Ruby Princess AK Cruise Excursion ?

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#1
Jackson, WI
79 Posts
Joined Dec 2004
To book with Princess or not to book with Princess? That is the question.
Has anyone found it worth it to book with a private company vs. booking with Princess direct?

Thanks.
G
#2
california
1,044 Posts
Joined Oct 2008
Are you referring to the cruise itself or to excursions on the cruise. If the former I would recommend a TA who gives you extra benefits. If the latter then I would suggest private operators because they are generally less expensive and run smaller groups.
#3
Lynnwood, WA
741 Posts
Joined Sep 2007
When it comes to shore excursions we always book with the cruise line. I have no desire to be left behind. It happens. Maybe not all that often, but it does happen. Also if for some reason the ship can't call at the port you've already pre-booked and paid independently for your shore excursion - you don't get your money back. If you book it with the line, they'll refund your money.
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#4
DFW
972 Posts
Joined Sep 2014
On our AK cruise, we did one excursion independently and two through the ship. We did not find the independent operators on those excursions much cheaper than Princess and my in-laws felt more comfortable going through the ship. We went with a highly recommended company on the Alaska forum for our Skagway excursion. The Alaska board is great and I would feel comfortable using any operator recommended there if the savings is significant.
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#5
COLORADO
59,527 Posts
Joined Jan 2004
I agree, we have done them both ways and in Alaska you don't save much for booking private excursions that are the same or similar to the ships.
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Keith
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#6
403 Posts
Joined Nov 2005
Originally posted by Glen&Kathy
To book with Princess or not to book with Princess? That is the question.
Has anyone found it worth it to book with a private company vs. booking with Princess direct?

Thanks.
G
We had a wonderful Alaska cruise on the Ruby Princess (7/29) and, after doing a lot of research on these very helpful boards (be sure to check the Alaska boards as well as the Princess boards), booked 3 private excursions:

Helicopter/dogsledding on Herbert Glacier in Juneau with Coastal Helicopters, Chilkoot Charters Yukon Rail and Bus Tour in Skagway, and Island Wings Misty Fyords Flightseeing Tour in Ketchikan.

All three tours were less expensive than the Princess versions. The more expensive the tour, the greater the difference, in our experience. Princess does offer a price matching for identical excursions, but that can be tricky, when say, a private helicopter company goes to a different glacier.

We chose each company based on excellent reviews from Cruise Critic and well as Trip Advisor members. Sometimes you are paying for almost the exact same thing. For example, the Deadliest Catch tour in Ketchikan is cheaper to book direct, because you walk down the pier to the crab boat - a 5-minute walk, rather than have a Princes rep (I think) - walk/escort you there. But you still get on the same crab boat!

There was a significant difference between the White Pass Railroad/Yukon tour we took with Chilkoot, and the Princess excursion. We were in a group of 12 in a very small bus with an incredible tour guide who whisked us away from the Fraser train depot in British Columbia, while the larger tour buses were still loading up passengers. We were able to make many stops on our scenic drive to Emerald Lake and eventually back to Skagway, because we didn't have to wait for 50 people to get on and off the bus.

The Island Wings Misty Fyords float plane tour included time for us to get out of the float plane and walk around the lake a little.

In planning the excursions, I found communication with all 3 companies to be easy, either by email or telephone. For the Coastal Helicopter and Chilkoot excursion, there was someone who met us right at the cruise ship dock, and Island Wings turned out to be right next to our dock.

The one place we did do a Princess excursion was to Butschart Gardens in Victoria, only because we were there from 7 p.m. to midnight, and we were concerned about making it back to the ship. (This was our least favorite excursion, as it got dark too quickly for us to really appreciate the beauty of the gardens, and it was packed with cruise ship visitors.) If we had been there in the day time for a longer stay, we would have gone to the Gardens on our own, rather than with a large group.

One reason sometimes given for booking through Princess has to do with a very valid concern about making it back to the ship on time. If you go to the websites of the companies, however, many of them have guarantees about getting you back to the ship on time, or free cancellations if your ship is delayed or never makes it to port. On some of the tours (White Pass Railroad, Deadliest Catch, etc.) you are on the same train/crab boat as the Princess passengers. As a precaution, however, we were very careful to book times for our excursions that allowed plenty of time to get back to the ship, and the companies already take the departure times into account.

If you're interested in more details and pictures, I did a review of our recent Ruby Alaska RT Seattle (7/29) trip. Just scroll down to the part about excursions.

http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2533305

Have fun with the planning, as I think it really makes the excursions that much more enjoyable!
#7
Jackson, WI
79 Posts
Joined Dec 2004
Thank you for your responses. We did compare and the private vs princess was not that significant. AMS Cruiser. Loved your review and pics!

Thanks Again!!!!!!
#8
403 Posts
Joined Nov 2005
Originally posted by Glen&Kathy
Thank you for your responses. We did compare and the private vs princess was not that significant. AMS Cruiser. Loved your review and pics!

Thanks Again!!!!!!
Yes, it isn't really the price difference that is significant, but sometimes other factors, like the size of the group.

Either way, you'll have a wonderful cruise!