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JUNEAU — The first “mega” cruise ship will begin visiting Alaska next summer.
The 4,000-passenger Norwegian Bliss starts making port calls in June, CoastAlaska News reported Wednesday. The “megaships” are part of a trend that’s sending more tourists to Alaska by sea.
The ships will carry up to twice as many passengers as some current ships in Alaska. The 5,000-passenger Ovation of the Seas begins sailing to Alaska in 2019.
“I believe people will notice the size difference in these ships, particularly the Ovation of the Seas,” said John Binkley, president of Cruise Lines International Association’s Alaska branch. “That is significantly bigger than the ships that people would normally be seeing throughout Alaska.”
The Bliss will sail weeklong round-trips out of Seattle, stopping in Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway. It will also sail to Sawyer Glacier in Tracy Arm Fjord.
The Ovation will be based in Seattle, too. But its Alaska itinerary hasn’t been posted yet.
The Bliss is owned by Norwegian Cruise Line, which will send two smaller ships to Alaska this summer.
The Ovation is owned by Royal Caribbean International.
Binkley said the reason people want to go to Alaska is because “it’s a somewhat exotic destination, yet it’s on U.S. soil.”
“And it’s someplace that people feel comfortable and safe to visit,” he said.
Travel expert Chris Gray Faust said the Bliss has the largest go-kart race track on the seas, among other attractions.
“One thing that’s very nice for passengers going to Alaska is they have a 20,000-square-foot observation lounge with 180-degree views,” she said. “Passengers in that lounge, they’ll really get the beauty of the landscape right there. They’ll be able to see it all as they come in.”
The Ovation of the Seas advertises skydiving and surf simulators, as well as robotic bartenders. But it also has a scenic aspect.
“They have what’s known as the North Star, which is a compartment that rises above the ship, like a travelling viewing compartment,” Gray Faust said. “People should be able to get good views from that and certainly from the shore, people will notice that.”