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Small Ship Cruising In Alaska

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Spirit of Alaska/Baranof Dream

The gap in Alaskan small ship cruising created by the demise of Cruise West last month has been filled.  Allen Marine Tours, based in Sitka, Alaska, has announced the launch of Alaskan Dream Cruises, operating two of Cruise West’s 78 passenger vessels, the Spirit of Columbia and tne Spirit of Alaska. renamed the Admiralty Dream and the Baranof Dream.  The new line will also operate a third vessel, the Alaska Dream, a 49 passenger catamaran.

Allen Marine Tours has operated day cruises since the 1970s, as well as a shipbuilding business.  All three vessels of tne new line will be refurbished in the parent company’s own shipyard.

Alaska Dream Cruises will be based in Sitka as well, offering 7 night trips to the most popular destinations in Southeast Alaska, such as Tracy Arm and Glacier National Park.  The first cruise is scheduled to depart Sitka on May 14th.

American Safari Cruises also has plans to enter the Alaskan small ship market,

Wilderness Adventurer

via their newly formed division InnerSea Discoveries.  The company plans to begin Cruises in May as well, on board the 49 passenger Wilderness Discoverer and the Wilderness Adventurer.

I think this is very welcome news.  While I absolutely recommend that you take whatever opportunity presents itself  to visit Alaska, sailing on a small vessel is an ideal way to see more and experience more of what Alaska has to offer, far away from the towns and hordes of other tourists.  I wish both operators well.

Technorati Tags: Alaskan Dream Cruises, American Safari Cruises, Cruise lines, cruise ships, Cruise West, Glacier Bay, InnerSea Discoveries, Sitka, small cruise ships, Southeast Alaska, Tracy Arm

River Boat Cruises Return to The Mississippi After All

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Artist's Rendering of the New Paddlewheeler

For the past week or so, the hopes of a re-birth of overnight river boat cruises on the Mississippi River seemed to have died with the closure of Cruise West.  It was just this past June that Cruise West announced with great fanfare their intention to relocate one of their West Coast-based ships to the Mississippi River in 2011.  Regularly scheduled overnight river boat cruises on the Mississippi River ended in 2008, when the Delta Queen Steamships sailed for the last time.

But now along comes American Cruise Lines, with the welcome news that they will fill the void.  On Tuesday of this week, the following was released to the press:

“American Cruise Lines has announced it is expanding to the Mississippi River system with a brand new sternwheeler, already under construction at Chesapeake Shipbuilding in Salisbury,MD. It plans to operate the new riverboat on routes similar to those formerly run by Delta QueenSteamboat Company, which will include the Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee, and Cumberland Rivers.

Cruising the Mississippi River on a sternwheeler is a true all-American experience that American CruiseLines is pleased to bring back. The new paddlewheeler will recreate the grandeur of past riverboats while possessing the latest safety, environmental and construction technologies. The ship will have the look of a traditional riverboat along with more amenities, a faster speed, and an unmatched level of comfort. Features include six unique lounges, a library, an elegant dining salon, elevator service to all decks, and the exceptionally large staterooms found on all American Cruise Lines ships. With only 140 passengers, each guest will receive personalized service in the intimate and friendly atmosphere for which American Cruise Lines has become known.

The first cruise is a scheduled to depart August 11, 2012 from New Orleans, Louisiana on a 7-night journey up the Mississippi to Memphis, Tennessee. The ship will then begin a series of 7-night cruises travelling as far north as St. Paul, Minnesota while utilizing its remarkable speed to open up new itinerary possibilities. As on all true riverboats, a stage and bow ramp will give the ship access to the many interesting ports without docking facilities.”

The purpose-built, 5 deck paddlewheeler won’t begin service for almost two years, further delaying the highly anticipated resumption of overnight river boat cruises on the Mississippi River.  It is, however, anticipation delayed, not anticipation dashed.

Technorati Tags: American Cruise Line, Cruise West, Delta Queen, Mississippi River boat cruises, Natchez, New Orleans, paddlewheeler, river boat cruises

Breaking News

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Seatrade Insider is reporting that Cruise West has ceased operations.  Dick West, Chairman and Managing Director is quoted as saying:

“I have never given up hope that we might be able to find a way to survive by working with the various interested parties. I am absolutely heartbroken that this family legacy has come to an end.   We have done absolutely everything to maintain operations, but with limited resources and the current tight financial market, we simply cannot continue.”

Such a shame.  I’ll post more as details become available.

Technorati Tags: Cruise West, Dick West

Wither Cruise West?

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Spirit of Oceanus

Cruise West announced on Tuesday that it had new owners and stopped taking reservations for future cruises.   Very little information has been forthcoming, other than an assurance that several cruises scheduled for the remainder of September and early October will sail as scheduled.  65 employees have been laid off.

Cruise West’s website now carries a simple notice, shedding very little additional light on the situation:

“Cruise West, a global leader in small-ship explorations, today   announced that they continue to work towards a restructuring of the company and its operations.  The first move in this restructuring is the termination of the Spirit of Oceanus’ Voyage of the Great Explorers.   Additional assets may be sold and other steps are being pursued towards a restructure.   As part of this process, Cruise West has suspended accepting any new bookings.”

Undoubtedly, this comes as a blow to many individuals – the 65 employees who have lost their jobs, the remaining employees whose jobs may be in jeopardy, and the prospective cruisers who planned, or perhaps simply dreamt, of sailing with Cruise West in the future.

I’m not effected in any direct way by this situation, and yet I find myself saddened by it.  I read with great interest the announcement of the Voyages of the Great Explorers, wanderlust kicking in as I worked my through the extensive description.  An epic world cruise, the trip began in March of this year and was to last until February 2011, a total of 335 days.  Time and circumstances didn’t permit, but….oh, if they did!

Passengers were disembarking in St. John’s, Newfoundland earlier this week at the end of this particular leg of the journey.  For some, this was as they planned.  For those who were in port to sail on the next leg of the trip, if there were any, disappointment must be keen.  But for those who signed on for the full cruise, there must be anger, disappointment, bewilderment, and a sense of loss for an adventure only half fulfilled.

I would have loved to have been one of those intrepid few who were willing to set sail for almost a year and see the world.  I liked knowing that maybe one day I could do something similar.  It’s a shame that such a wonderful experience couldn’t be brought to a more fitting conclusion.

Technorati Tags: Cruise line, Cruise West, Spirit of Oceanus, World Cruise