Alaska Steamship Co.
Cruising to Alaska has a long history that all started with a single ship, the Willapa.
In 1894, thanks to the growth of Alaska's fishing and cannery business, the Alaska Steamship Company (ASC) was born. Charles Peabody, Capt. George Roberts, Capt. Melville Nichols, George Lent, Frank Burns and Walter Oakes formed the company that would eventually enjoy a near monopoly of freight and passenger service to Alaska.
The group's timing was impeccable. Just three years later, Alaska, then an organized territory, began reaping the economic benefits of the Yukon gold rush after gold was discovered along the Klondike River near Dawson City, Canada.
ASC initially ran service between Skagway and Seattle. A second company, the Northwest Steamship Co., serviced Valdez, Cook Inlet and the Bering Sea ports. The Alaska Syndicate, with funds from J.P. Morgan and the Guggenheim Co., bought both companies in 1909 and retained the ASC name, increasing the fleet to 18 ships and expanding service to ports from Ketchikan to Kotzebue.
The ships primarily hauled fish and minerals until the late 1930s, when many of the mines closed and fishing became a seasonal operation.
ASC never quite recovered.The company's 15 vessels were taken over by the federal government in 1942 to augment the war effort. In 1953, the company expanded into container service, but due to high fuel and insurance costs, increased competition and union demands, the company was forced to shut down. It officially ceased operations in January 1971.
Cruise visitor profile
When it comes to cruising in Alaska, the majority (82 percent) of cruise passengers hail from the U.S., with the western United States representing nearly one-third of the total market, followed by the South, East Coast and Midwest. “Destination” cruise passengers – those who prioritize the destination above all other factors when picking a cruise – favor Alaska at a high rate. In a 2011 poll of experienced destination cruisers, respondents ranked Alaska top among all destinations worldwide. Destination cruisers are the passengers most likely to return for a non-cruise vacation, and they tend to spend more time in the port city than other passengers.
While cruising attracts many different types of travelers, they share some traits. Nationwide, cruise passengers tend to be slightly older than other vacationers, with a median age of 48. The average reported annual household income of a cruiser in 2011 was $97,000. Cruisers are also more likely to be college educated and/or retired. Typically, cruisers travel in two-person parties, most frequently as married couples, although Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) has noted a growing trend toward family and multigenerational cruise parties.