Queen Elizabeth sails into Anchorage on maiden voyage to Alaska
The Queen Elizabeth is impressive, much more than a floating hotel. It houses roughly 1,200 rooms that can accommodate close to 2,100 passengers. There are plenty of spiral staircases, a two-story library and a theater complete with box seating.
There's also a casino, but you can only play in international waters.
Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz came with gifts as he welcomed the Queen Elizabeth on its first voyage to Alaska. Not so for the ship's captain, Inger Klein Thorhauge — the first woman to command a vessel for cruise company Cunard Line.
"I was in Anchorage 15 years ago because I got the privilege to kind of look at Alaska for the Seabourn ships coming into Alaska for the first time," she said. "I traveled around in February, which is a little colder than it is now."
A spokesperson for the Queen Elizabeth said it's the first ship operated by Cunard Line to sail to Alaska in 20 years. It's also the first of 10 cruise ships scheduled to arrive in Anchorage this summer.
Cruise Lines International Association-Alaska predicts 1.36 million people will sail to Alaska this year.
Seward is scheduled to host more than 90 port calls during the summer season. Whittier will expectedly receive 37 port calls.
The association's president, John Binkley, is not surprised by the overall increase in the number of cruise ships.
"The cruise lines are putting more ships, more capacity into Alaska, so that people can come to Alaska on a cruise ship," Binkley said.
A study by the McDowell Group in February found cruise visitors have been on a steady climb since 2015. The study for the state's Economic Development Agency found Alaska welcomed its one-millionth cruise visitor in 2016, the first time in seven years that happened.
This year could see a record for the number of cruise ship passengers in Alaska.
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