Alaska Delegation Questions Air Force Over Eielson

Press Release
WASHINGTON D.C.–Following a meeting with U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz today, the Alaska Congressional Delegation released a set of unified statements.

The meeting was requested by the Alaska Congressional Delegation to question as well as hear the reasoning behind the Air Force’s recently announced plan to relocate the 18th Aggressor F-16 Squadron from Eielson Air Force Base to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

Congressman Don Young:
“Overall, I was pleased with the candidness of today’s meeting and am hopeful that the Air Force will act on the concerns I raised in the meeting. General Schwartz reaffirmed what I, and most Alaskans already know – Eielson Air Force base is crucially important to this country’s national security, especially as our focus shifts towards possible threats in the Asia-Pacific theatre. The Air Force has indicated that this decision was made to make Eielson more efficient, and while that may be true, I would rather not move a squadron but instead work towards lowering energy costs and making it cheaper to operate the base. I think that it is critically important that General Schwartz hear from the Alaskans on the ground who will be affected the most by this decision – that is why I requested that he not only set foot in Alaska, but visit Fairbanks and speak to the people there as soon as he can. I look forward to working with the Air Force, the rest of the Alaska Delegation, and the Governor in lowering energy costs in the Interior to improve efficiency and make Eielson an attractive location for future Air Force assets.”

Senator Lisa Murkowski:
“It was good to hear General Schwartz say he believes America still needs Eielson Air Force Base, and that it should play a significant role as America’s military shifts its future focus to the Pacific Rim. But I still feel like Alaskans and I have seen this movie before – and we saw how it ended in 2005. Seven years ago, the Pentagon projected dramatically unrealistic savings at Eielson as they mapped out their BRAC attempt but after we stepped up and showed them the numbers and the reality on the ground, the commission decided against taking that action. I cannot see how the math has changed in less than a decade.”

Senator Mark Begich:
“At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing today in response to my questioning the Pacific Command Commander nominee, Admiral Samuel Locklear, spoke to the strategic importance of Alaska’s location. He said Alaska is critical to our ability to rapidly respond to missions around the globe and critical to preparing our forces for those missions. I was pleased to hear the Air Force Chief of Staff, General Norton Schwartz, echo Admiral Locklear’s recognition of the training opportunities in Alaska and affirmation Red Flag Alaska exercises at the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex are as strong as ever and won’t be going away. Yet I remain opposed to the relocation of the F-16s from Eielson Air Force Base. As Admiral Locklear acknowledged, bases in Alaska are critical to our national security. That includes Eielson Air Force Base. I made one thing clear to General Schwartz, the Alaska Delegation is not backing down. I look forward to the General’s upcoming trip and hope Alaskans will take the opportunity to share their thoughts with him in 10 days.”

Alaska Dream Cruises Adds Itineraries, Ports of Call

SITKA–Alaskan Dream Cruises, one of the newest small-ship cruise lines sailing in Southeast Alaska, is announcing three new itineraries, additional ports of call and ship renovations.

Alaskan Dream Cruises is owned and operated by an Alaska Native family in Sitka. The company will operate its second season from May through September.

The 42-passenger Alaskan Dream will sail on three new itineraries in 2012: an eight-day trip that focuses on many less-explored destinations, including Hobart Bay and Kasaan, and two more comprehensive 11- and 13-day trips through the Inside Passage.

The three itineraries also include new ports of call for the cruise line: Ketchikan, Skagway, Haines, Thorne Bay, Kasaan, Wrangell and Gustavus.

The new eight-day Alaska’s Inside Passage Sojourn itinerary travels from Sitka and ends in Ketchikan. In between, travelers are treated to the lesser-known destinations of the Inside Passage. The village of Kake claims the world’s largest totem pole; visitors are greeted in Petersburg by children who perform a Norwegian folk dance; Kasaan is home to the only remaining Haida clan house in Alaska; Thorne Bay was once the largest logging camp in the world; and Misty Fjords offers glacier-sculpted cliffs that staff say rival the awe-inspiring scenery of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. In addition, Hobart Bay is an adventure base camp visited exclusively by Alaskan Dream Cruises, offering sea kayaking, all-terrain vehicle tours and small Zego sport boat excursions. Rates for the cruises begin at $2,269.

The Alaska’s Southeast Explorer 11-day itinerary also traverses the waters between Ketchikan and Sitka, but expands the route to include the capital city of Juneau, Glacier Bay National Park, Gustavus, Skagway, Haines and Wrangell. Travelers also spend an evening on Colt Island at Orca Point Lodge, which is available only to guests of Alaskan Dream Cruises and its sister company Allen Marine Tours, for an Alaska salmon and king crab dinner. Rates for the cruises begin at $3,399.

The 13-day Alaska’s Glacier Bay and Inside Passage Voyage follows a similar route as the 11-day cruise, but spends additional time off the beaten path. Guests explore Windham Bay from a private wilderness retreat that offers fishing, sea kayaking and two-person outboard motor boats. A full day is spent whale watching and viewing other marine life among the Inian Islands and near Point Adolphus, a world-famous feeding area for endangered humpback whales. Guests will also visit Lake Eva near Sitka for a hike on a newly rebuilt trail in Tongass National Forest, the nation’s largest. Rates for the cruises begin at $3,989.

Complimentary shore excursions that range from adventure activities to cultural experiences are included in all of the company’s cruises. In addition, local naturalists and Alaska Native guides conduct onboard presentations on the rich culture, flora and fauna of the region.

“Our itineraries and local connections allow travelers to get under the surface of Southeast Alaska and really explore the small towns and under-the-radar destinations,” said Michael Wien, Alaskan Dream Cruises’ vice president of sales and marketing. “We are Alaskans showing off our state and sharing the places that are truly special to us.”

Alaskan Dream Cruises also renovated both of its ships to welcome guests in time for the new season. Its 42-passenger Alaskan Dream, formerly the Executive Explorer, was redone with new carpet and paint, closets were added in passenger cabins and the forward lounge was revamped.

The Admiralty Dream, formerly the Spirit of Columbia, was give a new, lighter color scheme in the cabins and public areas, as well as new carpet. The forward lounge was redesigned to give guests more space to relax and connect with each other.

Alaskan Dream Cruises offers a small-ship atmosphere and an insider’s view of more than 15 ports in Southeast Alaska aboard its 3-, 6-, 8-, 11-, and 13-day cruises. The company was launched in 2011 by the Allen family, members of the Tlingit Kaagwaantaan Clan. The Allen family also founded Allen Marine, Inc., a boat-building company in 1967 and operates Allen Marine Tours, which offers day cruise tours to travelers in Alaska’s Inside Passage.

For more information, visit www.AlaskanDreamCruises.com.