— Pacific Northwest —
Alaska has long been a favorite destination of large cruise lines and their passengers. Now, however, groups can opt for a river-cruise-style visit to Alaska, as well as other destinations in the Pacific Northwest.
American Cruise Lines, a small-ship company that specializes in sailings on the intracoastal waterways and waters of the United States, introduced small-vessel cruises to Alaska in 2012. Groups can take seven-night cruises from Juneau that visit destinations throughout southeast Alaska or 11-night cruises from Seattle that explore the Inside Passage.
“The seven-night cruise out of Juneau stops in Glacier Bay, which is a highly anticipated stop for guests,” said Britt Rabinovici, the company’s public relations manager. “You get to see the glaciers and wildlife up close. You don’t need binoculars to see the glaciers. And when you see a pod of orcas, they’re right there by the ship. It’s a more authentic way to experience Alaska.”
American Cruise Lines also recently began offering cruises to the Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands thanks to demand from customers who had cruised with them on the Columbia and Snake rivers. The Puget Sound cruises last eight days and depart from Seattle.
“It’s a beautiful area and a very unique itinerary,” Rabinovici said. “It has a really rich Norwegian heritage, and the stops are very historical. The response has been amazing; we’ve done minimal marketing for it, and it’s selling very quickly.”
— Asia —
As travelers discover the benefits of river cruising in North America and Europe, increasing numbers are looking for similar experiences in exotic destinations such as Russia, China and Southeast Asia. Viking River Cruises, a well-established river cruise company and one of the leaders in Asia, is seeing a surge of interest in its exotic products.
“China is our most popular product of anything that we have in Asia,” said Michele Saegesser, vice president of sales in the Americas for Viking. “I’ve been on just about every Viking product, and this is my secret favorite. The ships are magnificent and geared for North Americans. Everyone speaks perfect English, and the food is a combination of Western European and some Asian cuisines.”
To help travelers fulfill their Chinese travel dreams, Viking combines cruising on the Yangtze with overnight visits to popular destinations such as Beijing, Xi’an and Shanghai, allowing travelers to walk on the Great Wall of China or see the famous Terra Cotta Warriors.
With the growing interest in Asia, Viking has introduced cruises in Burma, Vietnam and Cambodia. In 2014, the company will also offer river cruises in Thailand.
“There is interest across the board in Vietnam and Cambodia,” Saegesser said. “The Mekong has been getting a lot of attention lately, and Angkor Wat is a real draw. And our Thailand departures for 2014 are already doing very well.”