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Posts posted by Tricia724

  1. Do you remember when that was? It looks like the new prices will be available in December this year, so I'm guessing that is when the tickets go on sale.


    I just looked at the confirmation I received and it was dated January 13, so I exaggerated a bit saying I booked the first week tickets went on sale because I think sales also began sometime in December last year too. I remember someone came on this board and said he had made reservations for Denali, so I went to check on the shuttle schedule and made mine too.


    We had our itinerary locked in place in November, and I made a lot of reservations early. I wouldn't suggest anyone book this early if they are still thinking some options and might change their plans. We followed our original itinerary exactly.....well, except for the changes we had to make when American Airlines canceled our flight out of Vancouver.:(

  2. .....We'll be taking the bus to the Eielson Visitor Center in Denali. Do we need to reserve that ahead of time or can we just pay for it the day of?


    We arrived at Denali on September 3 this year and had shuttle tickets for September 4 and 5. Because we wanted to be on the first shuttle to Eielson (7:00 am) both days, I booked those tickets the first week sales were open. It's probably not necessary to book that early but we definitely wanted the earliest shuttle.


    We went to the Visitors Access Center to pick up our tickets when we arrived on the 3rd, and the place was a madhouse. There must have been 50 people standing in line to buy tickets. Almost everything to Eielson and Wonder Lake was sold out for the 4th, with only a couple of options available. September 5 was Labor Day, and the number of buses into the Park had been cut. The woman at the desk said they were trying to get drivers to add additional shuttles to meet the demand, but apparently it didn't work out that way because we noticed far fewer shuttles and buses on the 5th. She said this was the busiest year they have ever had at the Park and it was just crazy all year.


    I would definitely book shuttle tickets before you go. You don't have to book early like me, but I don't think I'd want to chance just walking in and picking up tickets. If Alaska bookings are as strong in 2017 as they were this year, you might be disappointed in your options when you arrive.

  3. Was speaking with an acquaintance the other day and we told him we booked our Alaskan cruise with HAL for the first week of September, 2017. He mentioned that they had cruised RCCL the last week of August a few years back and lamented the fact that all the wildlife had pretty much migrated north (?). They did see some birds, a couple of whales and seals, though.


    Just curious as to whether this is true or is he just BS'ing us?


    It sounds like your friend took a cruise only with no optional excursions and just reported what he saw from the ship itself. Not sure where that comment about the migration came from. And I would ask him just how much effort he actually made himself.


    There are many people who do not actively search for wildlife even on the ship. If someone yells "There's a whale," they'll look out the window and maybe they'll see it. If you want to see wildlife, you have to go where it's most likely to be seen. We have seen a couple of bears from the ship (with good binoculars), but when bears were our priority, we took trips to Katmai.


    I'm in Alaska right now, and we just spent several days going into the Park at Denali. We saw lots of moose, several good grizzly sightings, some caribou, sheep, a beautiful owl, and a number of birds and small critters. Before that we were in Nome and Coldfoot and saw muskox, grizzlies, a couple of red fox, and the ever popular moose.


    I realize not everyone would be able to go or would even want to go to those places, but wildlife is always a priority for us. We've been lucky a few times when animals just appeared in front of us but most of the time we had to put some real time and effort into finding them. They are there, but you have to seek them out.

  4. It's a business so the supply vs. demand factor always enters the picture. The way I see it, the cruise lines either anticipate that more people will want to cruise next year or it's simply wishful thinking on their part. If the bookings aren't there, the prices will drop. With the uneasy climate in many areas in the world and some health concerns (Zika virus, for example) Alaska appears to be an attractive option.


    I also found that the prices for this year were higher than I had seen previously. The ship I am sailing (Coral Princess, September 10) sold very quickly and the prices never did drop. We booked an obstructed oceanview, and I kept checking to see whether there were any price drops or possibilities for an upgrade, but it didn't happen.


    There are always some deals out there for certain cabin categories on select sailings, but the balconies usually fetch a good price.

  5. Budget Queen is right about flight changes. Most of the flights I've booked in the last two years....whether early or closer to departure....have had time changes and several of them have been problematic.


    The most annoying change was on our flight home from our Alaska cruise next month. In January I had booked flights on American out of Vancouver at a price approx. $150/pp less than the other airlines were offering. In June American canceled our Vancouver mid-afternoon flight, and to my dismay (and disgust) I found the alternate flight options miserable. So regrettably, I had to cancel American and book flights through United. Oh yes, and the new flights cost $150/pp extra.:mad:


    So even when you get convenient flights, they can change. And even when you get a good price, it's not always a done deal. Oh yes, and just because the plane has lots of empty seats, that doesn't mean the price will come down. It may mean the flight will be canceled or consolidated with another flight.


    Just go with your best option, and cross your fingers.

  6. When people ask which ship they should take to Alaska, most of the posters on this board will recommend choosing their ship based on the itinerary in order to maximize the time in port and enjoy their time in Alaska to the fullest. Perhaps your TA is pushing Princess for that reason.


    However, it sounds like you are more concerned about the onboard cruise experience than the actual port stops and seeing Alaska, and in that case you should do whatever works for you and your family.


    Before you make a commitment, maybe you should talk to your Dad and ask him what his expectations are in cruising Alaska, both on and off the ship, and what he would like to see or do since there are so many choices available. Perhaps if you make him a part of the process, he may look forward to the trip more and be more comfortable. He just might surprise you.


    That's such a nice thing you are doing for your parents and such a great way to enjoy time together. Whatever you decide to do, I hope the trip is memorable for all of you.

  7. I've been watching the web cam since it came live and the past few days, I can hardly tear myself away. When the bears are there, I leave it up on my computer while I'm doing other things, and take a glance at it from time to time. The fish are really jumping now. I don't know whether I'm more fascinated by the fish trying to get up the falls or the bears trying to catch the fish.


    I'm a night owl, and at 2:00 am EST, there were seven bears at the falls. Saw a couple of bears defending their territories and watched a couple of the bears getting quite a few fish. Just like people, some bears are better fishermen than others. I'm getting a big kick out of one of the bears that fishes beneath the falls as he grasps his fish in his front left claws and presses it against his upper right leg and just tears it into strips. He never moves away from the fast moving water or relinquishes his spot. I wonder how many years it takes to perfect a technique like that!


    Makes me wish we could squeeze in another bear watching trip when we head to Alaska next month, but since that won't happen, I'll just have to get my fill watching the bear cam.

  8. Splitting hairs maybe, but mostly we cruise FROM Alaska (to Vancouver) and consider it part of our transportation home. The last couple of trips we've been sailing in the cheap seats and it's one of the best travel bargains ever....food, lodging, entertainment, great service, a spectacular view, and wildlife to boot.


    Nobody harasses you or begs for money when you step off the ship. You don't have to strain your brain doing conversions to a foreign currency. You don't have to start every conversation with "Do you speak English?" You don't have to wonder whether the taxi driver is going to whisk you away down a dark alley where you'll be relieved of your money, credit cards, and jewelry, or worse. And the people are actually glad to see you. Well, okay, most of them seem to be or at least they make you feel welcome. It's like being home yet away from home.


    Whether on land or at sea, it's a feast for the eyes, and I never find it boring. If someone else does, I only hope they're not on my ship and sharing my dinner table.

  9. From my limited experience, it can be good news or bad news.


    The first time we took this cruise was the middle of June some years ago. We elected to do the trip with the stop at Fox Island. We did manage to get to Fox Island for a nice meal, but the waters were very rough that day and so many people were getting sick that the captain elected to cut the trip short and return to port. We received a partial refund and saw little wildlife.


    Our second trip was six years ago in early September, and we had an outstanding day, both with the weather and wildlife viewing. Lots of birds, otters, puffins, sea lions, and orcas. The waters were not particularly choppy that day, but it is a boat and there were a few people struggling with sea sickness.


    My friend, who has some major camera equipment, managed to get a couple of great orca shots. He showed them to one of the crew members who brought out a binder loaded with orca pictures and identified the whale by its dorsal fin and coloration and told us its name and the pod it came from.


    We will not be in Seward on our upcoming trip but if we were, I'd take this cruise again in a heartbeat.

  10. Homer modestly calls itself "the halibut capital of the world." On our 2010 trip we did the half day trip with Rainbow Charters and had a good time. We each caught two small (for halibut) fish and gave them an all expense paid trip to Pennsylvania. Yep, it's an expensive proposition, but we were going to go on the fishing trip whether or not we kept the fish, so we would have spent the $200 plus fishing licenses plus tips regardless, so that made it seem less expensive. At least that's what we told ourselves.


    There were lots of locals on the trip we took, so if you just want the experience and don't want to keep the fish, I'm sure you'd find someone who would be grateful for the donation. Even in Homer a halibut dinner is pricy.

  11. Our trip this year will be the third land/cruise trip we have taken to Alaska, and we have done all of them ourselves. We fly in, tour for 2-3 weeks, and then cruise south to Vancouver. We book everything ourselves except for the cruise, which we turn over to a discount travel agent. It isn't difficult, but it is time consuming doing the research, considering the options, and then making the reservations.


    I think it all depends upon the type of person you are. If you are well organized and like to make your own arrangements instead of working through a middleman, you will do well. If you get frustrated with details and would rather relax and have someone else do the grunt work, then a travel planner might be a good option.


    When we are planning our itinerary, I always draw up a calendar and we start penciling in a tentative timeline. This usually gets reworked several times before I actually start making reservations. I make myself a check list, and as the reservations are made, I check them off the list. Based on our priorities, I make the key reservations first and then fill the others in later. I do a lot of the lodging reservations and some excursions online. The others we do by phone. Thus far, I've never had a problem with any booking I've made in Alaska.


    For our August/September trip this year, everything has been booked for months....all air reservations, cruise, insurance, car rentals, train, lodging, and main excursions. We do leave some slack in our schedule so that we don't have to rush and can stop to see something that looks interesting as we're driving around.


    Right now I am reviewing everything and making up a detailed trip summary to take with us which includes information on deposits/payments, cancellation policies, instructions vendors have given us, and telephone numbers in case we have to contact them. I also print off copies of all the receipts and confirmations and make notes of other options in case something doesn't work out as planned. (Plan B) It takes a while, but I am more confident when I handle the arrangements myself.

  12. We also just returned from Summit, and I'm not one of those people who love sea days, but I'm glad we left early. Everyone we talked to agreed with the decision. I'm sure there were some complainers (always are some), but I didn't hear them.


    Safety reasons aside, from a passenger's point of view, there would have been little benefit to staying and sitting on the ship looking out at the pouring rain and listening to the wind whistling through the ship. It was bad enough on Thursday with the increasing winds at the Dockyard, and holding on to our hats, sunglasses, and packages was challenge enough. There is no way I would have attempted to get off the ship had we stayed Friday. If someone had a planned activity or appointment, I could understand why they would have been disappointed in early departure, but no one I met was in that situation.


    I'm laughing at the above comments from the tailor. Summit did not "come in a day early." We docked early Tuesday evening because of a passenger with a medical problem. We were allowed to go off the ship that night, but by the time we were cleared, it was dark, the area was not well lighted, and there appeared little benefit for most of us. As for the gas situation, I'm not sure why Summit would have used less gas by adding an additional sea day to the cruise, but someone with more technical skills can tackle that one.


    Friday was a warm, pleasant sea day and we were able to enjoy our balcony. Yes, I would have rather had a nice day exploring Bermuda, but that wasn't an option. I also would have preferred to stop in Raratonga on my last two trips to the South Pacific, but that didn't happen either because of rough weather. You win some, you lose some.

  13. Something else to consider about booking flight seeing and "in demand" tours....


    The early bookers have the option of choosing the most convenient (for them) tour time. Many of the vendors offer two or more tours a day, but if you want to make the maximum use of your time in port, some tour times work out better than others.


    It's not only about "whether" a certain tour is available, but for me it's also about "when" it's available.

  14. I've read the Royal Gazette article twice, and it's clear that the changes are designed to force cruisers to use taxi and van services rather than less expensive bus and ferries. I'm sure many cruisers would prefer to use taxi service because it is faster and more direct but haven't done so in the past because of it's high cost. So Bermuda's reasoning isn't to allow taxis to become more competitive with other transportation but to raise other options to an exorbitant level to make taxis a more attractive option.


    There are so many things wrong with this scenario and most of them are going to be dumped on cruise passengers. I actually feel sorry for the people who work at the Dockyard Information Center who will have to explain to frustrated cruisers that they can no longer buy tokens or multi-day passes there. Judging from our roll call alone, many are repeaters who keep returning because of the ease of getting around the island and the good treatment they receive there. Now, all of a sudden, we've become a cash cow for the government. This change will not be received well. And most people won't know about it until they arrive.


    The tone of the Royal Gazette article is quite tentative. It sounds like the officials who came up with this scheme figure they will just throw it out there and see if it floats. If many problems arise, they can make adjustments. It's just going to be a major headache for those of us who are sailing early in the season.


    I don't have a problem spending money on vacation. I do have a problem being ripped off. If I want to spend the day at St. George and the ferry ride costs $4.50 each way, then I think that's what I should pay. No more. No less. If I have to buy a pass for $19, then I'm effectively paying an extra $10. For two of us, that's an extra $20. Same thing if we want to go into Hamilton. We're older and limit our touring to a few hours a day at one location, so the pass is meaningless to us. We're not going to be hopping busses all over the island. Sure, once we get to St. George, we can buy tokens at the terminal, and we will, but I find it annoying that we have to do this run-around when we should be able to get them at the Dockyard.


    The officials need to rethink their options. Tourists are bringing big bucks to the island, and making it more difficult and expensive to get around does not seem like the smartest move to me.

  15. An Alaska cruise would be a wonderful way to celebrate your anniversary. It's a completely different experience than sailing the Caribbean, but Alaska has so much to offer.


    Many people on these boards will encourage you to give priority to the itinerary and port times when sailing Alaska. Since you only have a few port stops, you want to see as much as you can. As far as the ships go, they are more alike than different. On previous Alaska cruises, we've sailed Holland America and Celebrity, and this year we're sailing Princess. It's all about which cruiseline best fits into our time schedule with the best itinerary (for us.)


    As Coral mentioned, not all cruiselines have permits into Glacier Bay. Celebrity and Royal Caribbean sail Hubbard Glacier instead. I'm in the minority here, but I prefer Hubbard Glacier over Glacier Bay. The problem with Hubbard is that sometimes the ships are unable to get close to the glacier because of ice and weather conditions but that isn't a problem for ships going into Glacier Bay. I guess I've been lucky because in three trips to Hubbard Glacier, we had a beautiful day and a closeup view of the glacier. Our southbound on Coral Princess in September will cruise both Glacier Bay and Hubbard Glacier.


    Celebrity can be close to an all inclusive if you buy one of their packages which includes drinks, gratuities, and/or cabin credit. From time to time they offer these packages as booking incentives, but when they do, they usually jack up the cruise price. But keep your eye on the prices and sometimes you can luck into a good deal.


    There are others here who are much more knowledgeable who will explain the difference between sailing out of Seattle vs. Vancouver. Whichever cruise you choose should be a good one.

  16. Never substitute anyone else's opinion for your own. And that's mostly what we all offer here....opinions. Reading a lot of opinions may give you some clarity into what's important to you, but only you should decide how to spend your money.


    Nobody loves a balcony more than I do. Yet, on our next southbound cruise, we will be sailing in an obstructed oceanview cabin. The difference was something like $700-$800 apiece. So we chose instead to spend extra days touring Alaska. We could afford the extra money for the balcony, but we didn't see it as a good value. Our opinion. Our choice.


    Sit down with a piece of paper and start with the total dollar amount you can spend on this trip. Then write down the cost of airfare/transportation, cabin options, excursion choices, etc. When you see how quickly those numbers add up, it usually makes your options clearer.


    Whatever you decide, good luck and enjoy Alaska.

  17. Hi whimbly,


    Welcome to Cruise Critic and the world of cruising. Fair warning....it gets addictive.


    Here's the way your expenses are handled on cruise ships. When you board the ship, an onboard account will be set up for you. You will be given a plastic card which will open the door to your cabin and will also be used for any charges you make on the ship. To set up your account, however, Princess will ask you for some form of payment guarantee. Most of us use a credit card, some use debit cards, and some use cash.


    Your onboard account is like a hotel bill. All of your expenses are listed individually. This includes service charges (gratuities to the staff), purchases made in any shops, drinks, specialty dining, excursions, etc. At the end of the cruise, the total amount of your onboard account will be charged to your credit card.


    If you have any onboard credit (OBC) given by the cruiseline or your travel agent, it will also be listed on your onboard account as a credit and will be deducted from the total of your bill.


    So you will not use your personal credit card on the ship at all. You will use the card the ship gives you for everything. Princess is also very nice about allowing you to prebook excursions on their website and they will charge them to your onboard account once you board. Some other cruise lines make you pay up front for anything you book online.


    During the cruise you can check your onboard statement to see how much has been charged to your account. Some ships allow you to do it by remote on the TV. Some have kiosks that you can use. On some you have to stop at the customer service desk. But if you are concerned, you can keep track.


    I hope your cruise to Alaska is a wonderful adventure.

  18. I didn't really get that the OP was encouraging everyone to bring their baby on a cruise. My take is that she was a bit apprehensive, not knowing what to expect, and was so pleased that the crew and fellow passengers were kind that she wanted to share her experience. She didn't say so but possibly this is her first child and she is just getting used to new experiences with a little one.


    Personally, I appreciate when people post positive cruising experiences because there are sure lots of the other kind on these boards.


    Whether I love or don't love cruising with children is my individual preference, and it's up to me to do my research and choose times, destinations, and cruiselines most likely to offer me the type of vacation I enjoy.

  19. We will be in Ketchikan on September 15, and yesterday we sent an email requesting space on a flight to Misty Fjords. Today we received a reply. There are two spaces left on each of two flights that fit our time frame. So almost six months out, four seats are available. As others have stated, the most popular excursions (and the most popular vendors) fill up quickly.


    I don't know how early Deadliest Catch fills up, but we did that one the last time we toured Alaska, and they had a full boat, and that was also in September. If you are planning to take some of the kids on that excursion, they would have a good time. The guys are great with kids.


    You don't say which cruiseline you're sailing, but if it's Princess or a cruise line that doesn't make you pay in advance for excursions (like HAL or Celebrity), you could possibly hold a reservation through the ship for your group for Deadliest Catch. I haven't checked the prices lately, but when we went, it was the same price booking through the ship or booking directly so I just booked with the ship. That may not be the case now....check to make sure.


    This morning I looked at the cabins available on Coral Princess for our cruise in September and was shocked to see that there are only a handful of oceanview cabins and a couple of suites left. It looks like Alaska is a popular place this year, so I wouldn't wait until Memorial Day to book excursions.

  20. But you were only allowed to drive as far as Mile 15, the Savage River checkpoint. The OP is asking about using a personal vehicle instead of the bus system to explore the park.


    Cruiseguy, we only drive the 15 miles ourselves in the evenings looking for wildlife because that is all the farther we are permitted to drive, as previously stated by glaciers.


    My point was to let you know that you may want to consider driving that 15 miles in your rental car in addition to booking a park shuttle or tour. We take binoculars and a camera and get out and walk along the road and look for wildlife. It's another way to enjoy the park if you have a couple of spare hours in the evening.

  21. We take the shuttle into the park during the day, eat dinner, and then drive back into the park in the evening looking for wildlife. Once again we're going the first part of September, and moose are on the move at that time of year. Last time we were there in the fall we saw a couple of impressive bulls. We'll no doubt do the same thing this year....drive the road until dark and watch for activity.

  22. There are 2 purchased coupon books, Toursaver, and Northern Lights. The "worth" is completely dependent on YOUR use. I've used these coupons over 15+ years, but, over time, they have become less and less valuable for me and my touring, with a lot of vendors no longer participating that used to.....


    Same thing for us.


    In 2005 when we did our first land tour in Alaska, I bought the Toursaver, and we saved $900+ over the coupon book price for excursions, lodging, fishing, and entrance fees. At that time there were a lot of two-for-one coupons and many vendors we wanted to use participated. Those vendors are now gone or if they still participate, they offer a nominal discount instead of a buy one get one coupon, so the savings is less.


    On our trip in 2010 I bought a Northern Lights book and saved somewhere in the $500-600 range, so the book was still a good value for us at that time.


    For our trip this fall, neither of those coupon books has much of anything that works with our planned itinerary. We could use a couple of them but the savings would be little. I did better booking directly with a couple of vendors and taking advantage of their early booking or internet rates.


    There may still be some good deals in the coupon books for first timers. Just be sure that you read the coupons very carefully, especially the limitations, and contact the vendor to make sure they will accept the coupon on the date you wish to use it. Remember, the most popular coupons (flights, boat trips, etc.) are the ones with limited space available and are the first to fill up.

  23. Thank you SO much for the heads up.


    Our flights aren't until August, but they changed us to a later departure with a 44-minute connection which is never acceptable to me. I was able to switch to an earlier flight with more of a cushion. It will probably change again, but at least now I'll know to check on a regular basis to make sure we don't get stuck with an unworkable flight.


    These airlines make you nuts.

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