Alaska is shaping up to be the hot cruise destination of 2019, estimated to attract more than 1.3 million passengers this year. That’s 175,000 more visitors than last year.

Australians love Alaska. We’re the fifth largest market for cruise visits.

So what’s powering the rise and rise of the land of adventure? Not only are there more ships going to Alaska, they are getting bigger.

Three new cruise vessels arriving at Alaska include the Norwegian Joy, Royal Princess and Ovation of the Seas, each carrying more than 3500 passengers. They now join the 4000-passenger Norwegian Bliss in Alaskan waters, according to the latest report by Cruise Lines International Association.

According to CLIA’s report, families are liking the big ships in Alaska with Norwegian Bliss and Joy delivering strong yields.

“We are a popular cruise destination,” said Sarah Leonard, CEO of the Alaska Travel Industry Association.

Most cruise lines call at ports such as Juneau, Sitka, Skagway, Seward and Valdez. In Juneau, there is at least one cruise ship docked there every day from the end of April to the beginning of October. This has prompted Juneau port authorities to improve its dock infrastructure to meet the demands of cruise ships.

“We try to build infrastructure that’s smart with the idea that we’re going to have… people who come to Juneau, they want to go out to (Mendenhall) glacier, they want to go whale watching. We try to build a bus staging area to improve efficiency. We try to increase the flow out to the glacier area,” said Carl Uchytil, port administrator for the City and Borough of Juneau.

Cruise tourism is now the number one private sector employer in Juneau. On a heavy ship day, 15,000 visitors will disembark in Juneau, a town of 32,000 people. This may well increase to 20,000 visitors soon, Mr Uchytil said.

Cruise lines are also working closely with the local community to mitigate the impact of increased tourism numbers.

Cruise passengers who arrive in port eat at restaurants, buy souvenirs and go on guided tours which contribute to the regional economies said Kirby Day, manager of port operations for Holland America in Juneau.

“It’s a great economic benefit, you can’t ignore that, but with that comes some other things you have to work on…sometimes we find a new issue each year. It doesn’t solve everything, but it sure goes a long way,” Mr Day said.