Need Alaska Advice! Carnival or HAL?

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#1
Charlotte, NC
932 Posts
Joined Oct 2005
I want to book a cruise to Alaska this summer, and I'm probably totally overthinking this to point of being ready to just give up and put it off another year.

About Me (Us): We're a childfree couple; he's 38 and I am 40, planning to turn 41 on the cruise. We have previous cruises on Carnival, Royal and NCL, but have never been to Alaska. I am looking for an Alaska cruise that leaves on or before August 18, so I would be spending my birthday onboard.

I originally was planning to book on Carnival (Miracle 8/13/13) because we have sailed a lot on Carnival and the prices seemed the most reasonable. I put a 24 hour courtesy hold, but now I am having second thoughts. I've never been interested in sailing HAL before, mainly because I've been scared off by the "floating nursing home" stereotype, but I am hearing wonderful things about their Alaska cruises, and they have more options for Glacier Bay.

After looking at pricing, it appears we could do a HAL Outside room, lower deck, for roughly the same price (maybe even a little less) as a balcony on Carnival.

Carnival Pros: We would have a balcony. We are familiar with Carnival. We have a Future Cruise Certificate that would give us $100 OBC.

Carnival Cons: Does not go to Glacier Bay. I'm concerned about things I've read on CC about declining service & quality on Carnival.

HAL Pros: Expected better service, better food. Would visit Glacier Bay. Probably less kids on board than CCL.

HAL Cons: Would not have a balcony. Worried we'd be the only people our age. Also not sure if we'd like the increased formality over the cruises we're used to.

Some of my pros/cons are based on fact, others are more due to fears or how I think things would be.

I would love some input, especially regarding what HAL would be like, and whether seeing Glacier Bay is worth giving up a balcony for.

Thanks!
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Carnival Magic, February 2017 -- MSC Divina, April 2016 -- Carnival Pride, February 2015 -- Independence of the Seas, November 2014 -- HAL Volendam, August 2013 -- Freedom of the Seas, November 2012 -- Carnival Fantasy, February 2012 -- Radiance of the Seas, April 2011 -- Carnival Inspiration, December 2009 -- Norwegian Sky, February 2009 -- Carnival Triumph, November 2008 -- Carnival Celebration, October 2007 -- Carnival Inspiration, April 2007 -- Carnival Miracle, January 2007 -- Commodore Boheme, June 1986


#2
47 Posts
Joined Jul 2009
Been on alaska cruise on HAL before. I'm in my mid thirties.

There were alot of older folks on the cruise but that suited me just fine. We had a balcony but to be honest really didn't use it much. When we got to glacier bay we did use the balcony a bit but ended up going out on deck instead.

Food and rooms were excellent. Glacier Bay is very nice.

Never been on carnival so can't compare but I love HAL.
#3
Claxton, TN
2,864 Posts
Joined Jun 2006
We just booked HAL tonight for the Sept 1st sailing (Aug 29 Cruisetour D3T). I am 41 and DH is 57, and we are ok with an older demographic. Most of the friends I have made lasting friendships on cruises have been my parents' age. There will be fun and adventurous people on the ship.

The reason we ultimately went with HAL was the fantastic cruise tour sale going on. We booked an interior on the main deck, so we are one flight away from the Promenade (aka my giant balcony ).

Lisa
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#4
New Zealand
45 Posts
Joined Feb 2013
Hi Catgirl

As you can see we're sailing on HAL ex Vancouver on your birthday This will be our first cruise, we will be 42 & 43 and like you we are childfree. HAL was recommended to us by friends with the same demographic.

We're rather active "early to bed, early to rise" types and our port days are pretty jam-packed with fairly active excursions so I'm thinking we'll be grateful for not being on a party ship!

We also wanted a cruise/tour combo and didn't want to organise the land tour ourselves (first major overseas holiday and we're on the other side of the world!) so part of our HAL decision was based on the land tour itinerary we wanted to do.

Re the formality of HAL, when you read the dress code and read posts and reviews you might be pleasantly surprised. We are going to do formal night because I don't get many opportunities to dress up and I have a really cute cocktail dress hanging unworn in the closet. To me its all part of the experience If you don't want to do formal night you can always eat at the buffet or order room service (do some searching on HAL room service )

I think we all have pre-conceptions and mis-conceptions about what new experiences will be like, but at the end of the day I think a positive, happy attitude can make most situations fun and rewarding. Also, we're all individuals so while everyone here can give you advice its really about what suits you and your significant other
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#5
Syracuse, New York
50,630 Posts
Joined May 2000
You have some misimformation. Ages on Alaska cruises are pretty much the same, with HAL and Carnival being similar middle age and above the norm but all ages sail.

With Carnival, I highly recommend the add on Tracy Arm ship excursion, since it is grossly superior to the cruise ship sailing.

I have sailed both lines in Alaska, and they BOTH certainly do good jobs. Food is selective with my perference toward Carnival.

A balcony is raved about on Alaska cruises, which could be a big plus.

Have you touring choices decided? Port times may be important.

You will have a great time on either cruiseline, in my opinion.
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#6
Portland, OR
587 Posts
Joined Oct 2010
2 of our group were 41, and 2 were mid-50s when we sailed HAL to Alaska in 2011. We felt right at home. The itinerary we did was pretty port-intensive, so we were heading for bed not too long after the show (we had late seating, so the show was around 10 PM).
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#8
USA
8,951 Posts
Joined Feb 2008
+1 no amount of food or other perks makes up for not doing Glacier Bay.

There is a reason Glacier is a national park!

HAL over Carnival any day just for the destination!

Originally posted by donaldsc
Pick a cruise that goes to Glacier Bay. Do not pick a cruise that does not go to Glacier Bay.

Simple as that.

DON
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#9
California
2,125 Posts
Joined Feb 2012
We've only sailed 2x, once on Carnival (Mexican Riviera) and once on HAL (Alaska). My impression is HAL was way better than Carnival and Alaska was amazing.

As far as the cutbacks with service and quality going down hill, it's happening on all of the lines. Just read several boards, and you'll see. There are numerous threads about this on HAL too. If you pay attention, it is the long-term loyals that are complaining. Those of us that are new to the line are mostly saying "Wow!". Our service was great on the Westerdam. The food was ok. It was high-end banquet, but by no means "gourmet". We thought it was much better than Carnival though. But food is very subjective, and my favorites may make you say yuck lol

DH is 44 and I am 42. On our Alaska cruise, there was a good mix of ages from 30s to 80+. We did not feel out of place and it did not feel like a retirement home. We saw few walkers or wheel chairs. There were also only a hanful of kids and teens. VERY FEW. But we also sailed Sept 1st when most schools are back in session. The ship did get very quiet after 10 pm or so, but Alaska was pretty port intensive and arrival at most ports was early (7am). We were exhausted by evening, and we're normally very active hiking, snow skiing and scuba diving. If you're looking for a nightlife or party atmosphere, you probably won't find it on HAL.

Glacier Bay was amazing and I definitely recommend it. I also recommend HAL for Alaska.
#10
Knoxville, TN, USA
1,638 Posts
Joined Jan 2006
Keep in mind that no one can promise that you'll actually see Glacier Bay. On one mid August HAL cruise we were told that we were the first cruise of the season not to be greeted by fog.

HAL's Alaska cruises have a younger demographic.
#11
Charlotte, NC
932 Posts
Joined Oct 2005
Thanks for the feedback! It’s sounding more and more like Glacier Bay is a “can’t miss” and I should keep an open mind to HAL.

We are not really looking for a party crowd. We do other cruises where we do our share of partying, so this cruise would be all about Alaska. And we also like to nap and read. So maybe we would fit right in, even if everyone one was older.

As far as the cutbacks, yes, of course, everyone is having to tighten their belts. I have been reading one of the threads about this on the HAL board. So maybe HAL of today isn’t quite HAL of the past, but it would still be higher quality than Carnival of today.

One more question: For the round trip cruises, would you recommend porting out of Seattle or from Vancouver? It seems like by starting in Vancouver, you’re a little closer to the action, and you avoid doing the Victoria stop the last night. But Frank really wants to see Seattle.
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Carnival Magic, February 2017 -- MSC Divina, April 2016 -- Carnival Pride, February 2015 -- Independence of the Seas, November 2014 -- HAL Volendam, August 2013 -- Freedom of the Seas, November 2012 -- Carnival Fantasy, February 2012 -- Radiance of the Seas, April 2011 -- Carnival Inspiration, December 2009 -- Norwegian Sky, February 2009 -- Carnival Triumph, November 2008 -- Carnival Celebration, October 2007 -- Carnival Inspiration, April 2007 -- Carnival Miracle, January 2007 -- Commodore Boheme, June 1986


#12
St. Louis, MO
111 Posts
Joined Feb 2004
Hi Catgirl! Should I assume that you are not interested in NCL? I am strongly leaning towards them as they go to Glacier Bay (this forum has also convinced me that it's can't miss) and their freestyle concept is exactly my preference (HAL does seem to be much more traditional/formal - nothing wrong with that but not my thing). Princess also goes to Glacier Bay, FYI.

As far as Seattle versus Vancouver - it's been said that the possibility of experiencing rougher waters is greater when leaving Seattle as you are in open waters versus the inside passage when you leave from Vancouver. Something to consider. Additionally, if you compare the port times for RT Seattle and RT Vancouver, I've found that the port times for RT Vancouver are better since you don't have as far to go.

If your husband really wants to see Seattle, then consider flying into Seattle early, spending some time there and taking the Amtrak Cascades up to Vancouver.
#14
Knoxville, TN, USA
1,638 Posts
Joined Jan 2006
You may also want to look into airfare/routes. So many have been cut back recently.

Getting to Vancouver from our home airport has become a lengthy process.

Here's hoping Charlotte is easier.
#15
Syracuse, New York
50,630 Posts
Joined May 2000
It is an easy transfer between Seattle and Vancouver with independent bus, one way rental car, Amtrak, sometime ship contracted buses. You do need an extra day. I do this all the time, as Vancouver is more limited with flights for me, and Seattle is a priority for our touring.

Round trip Vancouver is way superior scenery compared to round trip Seattle, which needs to consider if prone to motion sickness, more than some other itineraries. BUT I have seen sick passengers on those "smooth" round trip Vancouver sailings as well.

I suggest you back up and find out more about routes, what you are going to do in ports- ports you are interested in getting to etc. Instead of being so narrow with already "picking" ships. (you have found out information you didn't realize).

IF Glacier Bay is your priority- indeed it is spectacular- then your list is already narrowed down. Look at ports and port times, then narrow further. Much easier list to work with.
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#16
Syracuse, New York
50,630 Posts
Joined May 2000
Originally posted by tangerinebunny
Keep in mind that no one can promise that you'll actually see Glacier Bay. On one mid August HAL cruise we were told that we were the first cruise of the season not to be greeted by fog.

HAL's Alaska cruises have a younger demographic.
And you assume that means no glacier viewing? Sorry, no it doesn't. Fog can and does come and go, and glaciers are SEEN. Warm air rises, due to the heavier cold air coming off the glaciers, which means VIEWS. Glacier Bay- 70 miles- is NOT going to be an entire white out.

I have never heard of any ships, over years and years not getting into Glacier Bay, if they get in, they see glaciers.

You will see at least 4 glaciers, sometimes 5 if a cpt makes a short detour.
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#17
London, UK
1,655 Posts
Joined Nov 2010
All this info has helped me a lot. I'm booked on the late June HAL sailing out of Vancouver.
Does anyone know if there area my icebergs end June 1st week July.


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#18
Syracuse, New York
50,630 Posts
Joined May 2000
Originally posted by Wellard
All this info has helped me a lot. I'm booked on the late June HAL sailing out of Vancouver.
Does anyone know if there area my icebergs end June 1st week July.


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What are you asking? There are always icebergs in Alaska.
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Happy Alaska travels

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#19
USA
8,951 Posts
Joined Feb 2008
Originally posted by Wellard
All this info has helped me a lot. I'm booked on the late June HAL sailing out of Vancouver.
Does anyone know if there area my icebergs end June 1st week July.


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July ...
Attached Images
File Type: jpg 350 Tracy Arm Excursion.jpg (19.1 KB, 15 views)
File Type: jpg 525 Icebergs of Mendenhall Lake.jpg (23.2 KB, 16 views)
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#20
Portland Oregon
2,775 Posts
Joined Apr 2006
CatGirlNC - you might also consider NCL's Sun on a one way trip Van - Whittier and then spend a day or so touring the Kenai and Prince William Sound areas - or even more and head north to Denalli and Fairbanks.
BTW the Sun also visits Hubbard Glacier in addition to Glacier Bay.
One Ways also spend more time in the ports.

It has already been mentioned about how easy it is to take surface transportation between Seattle and Vancouver - it is only a 4 hr drive.

Here are a couple of sites that might help you with your planning:
http://www.travelalaska.com/

http://cruiseportinsider.com/index.html

and one for some land tours: http://www.alaskatravel.com/