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In this January Alaska Travel News Bulletin you will find:
2015 Alaska travel forecast
 
Tourism in Alaska continued to grow during 2014, reaching an all-time high of 1.96 million visitors between May 1, 2013 and April 30, 2014. And 2015 is looking strong with a quality cruise return that will bring a total of 28 large cruise ships scheduled to call in Alaska for a total of 473 times including three larger cruise ships and options for longer itineraries.
 
Royal Caribbean will deploy Radiance of the Seas and Jewel of the Seas, both carrying more than 2,000 passengers each. The Ruby Princess will replace the Island Princess, increasing passenger capacity by more than 1,000 passengers. Haines and Sitka will see an increase in ship calls with Haines scheduled to greet 31 ships and Sitka to greet 101 ships. Alaska is now the second-largest cruise market in North America.  
 
New to the adventure cruise front is Natural Habitat Adventures, launching two land and cruise itineraries in 2015 that focus on viewing coastal brown bears. The tours will depart from Kodiak Island on a seven and eight-day schedule on the refurbished fishing boat “Time Bandit,” known for its appearances on Discovery Channel’s “The Deadliest Catch”. The itineraries will run June – September 2015.
 
Beginning May 15, 2015, travelers to Alaska this summer will have access to seasonal direct flights on Delta Airlines between Seattle and Ketchikan and Seattle and Sitka. On the international front, airline Dynamic Airways will be entering Alaska service with departures every Thursday from now until mid-February between Changsha, China and Anchorage. After mid-February, Dynamic Airways will depart every Thursday and Sunday on a regular charter flight schedule.
 
Below are some highlights of new tours and products, anniversaries and events that visitors to Alaska can look forward to in 2015. For more information on planning a trip to Alaska, visit www.TravelAlaska.com.
New products and tours
 
Statewide
  • John Hall’s Alaska is launching a brand new, 11-day winter aurora tour. Kicking off from Anchorage, the group will experience Fur Rendezvous and the start of the Iditarod. The group will then travel to Talkeetna for a two-night stay before heading north to Fairbanks for the World Ice Art Championships and a two-night stay at Chena Hot Springs. (www.kissalaska.com)
  • This spring, the once endangered wood bison will be reintroduced into the Alaska wilderness by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in partnership with the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (AWCC) and multiple private and public partners. Up to 100 wood bison from AWCC will be transported to the lower Innoko/Yukon River area. (www.adfg.alaska.gov, www.alaskawildlife.org)
  • The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is now offering bear safety tips in English, German, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, French, Tagalog, Japanese and Russian. (http://1.usa.gov/1x0VZge)
  • Travelers on the Alaska Railroad next summer will experience an expanded GoldStar Service program with all-inclusive dining options, including drinks and freshly prepared meals. (www.alaskarailroad.com)
  • The Alaska Railroad midweek winter train service, initially launched last year, is expanding to provide more opportunities to experience events in communities along Alaska’s Railbelt late February through mid-March. (www.alaskarailroad.com)
Southcentral
  • Visitors to the Kenai Peninsula in 2015 will have the chance to taste the all new, certified Alaska Grown wine from Alaska Berries. All berries used for the wines, jams and syrups are grown locally on site and only natural ingredients are used. (www.alaskaberries.com)
  • Kenai Fjords Wilderness Lodge is launching two new onsite activities for groups and conference guests. Visitors to the lodge can now get up close with an Alaska raptor from the Bird Treatment and Learning Center or create a lasting souvenir through the traditional art form of fish printing. An expanded culinary class will also be offered to all overnight guests. (www.kenaifjordslodge.com)  
  • The Anchorage Museum will open Spark!Lab this spring for guests to experience hands-on activities including making a hydroponic garden, testing electric circuits, creating a flying gyroscope and more. The lab is part of a national network and is intended to promote learning about the history and process of invention.  The Spark!Lab in Anchorage will be the only one in the Pacific Northwest. (www.anchoragemuseum.org)
  • Salmon Berry Tours is adding something new to their seven-day Iditarod trip: tidewater glaciers. The seven-day package, focused on the start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, will now give visitors in late February and early March time to spend a day exploring glaciers in Blackstone Bay out of the town of Whittier. (www.salmonberrytours.com/winter/)
  • For the first time this spring, skiers and snowboarders will have helicopter access to the northern edge of the Tordrillo Mountains from Winterlake Lodge in Southcentral Alaska through a new boutique heli-ski operation, Tordrillo North at Winterlake Lodge. (www.tordrillonorth.com, www.withinthewild.com)
Inside Passage
  • Travelers to Juneau, Alaska’s capital city, during 2015 will spot a life-size humpback whale sculpture rising from an infinity pool located on the waterfront downtown. The sculpture is on track to be completed by late summer 2015 and was created by Alaskan contemporary sculptor, R.T. “Skip” Wallen. (www.alaskawhaleproject.org)
  • The Goldbelt Mount Roberts Tramway will again offer visitors the chance to learn the art of carving totem poles by Master Carver Doug Chilton from May – September 2015. Chilton will carve a totem to accompany the totem that was created during the 2014 summer season. (mountrobertstramway.com)
Interior
  • Blue Kennels and Dog Sled Trips is offering multi-day dog sled and northern lights viewing tours that depart from Fairbanks with Iditarod and Yukon Quest Champion dog musher Sebastian Schnuelle. (www.blue-kennels.com)
  • Black Spruce Dog Sledding, based in Fairbanks, is open daily year-round offering dog sledding tours customizable for individuals or groups. (www.blacksprucedogsledding.com)
  • Trail Breaker Kennel in Fairbanks, home to Yukon Quest Champion David Monson and the late four-time Iditarod Champion Susan Butcher, will offer kennel tours beginning in the summer of 2015. Visitors can look forward to educational presentations, history of sled dogs and mushing and interaction with the dogs. (www.trailbreakerkennel.com)
  • 1st Alaska Outdoor School and One Day Adventures is launching a brewery tour in Fairbanks that will take guests to HooDoo Brewing Co. and Silver Gulch Brewing & Bottling Co., two of the northernmost breweries in the United States, accompanied by a knowledgeable guide. (www.1stalaskaoutdoorschool.com)
  • Northern Alaska Tour Company is launching three new winter tours in 2015. Travelers in the winter months can take advantage of a new Fairbanks-based aurora viewing tour to the small town of Joy, a full-day guided adventure or flightseeing tour to Denali National Park & Preserve from Fairbanks. (www.northernalaska.com)
Far North
  • Visitors to Barrow, the northernmost city in Alaska and the United States, can now enjoy a new cultural boutique hotel at the Top of the World Hotel. The hotel, operated by Tundra Tours Inc., will also serve as a base camp for adventures around the area including dynamic summer day trips ranging from polar bear viewing, trips to the Arctic Ocean and opportunities to learn about the culture and history of the people of Barrow. (www.tundratoursinc.com)
New events and 2015 anniversaries
  • In 2015, Anchorage, one of the northernmost cities in the world and headquarters of the Alaska Railroad, will celebrate its centennial. Visitors will have the opportunity to experience events honoring the anniversary throughout the year. Fascinating stories and images, being shared by longtime Anchorage residents, can be found online and offer a glimpse of life during the early days of Anchorage. (anchoragecentennial.org)
  • Alaska’s largest winter festival, Fur Rendezvous, celebrates 80 years in 2015. Each February, the 10-day festival kicks off with the World Championship Sled Dog Race and continues leading up to the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in downtown Anchorage. (www.furrondy.net)
  • A new exhibit, “City Limits,” at the Anchorage Museum, will highlight the Anchorage centennial with a look at the city’s beginning and how it has since evolved. Major events over the past 100 years will be showcased at the 5,000-square-foot exhibit through photographs, objects, films, oral histories and interactive stations for visitors of all ages. (www.anchoragemuseum.org)
  • This year marks the 90th anniversary of the 1925 serum run from Nenana to the remote city of Nome. The life-saving serum was sent from Anchorage to Nenana aboard the Alaska Railroad where it was transferred to sled dog mushers and then transported almost 700 miles across the tundra. The story of this journey became the inspiration behind the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. (www.alaskacenters.gov/iditarod.cfm)
  • Soldotna welcomes the first annual Frozen River Festival on Feb. 7, 2015. The music festival will take place in the heart of Soldotna and will feature tastings of local craft brews and wine. (http://on.fb.me/1JPNB8K)
  • On Feb. 21, 2015, the world’s longest snowmobile race, the Iron Dog, will begin in Anchorage for the first time. The Iron Dog competitors will race 2,000 miles from Anchorage to Nome before finishing in Fairbanks. (www.irondog.org)
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