If the glaciers and grizzlies of Alaska are calling to you, this is a great time to score a deal.
Cruise lines are slashing prices on Alaskan voyages. Why? Supply and demand: More ships than usual — including some giant ships — will head north this summer.
“There’s huge capacity this year in Alaska,” said Mike Driscoll, editor of Cruise Week. “It’s up double digits. During January, a lot of the cruise lines were waiting to see if people started booking. They didn’t. Now that it’s February, we’re seeing much better rates, especially on round trips out of Seattle.”
Another good reason to book now? We’re in the middle of Wave Season. And no, that doesn’t mean rough seas.
Wave season, from about Jan. 15 to March 15, is when cruise lines and travel agents like to book as many cabins as possible for the upcoming year. Think of it as a wave of bookings — sort of a three-month-long Black Friday for cruise lines. The lines race to fill cabins early so they don’t have to drop prices a month or two before sailing.
“I’ve heard that 65-70% of cruise bookings are made this time of the year,” said Charles Sylvia, a vice president with Cruise Lines International Assn., a trade group. Sylvia, a travel agent since 1994, said Wave Season is when he makes his own bookings.
Besides finding discounted prices, you may be able to score free drink and dining packages, free Wi-Fi and onboard credit. Norwegian Cruise Line and UnCruise Adventures include free air transportation with some of their Alaska deals this year.
Cruise expert Driscoll said the odds of getting a bargain for 2019 are excellent. “Some years the deals aren’t that good,” he said. “But this year, in terms of real bargains, it’s Alaska.”
More than two dozen ships will head north to Alaska this year, including three mega-ships with a capacity of 4,000 or more passengers. In the past, most Alaskan ships have had a capacity of about half as many passengers. These super ships include:
-- Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas, which holds almost 5,000 passengers. (Rates for a weeklong cruise start at $981 per person, double occupancy, plus taxes and fees.) RC will also send Radiance of the Seas, with 2,500 passengers, to Alaska. (Rates start at $659 per person, double occupancy, plus taxes and fees.)
-- Norwegian Cruise Line will have two giant ships in the region, Norwegian Bliss and Joy, both with a capacity of nearly 4,000. (Rates for a weeklong cruise from $849 per person, double occupancy, depending on date, plus taxes and fees.) Norwegian Jewel, with more than 2,700 passengers, will also sail in Alaska. (Rates from $599 per person, double occupancy, depending on date, plus taxes and fees.) Norwegian offers many Wave Season extras, such as free Wi-Fi, specialty dining and an open bar.
Another addition this summer will be Cunard, which will sail to Alaska for the first time in 20 years. The ship, the newly refit Queen Elizabeth, will sail four 10-night round-trip voyages from Vancouver, Canada.
Cunard’s Wave Season Queen Elizabeth deals include a promotional fare of $2,599 per person, double occupancy, on a weeklong May 21 sailing (promo code XLT; purchase by Feb. 28).
Princess Cruise Line, which is celebrating its 50th year in Alaska, has rates that start at $599 per person, double occupancy, for a weeklong Voyage of the Glaciers, $689 for Inside Passage sailings and $999 for an Alaska cruise combined with on-shore tours. It also is adding free dining in its specialty restaurants and up to $900 to spend on board. Prices exclude taxes and fees.
Small ships also offer special Wave Season deals. UnCruise Adventures’ promotions include a $600 air credit on its Glacier Country cruises and $500 credit for grandparents sailing with their grandchildren. Rates for the Glacier Country cruises begin at $3,195 per person, double occupancy, for a weeklong cruise.