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CruiseTour versus DIY


donaldsc
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I have been to Alaska a number of times and never taken a CruiseTour. However, obviously the CruiseTour must satisfy the needs of a lot of people because lots of people take them and they do seem to enjoy them.

 

Cruise tours may make sense on some itineraries but I do not think that they make much sense for Alaska.

 

I have listed as few reasons below why they do not make any sense to me. Feel free to tell me where I am wrong.

 

1 - They speak English in Alaska so there is no problem asking the "natives" questions

 

2 - There are only a limited number of sightseeing options in any port and they are easy to book them on your own.

 

3 - Most of the sightseeing options are outside oriented. You may need a guide if you are visiting cultural sites in Italy but you hardly need a guide when you are visiting a mountain or a local site.

 

4 - In places where you may need guides, they are available at the attraction and the attraction guide will speak English.

 

5 - Driving from one place to another is easy. There are only a limited number of intercity roads in Alaska and you can not get lost. Also, the road signs are in English or in known pictographs. If you rent a car which you will have todo, you can always get a GPS with the car or you can bring your own as we do.

 

6 - If you do a CruiseTour, you get to stay in an expensive hotel where you only meet other tourists. On a DIY, you can stay in a cheaper B&B where your host will be glad to share details about the location with you. At one B&B that we stayed at, she even took us to a great local blues bar. At another, she made hot chocolate with marshmallows for my granddaughter BEFORE breakfast.

 

7 - If you do a CruiseTour, you get to eat in a touristy restaurant which is usually more expensive than the excellent restaurants the locals eat at.

 

8 - If you do a CruiseTour, you have no freedom to do what you want. If something is interesting, you can not stay longer or the tour will leave you behind. If a place it totally boring, you can not leave early for the same reason.

 

9 - If you see an interesting place that is not on the preplanned itinerary, you can not stop if you are on a CruiseTour.

 

10 - A CruiseTour is usually more expensive than a DIY.

 

11- CruiseTours take you to places that give kickbacks to the cruise companies instead of the best places. The CruiseTour is basically set up to maximize the profit to the cruise company instead of maximizing the enjoyment to the traveler.

 

To me, the only negative on a DIY that some advance planning is necessary. You can even ignore the initial planning and figure it our when you get to a place. We have done that at times very successfully.

 

Based on all this, I can not figure out why people do CruiseTours. However, since so many people do take cruise tours and they certainly do enjoy them, I must be missing something positive about them. What is it?

 

BTW - I almost never take ship tours in Alaska for exactly the same reasons.

 

DON

Edited by donaldsc
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I totally agree with you donaldsc but what works best for you and I isn't necessarily the best answer for everyone else.

 

Cruisetours work well for busy people who don't have time to research how far to travel, what to see or do, where to stay. They also work well for seniors who don't have the energy to plan, to schlep luggage or don't feel comfortable driving in new environments. I think of my mom is who 85 ... she loves to travel but there's no way she can handle the planning. She certainly can't drive and she's not savvy enough with the internet to learn about buses, railroad schedules, etc. So my sister and I take care of all the details and drag her around the world on our trips :>) A cruisetour would be perfect for her.

 

Personally I LOVE to research and plan The more I learn about my destination the more excited I get about the trip! But that's me. Some folks think planning is akin to work. And they are another group of people who will appreciate a cruisetour; all the planning and details are taken care of for them.

 

I don't think there's a right or wrong way to travel. People should do what works best for them. DIY isn't for everyone and for those people, a cruisetour is a good alternative to missing Alaska altogether. Different strokes for different folks.

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I love independent tours and have done them in places like Belize, Colon Panama, Warnemunde, and St. Petersburg. We did ship-sponsored excursions on our Alaska cruise. Why? Because the cruise line had an exclusive on the tours we wanted to do.

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Good post Don. We spent a night at the Copper River Princess Lodge a couple weeks ago. As is typical with the Princess lodges it is remote with limited access unless you have your own transportation. They do provide a bus into the small town and to the pipeline for a fee as you really have no other options. There were a couple dozen folks on a cruise tour in the lobby reading, socializing and on the internet as there just wasn’t much else to do as it was difficult to leave the property. The average age appeared to be about 75. We might consider this when we get older but couldn’t imagine it now. It’s just too easy to get around Alaska on your own.

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My hubby an I just returned from a canadian Rockies/ Alaskan Cruisetour. It was amazing. Living in the UK we have never visited the west coast of Canada, so we're very happy with the itinerary set out by RCI. We both have very busy intense jobs, so we're very happy to leave all the planning to someone else. It was a 7 day tour and I can honestly say it was perfect. The hotels were amazing, and are fellow travelers very friendly. Cruisetours don't work for everyone, but it was perfect for us.

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There were a couple dozen folks on a cruise tour in the lobby reading, socializing and on the internet as there just wasn’t much else to do as it was difficult to leave the property. The average age appeared to be about 75. We might consider this when we get older but couldn’t imagine it now. It’s just too easy to get around Alaska on your own.

 

I am 73. My wife is 71. I figure that we have a good number of years of DIY touring although maybe a bit slower as we age. My ideal trip to is pick a few interesting cities and spend a week at each one. That gives us time to feel at home at the place.

 

DON

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We would agree with all your reasons. Half our grandchildren live in Anchorage, so we go see them and then go farther afield in a rented car. Get a copy of the " Milepost". It doesn't have to be a current issue, as the scenery stays the same.

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I am 73. My wife is 71. I figure that we have a good number of years of DIY touring although maybe a bit slower as we age. My ideal trip to is pick a few interesting cities and spend a week at each one. That gives us time to feel at home at the place.

 

DON

 

That's wonderful that you and your wife are both still in physical condition to do the Independent traveling you like.

 

We took a cruisetour to Alaska in 2010 and had a wonderful time. I was still working then, so knew I only had 10 vacation days to do the trip. We covered over 1800 miles into the Yukon and Alaska. I selected the cruisetour to go where I wanted to go and see the things I wanted to see.

 

My husband and I are 71 and 68 and neither of us can manage our own luggage, or walk very far and I wouldn't want to drive alone on some of the roads we traveled on.

 

And as a matter of fact, had HAL's 14 day round trip out of Seattle booked this year for August and had to cancel (as my husband had a stroke and ended our traveling days altogether).

 

So enjoy your travels whatever way you choose to do them. Thank goodness there is such a variety of ships, itineraries, modes of travel that we can all choose what fits our needs.

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Like the original poster, I have been to Alaska many times. 7 to 10. I agree with most of the OPs list, but would like to take the other side also. If it is a limited time, once in a lifetime trip I can see an argument for a Cruise/Tour.

1) You are not limited to paying attention to the road and can rubberneck at the wonderful scenery all you want. Would be more relaxing. After all, is the point of vacation to relax.

2) You will probably see more of the Alaskan highlights than you would by DYI. I say this if you don't have family or friends that live there.

3) Cheaper? Probably not, but it is a once in a lifetime trip.

 

The guide knows the area. As an example. South of Anchorage along the Seward highway the are cliffs that you often times see Dall sheep. I have see tour buses pulled over at the turn out letting the tourist out to photograph them. DYI may well miss the place.

 

One poster mentioned "Milepost". By all means get one. It is the traveling bible of the north country.

Edited by Maeshel
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I've done and sold both. RCI, Celebrity and NCL use an Alaskan operator and the depth of knowledge you are provided with from both the driver and tour director will likely far exceed any DIY trip. If you just want the sights, do it yourself, but if you want stories, insight and facts try a cruisetour.

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I've done and sold both. RCI' date=' Celebrity and NCL use an Alaskan operator and the depth of knowledge you are provided with from both the driver and tour director will likely far exceed any DIY trip. If you just want the sights, do it yourself, but if you want stories, insight and facts try a cruisetour.[/quote']

 

Well said. The Cruisetour is a good way to learn about the area. When you return you will be better informed for your DIY.

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I've done and sold both. RCI' date=' Celebrity and NCL use an Alaskan operator and the depth of knowledge you are provided with from both the driver and tour director will likely far exceed any DIY trip. If you just want the sights, do it yourself, but if you want stories, insight and facts try a cruisetour.[/quote']

 

This is exactly why we are investigating different cruise tour options for our next trip to Alaska. Well said!

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Either could be great options. The big problem is the uninformed traveler, which is a significant number of cruisetour people. I couldn't believe the number of people I spoke to who had no idea what touring Denali was about. They claimed they were going to Denali (all excited, etc) most couldn't tell me "where" they were going when they got there and most had the "stupid" question look back to me, when I asked what tour they were on. Further comments on their itinerary told me, they were on the worthless NHT, so a big negative on the highlight of the area. Would anyone plan a Disneyland Vacation with only going up and down Main Street and leaving? As I said- none knew any details, sorry, this does not tell me it is superior to take a cruise tour.

 

This summer, I also had a stop at the McKinley Princess with the Park Connection bus. It was pitiful seeing hordes of people "doing nothing", some looked pretty aimless, and no McKinley was viewable. Especially with knowing some of them were there for 2 nights and on the worthless NHT at Denali, not a good touring choice, in my opinion.

 

So, I would add to the list- the necessity to be just as informed no matter how you tour. A cruisetour is no excuse for just accepting the vague descriptions. This board is loaded with many examples of this and people finding out the details here. THAT is what is important with these costly plans- make the right one for YOU. :)

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I've done and sold both. RCI' date=' Celebrity and NCL use an Alaskan operator and the depth of knowledge you are provided with from both the driver and tour director will likely far exceed any DIY trip. If you just want the sights, do it yourself, but if you want stories, insight and facts try a cruisetour.[/quote']

 

Sorry, it is more than this simple. I have countless, "experiences" with true Alaskans in my touring and have gotten plenty of interesting stories.

 

A small example with my touring this year- great conversations with several pilots during my transit flights across the Cook Inlet and up to Deadhorse. (one showed me the area he brings his sled dogs in the winter) Staying in a remote lodge for 3 days, where State of Alaska workers were also staying and ate meals with them, enjoyed a wonderful chat in the kitchen with a cook at a work camp in Deadhorse. Enjoyed a wonderful program at the Coldfoot Park Service Center from a worker who goes out camping in the winter for a month at a time patrolling the area. Enjoyed again meeting a Wiseman resident who I had been at his home in the past. etc etc etc

 

You still think a cruisetour would "far exceed" those experiences?

Edited by Budget Queen
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Enjoyed again meeting a Wiseman resident who I had been at his home in the past. etc etc etc

 

You still think a cruisetour would "far exceed" those experiences?

 

You must have been with Jack Reakof. I bought enough wolf skins from him over a three year period to make an absolutely gorgeous jacket. Total cost was probably more than if I would have bought it at a fur store but I sure love that jacket.

 

Gina

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Sorry, it is more than this simple. I have countless, "experiences" with true Alaskans in my touring and have gotten plenty of interesting stories.

 

A small example with my touring this year- great conversations with several pilots during my transit flights across the Cook Inlet and up to Deadhorse. (one showed me the area he brings his sled dogs in the winter) Staying in a remote lodge for 3 days, where State of Alaska workers were also staying and ate meals with them, enjoyed a wonderful chat in the kitchen with a cook at a work camp in Deadhorse. Enjoyed a wonderful program at the Coldfoot Park Service Center from a worker who goes out camping in the winter for a month at a time patrolling the area. Enjoyed again meeting a Wiseman resident who I had been at his home in the past. etc etc etc

 

You still think a cruisetour would "far exceed" those experiences?

 

Totally agree. I could tell you Wiseman stories, Fairbanks stories, and other place stories that also far exceed anything that the CruiseTour folks do or even know about.

 

I realize that for some people, a CruiseTour is the only way that they can do AK and for them, it is better than not going at all. As for the rest of the CFruiseTour folks, I feel sorry for them.

 

DON

Edited by donaldsc
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You must have been with Jack Reakof. I bought enough wolf skins from him over a three year period to make an absolutely gorgeous jacket. Total cost was probably more than if I would have bought it at a fur store but I sure love that jacket.

 

Gina

 

Yep, he now has a 2 year old daughter, so his home isn't open at this time, but we again, got a wonderful walk around Wiseman with him. :)

 

I have YOU to thank for getting me in this area of the state. :) You highly recommended Northern Alaska tour company, which I have now gone with 4 times.

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OK, I admit I'm usually the OCD detail oriented "do-it-yourself" girl. Up to and including month-long trips- i.e.: the British Isles (cars, trains, planes, tubes, B & B's etc.).....

 

...but there are times I just don't want to have to think. Our upcoming sister trip is one of them: asking "well, do you want.....or....." when they weren't willing to do any research themselves became impossible. So a combo cruise and land tour covers the bases.

 

And as the girl who ALWAYS makes all the plans, occasionally I need to be treated like an idiot: being told where to go and when and not having to choose anything. Knowing it's mostly already planned out. This is one of those occasions.

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Not everyone is an independent traveler like Budget Queen, greatam and donaldsc.

 

I for one would never take the trips that Budget Queen takes. I'm not interested in hiking in Denali, I don't fly in small aircraft, nor helicopters, or small boats and as I've stated before, Taylor Highway that we took from Eagle to Chicken to Tok, is not a highway I would want to travel in a rental car (if it would even be allowed). I think we saw 17 cars all day. Even HAL had two buses travelling it in tandem, so we weren't totally alone. And now I understand HAL flies you from Dawson City to Fairbanks and has totally done away with the coach for that stretch.

 

I love the structured tour bus approach. Tell me where to be and what time to be there and I will sit back and enjoy the scenery. I've done coach tours in the US, England, Europe, Australia and Hawaii. The drivers/guides know what there is to see of significance in the area. I do research and know what I want to see and do, then I find a coach tour that goes there. It's not brain surgery, and certainly doesn't take the hours and hours of research to try and do it yourself. While I have also done DIY in Europe, it was not nearly as enjoyable as the coach tours, missing a turnoff or spending 3 hours lost in a strange city.

 

I figure I'm pretty much the same age as Budget Queen, but she must be in better health and more fit than I am, to keep the busy travel schedule she does. I do one trip per year, and that wipes out my bank account and my physical stamina. I would prefer that 1 trip to be as enjoyable as I can make it. My last trip to San Diego (not my hometown) was even aggravating, finding the roads and parking spots to get as close to the site as I could, to prevent a heart attack while walking. Even my GPS didn't help a lot, as some of the roads were closed for construction. Very frustrating when you have mapquest maps and a GPS and can't go where they tell you to go and you have no idea what alternative streets to take. GPS kept me going in circles telling me to make a U-turn over and over again. Then it took me to the entrance to a Naval Base (the road virtually ended at that point).

 

So while independent may be great for some, it's not the answer for everyone!

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One of the things that I really like about Alaska is the rural, small town atmosphere and the knowledge that if you were to get into difficulty, like the car breaks down....somebody would be there to help.

 

Can you imagine what driving in Alaska would be like if everybody wanted to do a DIY?

With the volume of tourists that spend time in Alaska each year it would be a nightmare.

 

Fortunately the tourist industry in Alaska provides a meaningful experience for those who choose a well planned guided experience.

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One of the things that I really like about Alaska is the rural, small town atmosphere and the knowledge that if you were to get into difficulty, like the car breaks down....somebody would be there to help.

 

Can you imagine what driving in Alaska would be like if everybody wanted to do a DIY?

With the volume of tourists that spend time in Alaska each year it would be a nightmare.

 

.

 

Interesting thought that I had not considered. Regardless, I will still continue to do DIY tours.

 

DON

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I for one would never never do a DIY in Alaska. I've been the designated driver for 45 years and when we did our first inland tour in 2012 I let someone else drive so I could relax, enjoy the scenery and not worry about driving. (No matter how good of a driver you may be or how much you LOVE driving) driving is not a relaxing activity.

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I for one would never never do a DIY in Alaska. I've been the designated driver for 45 years and when we did our first inland tour in 2012 I let someone else drive so I could relax, enjoy the scenery and not worry about driving. (No matter how good of a driver you may be or how much you LOVE driving) driving is not a relaxing activity.

 

Disagree. We drove about 12,000 miles on our Alaska driving trip and I enjoyed every mile and every kilometer of the trip.I drove probably 8000 miles of the trip and my wife did maybe 4000 miles. As I indicated, when I do the driving, I am in control and and stop anywhere and for as long as I wish. If I do a DIY, I am abdicating control to someone else and I can not stand that.

 

However, I would certainly not presume to suggest that a driving DIY is the way to do AK for everyone.

 

DON

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I have been to Alaska a number of times and never taken a CruiseTour. However, obviously the CruiseTour must satisfy the needs of a lot of people because lots of people take them and they do seem to enjoy them.

 

Cruise tours may make sense on some itineraries but I do not think that they make much sense for Alaska.

 

I have listed as few reasons below why they do not make any sense to me. Feel free to tell me where I am wrong.

 

1 - They speak English in Alaska so there is no problem asking the "natives" questions

 

2 - There are only a limited number of sightseeing options in any port and they are easy to book them on your own.

 

3 - Most of the sightseeing options are outside oriented. You may need a guide if you are visiting cultural sites in Italy but you hardly need a guide when you are visiting a mountain or a local site.

 

4 - In places where you may need guides, they are available at the attraction and the attraction guide will speak English.

 

5 - Driving from one place to another is easy. There are only a limited number of intercity roads in Alaska and you can not get lost. Also, the road signs are in English or in known pictographs. If you rent a car which you will have todo, you can always get a GPS with the car or you can bring your own as we do.

 

6 - If you do a CruiseTour, you get to stay in an expensive hotel where you only meet other tourists. On a DIY, you can stay in a cheaper B&B where your host will be glad to share details about the location with you. At one B&B that we stayed at, she even took us to a great local blues bar. At another, she made hot chocolate with marshmallows for my granddaughter BEFORE breakfast.

 

7 - If you do a CruiseTour, you get to eat in a touristy restaurant which is usually more expensive than the excellent restaurants the locals eat at.

 

8 - If you do a CruiseTour, you have no freedom to do what you want. If something is interesting, you can not stay longer or the tour will leave you behind. If a place it totally boring, you can not leave early for the same reason.

 

9 - If you see an interesting place that is not on the preplanned itinerary, you can not stop if you are on a CruiseTour.

 

10 - A CruiseTour is usually more expensive than a DIY.

 

11- CruiseTours take you to places that give kickbacks to the cruise companies instead of the best places. The CruiseTour is basically set up to maximize the profit to the cruise company instead of maximizing the enjoyment to the traveler.

 

To me, the only negative on a DIY that some advance planning is necessary. You can even ignore the initial planning and figure it our when you get to a place. We have done that at times very successfully.

 

Based on all this, I can not figure out why people do CruiseTours. However, since so many people do take cruise tours and they certainly do enjoy them, I must be missing something positive about them. What is it?

 

BTW - I almost never take ship tours in Alaska for exactly the same reasons.

 

DON

 

 

So I think you list some valid reason for doing it on your own. Would you mind listing some things and places you recommend. Also any sites that you used for planning. We are going with a large family group in 2016 and are doing a northbound cruise but then DH and I will stick around for some Anchorage and Denali touring on our own. Any suggestions would be welcomed.

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