Anchorage Sees Its Biggest Cruise Ship Ever

MS Amsterdam; Holland America Line

Anchorage is Alaska's largest city but until this week it wasn't on routes for popular big ship Alaska cruises. The reason: You have to get around a peninsula to get there and there are easier ports for ships to get to.

But on its new 14-day Alaskan Adventurer itinerary from Seattle, Holland America Line decided to break the mold. The 1,390-passenger Amsterdam called at Anchorage proper this week and will make eight more calls this summer. The itinerary will be repeated again in 2011. The cruises also call at little-visited Kodiak and Homer.

Anchorage officials, no doubt seeing big potential for tourist dollars, were thrilled to greet the ship yesterday. The Amsterdam will bring 12,400 visitors to the city this year.

"The arrival of the Amsterdam represents a new page in the growth of the city," said Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan. "We welcome this newest group of visitors and invite them to explore all that the city has to offer."

Richard Meadows, executive vice president, marketing, sales and guest programs for Holland America, told AOL Travel, "It's a fact of cruising in Alaska, that though you might fly to Anchorage to catch a ship, few ships visit the city, instead heading out to the Inside Passage from more convenient ports in the towns of Whittier and Seward." He said the decision to visit Anchorage allows the line "to expand our scope" and offer more choice.

Passengers on the Amsterdam were able to pick from more than two-dozen shore excursions in and around Ancorage including flightseeing trips to see Denali National Park and Mt. McKinley. Others chose to explore the city. In fact, the port call was for 16 hours, allowing plenty of time to do both.

All this came as welcome news in a year when several cruise lines cut some cruises in Alaska, some even moving ships elsewhere including to Europe. The number of cruise passengers in Alaska, near 1 million in 2009, is expected to be less than 883,000 this year; lost revenue from fewer passengers equals as much as $150 million, by some estimates.

The cuts were due in large part to a controversial $50 passenger head tax, which the Alaska leisglature reduced this year to $34.50, in a bid to get the cruises back (the new tax takes effect in 2011).
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