No clue where to begin with Alaska

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174 Posts
Joined Feb 2011
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 : )
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108,156 Posts
Joined Jul 2001
4 women -- get 2 cabins.

The popular ports that most cruise lines go to are Juneau and Ketchikan. We also like Sitka and Skagway.

Choose a cruise that goes to either Glacier Bay or Hubbard Glacier.

Check out the Alaskan ports of call board here:

You all really need to go together to talk to a travel agent and talk about what you want to see and do.

Princess and HAL have been in the Alaskan business for years.
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Cruising is a wonderful way to enjoy retirement!
Stopped counting a few years ago -- have done over 140 cruises.
174 Posts
Joined Feb 2011
Originally posted by Krazy Kruizers
4 women -- get 2 cabins.

The popular ports that most cruise lines go to are Juneau and Ketchikan. We also like Sitka and Skagway.

Choose a cruise that goes to either Glacier Bay or Hubbard Glacier.

Check out the Alaskan ports of call board here:

You all really need to go together to talk to a travel agent and talk about what you want to see and do.

Princess and HAL have been in the Alaskan business for years.
Thanks!! We do plan on getting two cabins . Thanks for the link.
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3,523 Posts
Joined Apr 2008
I would definitely do a one way - you get more ports that way. If you can swing the cost a pre or post cruise land portion is wonderful - you get to see a bit of the inland part of Alaska.

We did a 5 day land tour starting in Fairbanks and ending in Seward where we boarded Royal Caribbeans Radiance of the Seas. 7 days from there to Vancouver, Canada. An incredible trip that hooked us on cruising.

Have fun with all the planning.
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Alaska & Caribbean photos:

Brooksville FL
3,612 Posts
Joined Apr 2009
A TA that has actually cruised Alaska and books a lot of Alaska cruises
will quailfy you to the best itinerary/ship for you .
Always interview your TA as to experience , fees if any ,before ever booking.
The choices for Alaska Cruise/Tours are even more confusing.
4 adults in 1 cabin can be strenuous .Spend the extra $$ and go for 2 cabins .
90,253 Posts
Joined Jul 2000
You will need to decide whether you want to do a two way cruise such as Vancouver which I would recommend over Seattle.

I would do one way if you want to spend time in Alaska before or after the cruise.

2,071 Posts
Joined Jan 2009
Here is a super inclusive, very detailed review of Cindy and Charlies Alaskan trip. She is a wealth of knowledge, writes a great review and should be a professional photographer and travel writer! She will be glad to answer any and all questions for you! Have fun! Lauri
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RCI Adventure of the Seas 5/17
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14,305 Posts
Joined Sep 2002
I would consider a smaller ship that is more geared to adults. We've been looking at Regent as well as The National Geographic cruises.
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1,648 Posts
Joined Dec 2009
Originally posted by ollychelle
Thanks! I noticed RCCL has cruise tours, any experience with these?
I did a cruise tour with RCI several years ago - very enjoyable. My one suggestion for you if you do a cruise tour is to do the land tour part first [which usually includes Talkeetna and Denali] and then take the south bound cruise. That way you can relax and enjoy after the land tour!

The White Pass Railroad out of Skagway is thrilling.

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711 Posts
Joined Apr 2013
My "must see" for Alaska (3 cruises/tours) is always Glacier Bay!

I too suggest north to south if you're doing a land tour + cruise -- much more restful.

For cruise only, a round trip will probably be cheaper because of better airfare choices (1-way fares are higher), but you won't see as much of Alaska.

Princess & Holland America do have the most experience/ships there. We had great experiences w/Princess.

All that said, I don't think there is a 'bad' trip to Alaska -- it's such a fabulous place!

You'll love it -- ENJOY!
In the Valley, CA
23,027 Posts
Joined Nov 2004
As someone suggested, it'll be a good idea to sit down with a "cruise specialist" who can help you out.

It sounds like you want to tack on a cruisetour to your cruise and several cruise lines (think Princess and Holland, too, as they're considered the leaders when it comes to Alaskan cruises) do these. If you want to do the tour first, then you'll want to do a southbound, and tour last, a northbound. Your flights will be more complicated than if you're doing a round trip (these are from Seattle, Vancouver, and San Francisco).

My key word of advice: either you or your TA book your flights, and make sure you're flying in at least a day ahead. I've seen too many posts from people on this site who let the cruiseline book their air, and the flights have been for the same day, or otherwise not getting them there in time to make the cruise. And if you're starting your cruise in Vancouver, the ship can't always wait for latecomers (some problem with tides, I believe, or another similar concern), and you won't be able to just fly up to the first Alaskan port and be able to do the rest of the cruise due to the Passenger Vessels Services Act (all of Alaskan sailings must include Vancouver or Victoria to be legal unless it's a small American cruise line).
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Patty the Cruisin' Chick (may all your cruises be smooth sailin')

Hoping for another trip to the land of Aloha!

Carnival Jubilee - Mex. Riv.; Sensation - W. Caribb.; Holiday (2Xs) - Baja; Paradise - E Caribb; Ecstasy - Baja; Star Princess - Mex. Riv.; Sapphire Princess - Alaska; Island Princess - Hawaii; Golden Princess - Hawaii (one of the best cruises ever!!!!); another Golden Princess -- Hawaii

Read about my most recent cruise at
5,510 Posts
Joined May 2012
We have taken two Alaska cruises so far. Both times we were there in mid August. The first one in 2009 was a round trip from Seattle on the Star Princess. Our ports of call were Juneau, Ketchikan, and Skagway. We had a great time but wanted to go back again, which we did last summer.
We sailed on the Royal Caribbean Radiance of the Seas last August on the southbound route. We loved it! We had four ports of call, Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway and Icy Strait Point located in the Alaskan town of Hoonah.

The ship is fantastic and the cruise was the best we have ever had. The itinerary includes 4 ports of call. Icy Strait Point was and still is our favorite. We went on the Bear and Whale watch combo excursion through RC. We saw two bears catching Salmon and countless whales! It was absolutely breathtaking!

When we went through the Hubbard Glacier area, we witnessed numerous "calving" which is when great chunks of ice break off with loud cracking and rumbling then fall into the water.

You might be interested in seeing my wife's picture slideshows. Click on the links below.
The slideshow will start when you click on the link, but you can also go through the pictures if you want to by clicking on the thumbnails one at a time.

HAPPY SAILING! It's a great way to explore the world!
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You can view my wife's cruise pictures on her website Nancy's Oasis and individual cruise links below my cruise countdown.

2016 14 day Alaska Maasdam Ketchikan,Juneau,Dawes,Icy Strait Point,Anchorage,Homer,Kodiak,Hubbard,Sitka, Victoria,BC
2015 Christmas Adventure of the Seas St. Croix, St. Kitts, St. Maarten, Dominica, Barbados
2014 Christmas Island Princess ~ Partial Panama Canal with Columbia, Costa Rica, Grand Cayman, Aruba
2013 Christmas Adventure of the Seas ~ So.Caribbean St. Thomas, St. Kitts, Aruba, and Curacao
2012 Christmas Mariner of the Seas ~ W.Caribbean Cozumel (Tulum) Jamaica, and Grand Cayman
2012 Radiance of the Seas ~ Alaska Southbound Icy Strait Point, Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan, Hubbard Glacier
2011 Christmas Mariner of the Seas ~ W. Caribbean Belize (Lamanai), Roatan, Costa Maya (Kohunlich), Cozumel
2011 Carnival Ecstasy ~ Western Caribbean Cozumel and Progresso (Chichen Itza)
2011 Carnival Ecstasy Owners Suite Visit from the Upsell Fairy - 916 sq ft of paradise!

2011 Carnival Conquest ~ Eastern Caribbean Nassau, Freeport, Key West
2010 Caribbean Princess ~ NE/Canada Upgrade Fairy Visit FREE PH Suite - Newport,Boston,Bar Harbor,St. John,Halifax
2009 Star Princess ~ Alaska Inside Passage Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan, Tracy Arm
2008 Christmas Carnival Ecstasy ~ Western Caribbean Progreso (Uxmal) Cozumel
2007 Carnival Conquest ~ Western Caribbean Jamaica, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel
Oklahoma City, OK
11,338 Posts
Joined Jan 2006
If I were you, these are the things/questions you should settle first because then your options will already be limited by your answers.

1) Is budget an issue? This not only effects the cruise/cabin choices but also pre-cruise and post-cruise and flight/port options.

2) How much time can you all 4 take for the entire trip? Only time for a 7 night cruise plus a pre-travel day or more?

3)If you have time for an inland Alaska trip, are you more of a go with the herd/like to have everything arranged for you or do you prefer to go at your own pace and not be in a crowd? If the former is your style, a cruise/tour would be good. If the latter is it, then rent a car, book your own lodging and train tickets and go it on your own.

4) Are there any ports any of the 4 of you specifically must do or a type of excursion?
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Celebrity Galaxy 11/04
Grand Princess 2/06
Carnival Conquest 10/06
Celebrity Mercury to Alaska 9/07 very cool - literally!
Vegas, baby! 11/08
NCL Spirit 1/09, where everybody knew my name (which was strange and a little fun at the same time)
NCL Pearl 3/10
HAL Oosterdam 5/2011, back to Alaska we went!
RCCL Mariner OTS 3/2012 - another 1st!
NCL Star 12/2012 - more firsts!
NCL Jewel 12/2013 - Christmas on the water
NCL Jewel 11/2014 - and a few more firsts!
NCL Sun 5/2015 - North to Alaska, this time into Denali!
NCL Dawn 11/2015
NCL Dawn 11/2016. I'm really getting used to not cooking on Thanksgiving!
NCL Pearl 11/2017

NCL Breakaway 11/2018

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174 Posts
Joined Feb 2011
Thanks everyone!! We probably need to chat as a group. Good advice and food for thought.
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642 Posts
Joined May 2009
In case your mother has mobility issues (or for anyone else who is referring to this thread for inspiration,) check out the disabilities forum for ways to cope with travelling with disabilities which many seniors have in one form or another. Cruiselines can make accomodations such as large print menus in the MDR and wheelchair assistance for boarding (you avoid standing in long lines.)

Going to Alaska was my MIL's dream and we were able to make it come true four yrs ago. We made a list of all of the things that we wanted to see and do and then figured out which ports were the best one to accomplish it. Our list included whale watching and visiting the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, the White Pass Railway and a private tour in Skagway and a visit to see the totem poles at Totem Bight State Park in Ketchikan.

It can be overwhelming to narrow down your options as you will probably want to do it all (as we all do ,) but unless your Mom is a young senior who still has a lot of stamina, keep in mind that she will probably only be up to one maybe two excursions per port. My MIL often returned to the ship shortly after the excursion and rarely wandered around the port as she wasn't up to it. You may want to consider getting an ocean view or balcony cabin for your Mom so that she won't miss the scenery even if she goes back to the cabin for a rest. Happy planning and have a great trip.
4,785 Posts
Joined Jul 2003
I highly recommend a southbound Inland Passage cruise from either Seward or Whittier. You would fly into Anchorage if you choose not to do a land portion.
The biggest advantage is returning home from Vancouver after traveling over 1,300 miles. That means 1,300 miles closer to home and fewer hours on the plane after a wonderful cruise.
You can take the cruise line transfers by bus or train or engage a private service from Anchorage.
No one has mentioned Celebrity but they also sail to Alaska and have land tours as well. We've sailed them as well and were extremely happy with both the ship and the itinerary.
No matter which ship you choose after finding your preferred itinerary, plan to fly in at least a day prior to sailing and do not attempt a return flight from either Seattle, Vancouver or Anchorage until after noon, as most cruise lines recommend.
Please use the Alaska forum for the best up-to-date information on excursions. Then join the Roll Call for the sailing you choose.
You will love Alaska.