The 2016 Alaska cruise season is officially under way, and it's a significant year of firsts including several inaugural Vancouver and Seattle visits, by the region's largest ever cruise ship and one of its smallest.
On its way north, Princess Cruises' Star Princess was the first to call on the B.C., Canadian city on April 4 at the cruise terminal of Canada Place, which itself is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, according to Seatrade Cruise News. The overall facility was originally built for the 1986 World Exposition on Transportation and Communication and continues to play a major part in the Alaskan cruise industry to this day as one of the primary turnaround ports for roundtrip, northbound and southbound itineraries.
Vancouver alone will facilitate 228 cruise calls this season, anticipating around 830,000 cruise travelers with 3 percent growth over last year. Making its first return to Vancouver since 2005 is Crystal Cruises with its Crystal Serenity luxury liner, and Holland America Line will celebrate its inaugural call for the Nieuw Amsterdam. The line's second to newest ship leaves from its Caribbean run as the brand's latest Koningsdam prepares to head for Port Everglades, Florida later in the fall of 2016.
Also on the Alaskan books, passing through Vancouver for the first time, is Ponant's 264-guest mega-yacht, Le Soleal. In contrast will be Royal Caribbean International's 4,029-guest Explorer of the Seas making its way to Alaska for the first time as the largest ever cruise ship to sail there. Corporate cousin's Celebrity Cruises previously held the title with its 2,850-guest Celebrity Solstice, also returning this season.
The Explorer of the Seas will alternatively depart from Seattle, Washington, the region's other major homeport and where Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Limited is investing for its brands' ships. The corporation's Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises will all sail to Alaska in 2016. Of course, most lines deploy so many ships each year now that they split their duties between both Vancouver and Seattle. The Washington port will see its first call this year, also from the Nieuw Amsterdam, on April 29.
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