State/National/WorldNews Briefs

Alaska cruise ship company offers more trips during spring

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — A small cruise ship company is already offering trips to Alaska as part of an effort to persuade the industry to set sail for the state earlier in the year.

UnCruise Adventures has launched cruises in southeast Alaska a few weeks before the first large passenger vessel is due in Juneau at the end of the month, the Juneau Empire reported.

“It’s the whole idea of making May the new June and April the new May,” Dan Blanchard, the company’s CEO, said. “We can do that in southeast and even a little bit in south central and Kenai.”

With a record number of visitors expected in Juneau this year, Blanchard said offering cruises earlier could help spread out the demanding tourism traffic.

About 1.2 million cruise ship visitors are expected for Juneau this year and about 1.3 million passengers are expected next year, according to the Cruise Line Industry Association.

Blanchard’s company uses boats that hold between 22 and 86 guests. The large cruise lines operate ships that can hold hundreds to thousands of people.

When Blanchard started working in the tourism business years ago, Alaska cruises would typically start at the end of May and get busier by mid-June, he said.

The season has since been expanded throughout May, adding to the company’s bottom line, Blanchard said.

“So for those of us in the travel industry who are starved during the winter, if we can get 20-30 percent added on to our season, it makes a huge difference,” he said.

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