In an attempt to lure cruise passengers to Alaska in spite of a horrid economy, one Alaska cruise line is dangling the granddaddy of cruise tours.
It's actually two cruises on two different cruise ships -- one traveling north to Alaska, the other one south to Vancouver, British Columbia -- with a couple of days in Anchorage sandwiched in the middle.
It's not two cruises for the price of one, but Holland America Line says the trip is a unique opportunity because other round-trip Alaska cruises on the major lines mean seeing all the same stuff twice. And it is cheaper than most Alaska cruise trips that include a land tour.
The deal is one of many ideas that the cruise lines -- which brought roughly 1 million visitors to Alaska last year -- have hatched in recent months to get tourists to keep coming to Alaska despite the poor economy.
In a sign of how concerned they are about filling ships, the cruise lines have been discounting their fares dramatically. Last year the cheapest fare for a seven-day Alaska cruise was $799 plus fees. This year, Princess Tours is advertising a seven-day trip for $399.
Bill Fletcher, Holland America's Alaska director for sales and marketing, mentioned the new itinerary during a recent Anchorage Chamber of Commerce luncheon. He said he feels confident that Holland America's ships will be filled. The company is brainstorming new offers "at least weekly" to snag people's interest, he said.
In general Alaska tourism leaders said they expect overall visitation to Alaska to be less in 2009 than the 1.7 million people who visited last year.
One new selling point for Holland America's new 17-day "Voyage of the Glaciers" cruise is that it includes glacier viewing in Glacier Bay and Yakutat.
Until now cruise passengers could only ogle glaciers in one of the two places, company officials said.
While round-trip cruises have long been possible, they have meant cruising back and forth on the same ship and mostly along the same route, Fletcher said.
The per-passenger fare prices for the Voyage of the Glaciers itinerary, based on double-room occupancy, range from $1,299 to $1,799.
The tour is available on eight dates from May to August and the two ships -- the Ryndam and the Statendam -- will depart from and return to Vancouver.
Though he thinks Holland America's eight ships traveling to Alaska will be filled to capacity this year, passengers most likely will spend less money and fewer of them will go on land tours, Fletcher said.
Find Elizabeth Bluemink online at adn.com/contact/ebluemink or call 257-4317.