This summer, the largest cruise ship to ever come to Alaska will traverse the state's waters.
The Royal Caribbean International ship Explorer of the Seas will sail from Seattle to Alaska beginning in May, with seven-night cruises running through September. The company announced last week that the ship, which will travel this year to Juneau, Skagway, Alaska's Inside Passage and Tracy Arm (as well as Victoria, British Columbia), will also sail to Alaska during the summer of 2017.
The Explorer of the Seas is nearly 40 percent larger than many of the largest ships that already come to Alaska, based on a report of the vessel's gross tonnage -- a measure related to a ship's volume -- at Royal Caribbean's website. The ship holds 3,835 guests and measures 1,020 feet long and nearly 158 feet wide.
"This is considered one of the monster cruise ships, and it's the biggest cruise ship to ever deploy to Alaska," said Kathy Dunn, tourism marketing manager for the state Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development.
In a year where the state's economy is expected to take a hit, tourism is expected to be one of the bright spots as low fuel prices and a recovering economy in the Lower 48 bring more people to visit. The cruise industry is predicted to help boost that.
"The bigger the ship, the more passengers, and the more spending," Dunn said. "That's good for Alaska's economy."
A recent report from the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development said that the state's cruise industry predicts that in 2016 "its passenger count will top the 1 million mark for the first time."
"We're excited to have (Explorer of the Seas) and it's really reflective of growth in the cruise industry and visitor industry overall in Alaska in 2016," said John Binkley, president of Cruise Lines International Association Alaska. "It's huge."
Despite those predictions of growth, Alaska is actually losing market share to the rest of the world when it comes to the cruise sector, according to a CLIA Alaska report from January.