Alaska soon will be back on the schedule at Oceania Cruises.
Oceania president Kunal Kamlani tells USA TODAY the upscale line will resume summer sailings to the state in 2013 with a series of seven- and 10-night voyages out of Seattle and Vancouver. The trips will take place between May and August on the 684-passenger Regatta.
"Our guests are telling us, 'we'd like to see you back in Alaska,'" Kamlani says, adding that the deployment also will add more diversity to the line's Europe-heavy summer schedule.
Oceania positioned a ship in Alaska for the first time over the summer of 2011 but is skipping the region this year as it sends its entire fleet to Europe.
The Alaska sailings out of Seattle will be a first for the line, and the seven-night voyages also are unusual. Oceania long has been known for focusing on lengthier sailings of 10 nights or more.
Kamlani says the feedback the line received from customers after its first season in Alaska was that cruises to the region didn't need to be as long as the trips the line offers elsewhere. Oceania's Alaska sailings in 2011 varied from 10 to 14 nights in length.
"What we heard was make your itineraries a little bit shorter," Kamlani says. "The feedback was ... you want to spend 10, 12, 14, 16 days to truly see Europe. You can see Alaska in seven to 10 days."
Kamlani says that the line will offer an unlimited shore excursion package for Alaska that lets passengers sign up for as many outings as they want for a lump sum of $699 per person on seven night sailings or $999 on 10-night sailings. For customers who book an Alaska cruise by June 30, the line is offering two-for-one pricing on the packages, making them $699 and $999, respectively, for two people.
A caveat with the unlimited shore excursion package, which is similar to unlimited packages the line has rolled out in other destinations: Some of the most expensive excursions in Alaska, such as helicopter tours of the glaciers around Juneau and floatplane rides over Misty Fjords National Monument, will come with a supplemental charge. Helicopter tours in Alaska can cost $300 to $600 per person.
Oceania's return to Alaska can be seen, in part, as a hedge for the company against the possibility of continued economic turmoil in Europe, where Oceania still will have most of its fleet for the summer of 2013. Economic turmoil in Europe over the past year has had an impact on cruise bookings in the region at many lines.
"It mitigates some risk of the sovereign debt crisis of Europe," Kamlani says of the Alaska deployment.
Oceania will offer seven itineraries in Alaska in 2013 including:
-- Seven-night sailings between Seattle and Vancouver that feature stops in Sitka, Ketchikan and Prince Rupert, British Columbia. Departures: June 5, June 12, June 29, July 6.
-- Ten-night roundtrip sailings from Seattle that feature stops in Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Hoonah, Sitka and Victoria, BC. Departures: June 19, July 13.
-- Seven-night sailings between Seattle and Vancouver that feature stops in Sitka, Wrangell and Ketchikan. Departures: Jul 23, July 30, Aug 6.
The trips will open for booking on March 7.