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  #21  
Old July 6th, 2013, 06:31 PM
05mak05 05mak05 is offline
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Default Radiance of the seas

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Originally Posted by ollychelle View Post
In June 2014 we plan to take my mother on an Alaskan Cruise. It will probably just be four adults (mom and 3 daughters). This is something my mother has always wanted to do. We don't know where to begin really. We do not know the best Itinerary to take (willing to port out of wherever gives us the best cruise), and we do not know what ports are a must see. Do we go southbound, northbound, roundtrip? We want the ports/itinerary to be our overall deciding factors, but we also need help deciding ship/cruise line. (We have experience with DCL and Carnival). Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance. FYI- We all have passports : )
I would pick Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas.
This ship was built for Alaska with lots of glass. You can walk out of the Windjammer buffet area and eat or have coffee on the aft enjoying that gorgeous scenery. Our Alaskan cruise was on Princess. It was fine, however, you'll find an older age group on both Princess and Holland America. We flew into Vancouver 3 days prior to our cruise and booked an excursion to Victoria Island on Day 2. We've traveled in Canada so we did not book Denali. Here's a fun thread on the Radiance: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1714541 And, here's a link for information specific to the Radiance: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1867335 Study the deck plans and try to find a balcony on the "hump" (middle section) or even better, an aft balcony (those that run across the back of the ship.) Sandwich your stateroom between two passenger decks avoiding balconies right under the Presidential Suite as it has a piano. For the past 9 months, I've helped a friend plain their Alaska cruise down to the last detail. This is a trip that takes lots of advance planning. Alaska is a once in a lifetime trip ... please let us know which ship you choose.
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  #22  
Old July 8th, 2013, 10:20 AM
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ollychelle ollychelle is offline
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Thanks everyone! Is glacier bay a must? I have read several places it is.
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  #23  
Old July 8th, 2013, 12:23 PM
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agabbymama agabbymama is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ollychelle View Post
Thanks everyone! Is glacier bay a must? I have read several places it is.
Glacier Bay is a National Park for a reason, it rates right up there with Denali! JMHO! Tracy Arm is a pretty fjord with lots of water falls, but not very good viewing of Sawyer Glaciers. Glacier Bay shows you maybe 4 or 5 glaciers. I haven't been to Hubbard (so can't speak to that one).

I like to start a graph chart for my cruises. I put the cruiseline/ship across the top, then the things that are important to me (cost, size of ship, cabin type, ports, time in ports, tours offered, etc). As you do your research, put an "X" in the conjoining boxes. As you near the end of your research, one should have more x's than the others.

I've never used a travel agent for any of my cruises. I'm fairly competent at reading and understanding what is in the cruiseline brochures. The only time I've had any problems was my Med cruise, where anything and everything that could go wrong, did go wrong.

As previously posted, the 4 of you need to get together. Possibly 1 of you could visit the library and check out some Alaska travel guides (Frommer's, Fodor's, etc). Then when the 4 of you get together you can discuss and see what's available to do. I also like to look at the cruiseline tours and viator dot com to see what tours are available that you might like. You don't have to book with them, there are lots of options.

Have a great trip!
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  #24  
Old July 8th, 2013, 02:39 PM
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ollychelle ollychelle is offline
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Thanks for the info!!
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  #25  
Old July 8th, 2013, 05:01 PM
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Markanddonna Markanddonna is offline
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Default Alaska

Good choice and I wish I could go with you...need another daughter/guide?

Here is my thinking:

Unless you don't have a budget, look very carefully at the cost difference between one ways and the RT. The reality is that a RT from Seattle is usually less expensive for airfare for most cruisers in the USA. The others require more logistics and expense.

I used a travel agent in my early years of traveling and cruising and found most of them pretty inexperienced and not a great value. The info on this site has been great and has helped me save $ and make good decisions. TA's are best for folks who want someone else to help make decisions for them and are the best value if you book a suite. They can give you more comps if your cruise costs more. This is just logical. Many people book an inside cabin and there just isn't much in the margins to kick back with benefits.

I've been there three times- first on the NCL Sun, then the NCL Pearl and then HAL's Westerdam. I'd say that the trip on the Pearl was the best overall. We went to Glacier Bay and Skagway. Westerdam went to Sitka which is a nice little town but the time in port is short (in at 7AM, onboard at 2PM and we tendered. We had even less time in Ketchikan. NCL gave a very long day in Skagway which is a great port to visit the Gold Rush days and the train or drive to the Yukon is fabulous! So, check and compare how long you will be in port. Now that I have experienced both Sitka and Skagway, I say Skagway is the most interesting port hands down, although Sitka was very sweet.

Glacier Bay is highly preferred over the other Glacier sites but only about 4 cruise lines have permits to go in GB. They allow only two ships in a day and really, it is your pilot and naturalists that come onboard (Park Service specialists) that help to make the day really great! All the ships stop in front of the Marjorie Glacier (she's the queen of the glaciers) and then turn around for an almost equal time on the other side (usually starboard). It is true that HAL and Princess have most of the permits, but don't let that stop you from checking other cruise lines. I believe NCL and Celebrity also hold some. I believe DCL and RCCL don't qualify for about 5 more years.

We went in early June, 2013 and in July, 2006 and 2009. I prefer July, but earlier times can be wonderful and with their own unique opportunities. May can be pretty chilly, but just layer and don't let that make you hesitate. You may be dealing with a bit of snow in May!

Check out if you will be tendering in any port. I saw that Celebrity Solstice had to tender when we were in Juneau and that put them at a real disadvantage.

I don't think it matters all that much if a cruise line has been sailing a long time in Alaska. I translate that to mean it isn't their experience, but the seniority privileges they receive, like berth positions and Glacier Bay permits.

Read some of the reviews for Alaska on this site and get a sense of the experience. Eliminate the negative reviews that say the food was inedible and also the first timers who rate everything with a 5+stars. It is good to confer with people who are positive, but also use discernment and that what cruising experience will give you! There are some lines that have rabid cheerleaders who defend their lines to the hilt and one quickly learns that these folks have the highest level of benefits which translate into free goodies and rewards that the majority of cruisers don't receive. I have stayed with about four lines and have no significant loyalty to any of them. I like RCL and NCL a bit more than others. Someday...

Let us know the age ranges and activity level that will help as people give advice. What to do in each port depends on your interests and physical mobility. I imagine you want adventures that people who are about 40-70 would enjoy?
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NCL Sky July, 2005
NCL Sun July 1, 2006
RCCL Majesty of the Seas 2008
NCL Pearl to Alaska 2009
NCL Sky 2010
RCCL Mariner of the Seas TA Fall 2012
HAL Westerdam Alaska 2013
NCL Star TA
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  #26  
Old July 8th, 2013, 05:23 PM
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ollychelle ollychelle is offline
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We have books and are trying to narrow it down. My mom is 71, and she can still get around fine (just not fast ). My sisters are in their early 50s, and I am in my mid 30s (yes big gap). We might even split up at ports if interests differ. We are big travelers and 3/4 of are experienced cruisers. Unless I can get a better rate for a cruise through AAA or on board credit, I will book myself. TAs in my opinion are more work, because I admit I am a little anal about trip planning. I just was over whelmed with all the Alaskan choices (which I wasn't expecting). Right now we are leaning towards NCL or Holland America because of Glacier Bay. Still deciding overall, but actually leaning towards the Pearl because of Victoria port? Still deciding. Thanks everyone!!
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  #27  
Old July 8th, 2013, 09:33 PM
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Markanddonna Markanddonna is offline
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Default Victoria

I believe both NCL and HAL go to Victoria. One word of caution. Victoria is really charming but the ship arrives at 6PM. HAL seemed to be developing a reputation of arriving late. We docked at 7:15 on the Westerdam and some people were rushed. Former cruisers had cautioned us that Butchart Gardens was not a practical visit which is too bad since it is one of Victoria's highlights. The people who did take this excursion reported that they arrived after 8:15-8:30 and had almost no time to see the garden in the light. Tea at the Empress hotel was also a bit rushed. I have no idea why HAL has been late docking in Victoria because the weather was really fine.

We didn't have any problems on the Pearl when we went to Victoria. They docked when they were scheduled.

I think it is likely you would enjoy either HAL or the Pearl. Like I mentioned before, I just loved Skagway and it is a nice long day versus a much shorter time in the small town of Sitka. My Glacier Bay experiences on both HAL and NCL were almost identical.

I commend you for wanting to book yourself. You have more control over your booking and can ask for price reductions before you pay off your trip. NCL just gave us $100 ship credit about 5 months after we booked our TA for next spring. Decide on which one you want, wait for that great sale and you can always cancel if needed. BTW- you might want to purchase insurance for your mom's trip. Things happen!
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NCL Sky July, 2005
NCL Sun July 1, 2006
RCCL Majesty of the Seas 2008
NCL Pearl to Alaska 2009
NCL Sky 2010
RCCL Mariner of the Seas TA Fall 2012
HAL Westerdam Alaska 2013
NCL Star TA
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