Posted September 7th, 2013, 04:20 PM
Believe it or not you can cruise from NYC to Alaska - several cruise lines offer long term repo cruises - 28-35 days - the NCL Jewell went from NYC to FL through the Panama Canal up the Mexican Coast - then the CA and OR coasts to Vancouver BC - then to AK and back to Seattle.
Now for rest of the AK season - the above posters are correct you really need to look at what you want to see and do in AK. There are very few true sea days in AK and transit between ports is quick and easy. I think you can sum up AK with Scenery, Gold Rush History, Native Culture and Wildlife. You can experience all of them with a SE AK cruise and the ports of Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Sitka or Icy Strait Point. Take a look at these websites www.cruiseportinsider.com
for more information.
The two departure ports - Seattle and Vancouver are separated by about 3hrs and a border crossing. Depending on where you are coming from, Seattle is cheaper to fly to than Vancouver - once there you can easily transit to Vancouver using Amtrak, Greyhound, or rental car. Timing the transfers could be a problem and might require an overnight stay in Seattle anyway. Seattle built a new cruise terminal a few years ago for HAL and Princess - their old terminal was down in an industrial/ cargo ship area - now it is about 15 min north of the Bell Terminal (pier 66) - in fact you can see one from the other.
As to the one way vs round trip - only you can make that decision - I am of the belief that if you are going to do a one way then you should have another week to explore the interior - however the more research I do I find that there are several things that can be done with some amount of quality in the Kenai area in a day or two - plus you have to get from Whittier/Seward to Anchorage to catch any flights back to the lower 48.
As for the Seattle vs Vancouver RT there is only one area where the two differ and that is which side of Vancouver Island you travel - the windward or leeward. The leeward is generally calmer and more scenic (more on the SB trips than NB) But you will have lots of time to gaze and the mountains and forests once you hit the inside passage. The other difference in the Vancouver departures is that they do not have to make a foreign port call to satisfy the PTSA - Seattle departures must make a port call in Canada - usually Victoria before returning to Seattle.
Glacier viewing - all cruise lines want to offer you some sort of glacier experience from the ship - most use Tracy Arm/Sawyer Glacier as the other main glacier attraction is Glacier Bay national park and it has restricted access - only Princess, HAL, and NCL are allowed in - and then only two ships/day. Both are must sees for different reasons - TA is a narrow winding Fjord with a tidewater glacier at the end - the steep walls and tight turns are spectacular in a cruise ship and even better from a small boat. GB is filled with many glaciers and the NP naturalists explain how the bay developed and has changed over time. The typical time spent in GB is around 8 hours - the time in TA is about 4.
So enjoy your planning and come back here for more advice about excursions