Posted: Tuesday, August 28, 2001

Royal Caribbean to expand land tours

ANCHORAGE - Royal Caribbean is expanding its land tours business in Alaska.

The Miami-based cruise ship company will add new rail cars and buses to ferry more passengers on inland tours of Southcentral and Interior Alaska, said Jack Williams, president of Royal Caribbean International.

Williams said Royal Celebrity Tours will double the number of dome rail cars to four and add 18 buses to its current fleet of 20. Royal Celebrity Tours, a division of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., launched Alaska land packages in May. Guests choose among a variety of trips that take them to places such as Talkeetna, Denali, Fairbanks, Girdwood and Anchorage.

He said if demand for the land packages continues to grow, Royal Caribbean would consider adding a sixth ship to its five that now visit Alaska.

The company expects to see continued growth in Alaska, Williams said.

The cruise industry grew explosively in the past decade. About 235,000 passengers visited Alaska in 1990. Those numbers grew steadily throughout the decade, reaching 640,000 last year, said Williams, citing the McDowell Group, a Juneau research firm.

The Alaska figures mirror the growth the industry has seen overall, he said. Royal Caribbean has seven new ships on order, Williams added.

Cruise ship travel is now "the single largest growth industry in the state of Alaska," Williams said.

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