A second megaship will bring cruise ship passangers to Alaska starting next spring.
The 3,883-passenger, 1,094-foot Norwegian Joy will reposition from China to Seattle for seven-day Alaska cruises starting in April 2019, Norwegian Cruise Line announced recently. The ship joins its sister vessel, the Norwegian Bliss, as the second new panamax ship to sail Alaska, replacing the Norwegian Pearl and joining the Jewel as the cruise line’s third ship in the region.
The Alaska cruise industry has grown substantially in recent years, according to data from the trade group Cruise Line Industry Association Alaska. The Joy’s Alaska sailings are intended to take advantage of Alaska’s bullish cruise market, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. President Frank Del Rio said in a prepared statement.
Del Rio has already declared the Bliss the “most successful ship” in the company’s 51-year history after just one summer season of sailings in Alaska.
“The booming demand environment in our core markets around the world, coupled with Norwegian Bliss’ record-breaking performance, continue to exceed our expectations,” Del Rio said. “I am extremely excited to further strengthen our presence in the region with the addition of Norwegian Joy.”
Norwegian Joy will cruise Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway, Holkham Bay and Icy Strait Point. The ship will also call at Victoria, British Columbia.
CLIA Alaska President John Binkley said the replacement of the Pearl with the Norwegian Joy will result in about 37,000 additional visitors to the capital city next year.
About 1.09 million cruise visitors came to Alaska in 2017 (a record), according to data from the CLIA Alaska, which represents 13 cruise lines which visit Alaska. That was on 33 ships and just under 500 voyages. In 2018, the number of voyages should jump to 519, which would then result in 1.17 million visitors, CLIA projects.
More growth is expected next year. In 2019, CLIA projects 37 ships will make 567 voyages and bring 1.31 million people to Alaska. That represents a 50 percent growth since 2010, when 876,000 cruise passengers came to Alaska. Cruise visitors spent $176.6 million in Juneau in 2017, which CLIA projects will grow to above $200 million in 2019.
The Joy will undergo a $50-million renovation prior to the ship’s arrival in Seattle. The upgrades are intended in part to match the Joy’s accommodation’s with those on the Bliss, according to a press release. Both ships already include a go-kart track, 20 decks, multiple pools, restaurants and observation lounges. The Joy’s renovations will include a Starbucks store as well as enhanced restaurant, bar and entertainment options. Tickets for the Alaska sailing, which opened July 24, are going for an average of $999 per person for double occupancy, according to Norwegian Cruise Line.
Both vessels are 1,094-feet long, cost over $1 billion and will be tied as the longest cruise ships sailing Alaska waters. Both the Joy and Bliss are designated as “new panamax,” or “neopanamax” ships. It’s a term for a size limit for travelling through the Panama Canal. New panamax ships are built under a 1,201-foot limit set in 2016. A regular panamax ship can’t exceed 950 feet in length. While the Joy and Bliss are the same length, the Joy holds fewer passengers — 3,883, compared the Bliss’ 4,004.
Binkley said he could only speculate why Norwegian decided to move the Joy from China to Alaska, but the move “shows the strength of Alaska as a destination” in comparison to other locations.
Globally, cruise lines are building larger ships, Binkley added. “When you look at the orders in the ship yards out for the next seven years, that’s what that trend indicates,” he said.
• Contact reporter Kevin Gullufsen at 523-2228 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @KevinGullufsen.