainment, a 7,800-square-foot restaurant, outdoor seating with fire circles and retail shops.

“North to Alaska!” – an onboard on immersive destination program for guests on Princess Cruises' (, 800-774-6237) Alaska voyages – debuted in summer 2015.  The program features guest speakers from Alaska, a Klondike Gold Rush festival and locally sourced foods, including fresh seafood.  

Two new weeklong itineraries are available from Un-Cruise Adventures (, 888-862-8881) this year, both of which sail roundtrip from Juneau.  The 84-guest Safari Endeavour off ers “Exploring Muir’s Wilderness,” which sails to areas like Icy Strait, Glacier Bay National Park, Kuiu Island, and Endicott Arm.  The 22-guest Safari Quest offers “Yachters’ Alaskan Frontier,” which features a flexible itinerary visiting Fords Terror, Frederick Sound, Baranof Island and Chichagof Island. 


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Vacation Agent Magazine

A version of this article appears in print in the March 2016 issue of Vacation Agent Magazine.