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Thinking about an Alaska cruise. Help needed.


gonnatrycruisin'
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There are a couple of books specific to Alaska cruises that will provide you with lots of information w/o overwhelming you. The books discuss cruiselines, ships, itineraries, ports, excursions, DIY activities. etc. Perhaps your library has them: Fodor has Alaska Ports of Call, and Ann Vipond has Alaska by Cruiseship.

 

Another great resource are the many detailed trip reports and photojournals posted in the STICKYs above. At least 60 reports from 2014. There are cruises, cruisetours and cruises with DIY land travel. A great place to learn about various vendors and 'see' what ports and excursions look like.

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Read as much as you can on these boards. Yes, it does seem overwhelming at first. Just take it a step at a time. Decide on a time of year, then where you want to go, land and/or just cruise, then the ship. Once that is all set, only then begin to think about excursions...whether on land or off the ship. I promise you...it does get easier :)

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We did the reading bit ,went crazy not knowing what to do. So we picked a 7 day Carnival round trip out of Seattle next September. Another thing you have to look into is the airline flight times. Since some of them may not have nonstop flights from yourc

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Cruises from Seattle sail on the west side of Vancouver Island while those that depart from Vancouver sail on the east side of Vancouver Island. The Seattle cruises can encounter rougher water.

 

If you pick the sights that are a must see for you narrowing down the choices is easier. Even looking through brochures helps with this or browsing excursions for Alaska on the cruise ship websites.

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As I begin to research an Alaska cruise' date=' I am overwhelmed by the amount of options of itineraries, ships, ports, etc. How do you recommend I begin the search?[/quote']

 

Begin with what you want to see and experience. Glacier Bay if you want to experience glaciers. When can you go? Different seasons offer different experiences. How long can you stay? If you do a land tour you need to plan enough time in each location. (2 nights in Denali). Then choose the ship.

 

It can be overwhelming so you really need to start with the framework of what you want to see and go from there. The cruises are similar but differ in which ports they stop at and how much time in each port.

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One of the first things to decide is whether you want to do more than cruise. There are two basic options for mass-market cruising to Alaska: one-way cruises between Vancouver BC and Alaska (or v.v.) and round trip cruises from either Vancouver or Seattle. There are no one-way cruises to/from Seattle owing to US maritime law. Both the one-way and round trip cruises are typically for seven days.

 

The one-way cruises either start or finish in a port (Whittier or Seward) that is connected by road or rail to Anchorage. From Anchorage you can visit other parts of southcentral, interior, northern or western Alaska, by packaged tour, rental car, limited train service, RV, or flying. However further travel in Alaska requires additional time and additional financial expense, planning and effort, so you need to decide early in the process if you have the additional time (at least 3-5 days, a week is better) on top of the week's cruise (and any time in Canada or the Pacific Northwest prior to or following the cruise.)

 

Most of the cruises will stop en route at Ketchikan, Juneau, and usually Skagway; in addition some will stop at other towns in Southeast Alaska. Most will offer some glacier viewing - Glacier Bay, Hubbard Glacier, etc.

 

As stated, sailings out of Seattle travel to the west of Vancouver Island, on open ocean, and therefore tend to have a couple of big-water days rather then on the sheltered waters the Vancouver sailings enjoy. The one-way cruises all cross the Gulf of Alaska, which can also be big water.

 

So as you do your research it's important first to decide how much time you have available, and whether you want to explore more of Alaska than the cruises cover. Alaska is an enormous place, with many different regions, and you can't possibly see more than a small piece in a typical vacation, so you need to decide on your own priorities and budget as early in the process as possible.

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As I begin to research an Alaska cruise' date=' I am overwhelmed by the amount of options of itineraries, ships, ports, etc. How do you recommend I begin the search?[/quote']Before you spend any money to buy books, my advice would be first to check out all the Alaska cruise books from your local public library and browse through them to compare them and figure out which you prefer.

 

If your local library does not have them, speak to a librarian as they should be able to order them for you on inter-library loan.

 

Also it would be a good idea to get on the mailing lists of a number of the major cruise lines and travel agencies that sell Alaska cruises in order to compare their offers.

We are not allowed to name travel agencies here, but you can find some by browsing under "Deals" above.

 

I suggest setting up a special email address just for this purpose as you are likely to be bombarded with offers.

 

 

There are always tradeoffs as one cruise will be better in one respect, and another cruise in another, so it is important to find the features that matter most to you and are within your acceptable price range.

 

Just as an example, last summer we booked an Alaska cruise on the Celebrity Solstice, a beautiful ship that has one of the worst Alaska itineraries.

We knew up front that there would be two wasted days cruising out in the Pacific Ocean instead of cruising through the scenic Inside Passage, and also that we would be tendering in Juneau instead of docking.

We also knew that our glacier viewing day would be at the smaller Sawyer glaciers, not at spectacular Hubbard Glacier or Glacier Bay.

 

So why did we choose the Solstice with all those drawbacks?

It was because we got a great price on a last minute closeout deal, we like the ship, and did not have far to travel to the port since we were going to be up in the area anyway.

 

The tradeoffs were worth it to us so we figured we would just use the ship as a floating hotel for the two wasted days at sea.

 

Having been on other Alaska cruises before, we were very aware of how much we would miss by taking that cruise.

But it was worthwhile for us, despite its limitations.

 

However, we met other passengers who were on their first Alaska cruise and had not checked out the itinerary in advance. They had paid full price for the cruise, not realizing how much they would miss, so they were very disappointed.

(Even when the Solstice docks in Juneau, it uses one of the least desirable berths there.)

 

 

Before you put down your money to book any Alaska cruise, it is a good idea to figure out which features are most important to you and which you are willing to do without.

 

But on the other hand, every now and then a really great deal comes along, so if you can spare the time you just go for it, even if it isn't what you really want.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...
Before you spend any money to buy books, my advice would be first to check out all the Alaska cruise books from your local public library and browse through them to compare them and figure out which you prefer.

 

If your local library does not have them, speak to a librarian as they should be able to order them for you on inter-library loan.

 

Also it would be a good idea to get on the mailing lists of a number of the major cruise lines and travel agencies that sell Alaska cruises in order to compare their offers.

We are not allowed to name travel agencies here, but you can find some by browsing under "Deals" above.

 

I suggest setting up a special email address just for this purpose as you are likely to be bombarded with offers.

 

 

There are always tradeoffs as one cruise will be better in one respect, and another cruise in another, so it is important to find the features that matter most to you and are within your acceptable price range.

 

Just as an example, last summer we booked an Alaska cruise on the Celebrity Solstice, a beautiful ship that has one of the worst Alaska itineraries.

We knew up front that there would be two wasted days cruising out in the Pacific Ocean instead of cruising through the scenic Inside Passage, and also that we would be tendering in Juneau instead of docking.

We also knew that our glacier viewing day would be at the smaller Sawyer glaciers, not at spectacular Hubbard Glacier or Glacier Bay.

 

So why did we choose the Solstice with all those drawbacks?

It was because we got a great price on a last minute closeout deal, we like the ship, and did not have far to travel to the port since we were going to be up in the area anyway.

 

The tradeoffs were worth it to us so we figured we would just use the ship as a floating hotel for the two wasted days at sea.

 

Having been on other Alaska cruises before, we were very aware of how much we would miss by taking that cruise.

But it was worthwhile for us, despite its limitations.

 

However, we met other passengers who were on their first Alaska cruise and had not checked out the itinerary in advance. They had paid full price for the cruise, not realizing how much they would miss, so they were very disappointed.

(Even when the Solstice docks in Juneau, it uses one of the least desirable berths there.)

 

 

Before you put down your money to book any Alaska cruise, it is a good idea to figure out which features are most important to you and which you are willing to do without.

 

But on the other hand, every now and then a really great deal comes along, so if you can spare the time you just go for it, even if it isn't what you really want.

 

 

Thank you so much for this post! You probably just saved me $2k. I have an aqua class room on Solstice on hold, really want it, but its so expensive.

 

My daughter's birthday is the last week in May, it's a special one, and she wants to go to Alaska and so do I but I have no experiene here. Now it's between Princess departing the 22nd, and HAL the 24th. I have both on hold thru today. Any thoughts?

 

Any thoughts on interior vs balcony rooms? I usually do balcony or JS, Royal or Carnival. Just shopping price, neither of them impress me. Don't know what to do here...

 

Thanks for any advice.

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I always suggest people, decided- first; how much time you have and budget. Read up on Alaska. With the cruise- find out about EACH port and what it has to offer- there are only 6 ports on regular inside passage sailings. Look at port touring and determine YOUR priorities. This will narrow down your selections. Educate yourself on the route and glacier differences, again, determine, what is YOUR priority.

 

You need to decide your route, one way or round trip, this significantly points you toward a ship selection.

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Thank you so much for this post! You probably just saved me $2k. I have an aqua class room on Solstice on hold, really want it, but its so expensive.

 

My daughter's birthday is the last week in May, it's a special one, and she wants to go to Alaska and so do I but I have no experiene here. Now it's between Princess departing the 22nd, and HAL the 24th. I have both on hold thru today. Any thoughts?

 

Any thoughts on interior vs balcony rooms? I usually do balcony or JS, Royal or Carnival. Just shopping price, neither of them impress me. Don't know what to do here...

 

Thanks for any advice.

If you usually do balcony rooms you need to do either ocean view or balcony or you may be unhappy.

 

Both Princess and HAL have so many cruises to Alaska that simple dates do not help much. If you are looking at HAL Oosterdam May 24 Vancouver to Seward it would be a good cruise with inside passage and Glacier Bay with the usual stops along with way. You will end up in Seward. Do you want to add time on land?

 

Oosterdam has reasonably priced verandas as opposed to the HAL smaller ships.

 

What's the rush?

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