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hulamoon

Orion in Alaska

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It’s been awhile since I have posted, forgive my inexperience with the new format.

We have a special anniversary in May and we are considering cancelling our Edge cruise and taking Viking in Alaska. We like the Edge and have a great reservation but when we saw the Viking availability we picked up a hold.

 

Just concerned about the recent reviews and given This is Vikings first cruise in Alaska  I am nervous to switch. I know they will not be in Hubbard or Glacier but hope we can see wildlife other ways.

 

We have yet to sail Viking and except for some of the recent reviews feel it might be a great fit. 

 

Happy to hear from those experienced Viking and Alaska cruisers.

 

Sharie

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Vikings first trip into Alaska is in May this year. It is fully booked. We booked 18 months ago. And it does go to Hubbard Glacier which is great but not Glacier Bay. This is the itinerary

 

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Edited by Pushka

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Thanks for your response. It has limited availability, and I have a hold for a couple more hours. The itinerary I have gives a location close to Hubbard so when I asked I was told the glacier it visits is Mendenhal. Yes it is it’s first visit. I will double check with them if close is the same as seeing it and check the location listed.

 

thank you

sharie

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Having seen both options on cruise ships and many times when running ships in Alaska waters I would rather visit Hubbard.  Glacier Bay is stunning but is very much "out there", especially for a round trip from Vancouver.  Sort of on the way for a Vancouver to Seward one way.  Glacier Bay usually takes a full day to visit but Hubbard leaves more time for other things.  All the glaciers we have seen have their own beauty.  One of the prettiest is opposite Taku Lodge and never seen from a cruise  ship.  Takes a float plane or a long small boat ride to visit.  Glacier Bay is also very controlled by the US Park Service (wonder if it is closed at this time??) and there are a fixed number of cruise ship slots.  Viking won't have any as the established lines like Princess, HAL, and others have long reserved them.  In short, I would not let missing Glacier Bay put me on a Princess ship over Viking.....😳

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Not sure I understand your reference to the Mendenhall Glacier.  It is in Juneau and it is a "drive" up glacier located 10 or so miles by road outside of town.

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I was told mendenhal would be an excursion, I assume a free one. I did a quick check and read from Viking June 2nd Hubbard is 30 miles away and can be seen. The last time and only time I was on Glacier bay we were right next to the glacier, like almost touching it. On that trip r we saw a mother bear and cubs right next to the shore quite close. I know Viking is going to be cruising the shoreline.

 

Thanks for your input Jim, my first thought was as highly rated as Viking is maybe it will offer more without glacier bay and I am still a bit confused if Hubbard is the same as Yakutat Bay. Is it?

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2 hours ago, hulamoon said:

I was told mendenhal would be an excursion, I assume a free one. I did a quick check and read from Viking June 2nd Hubbard is 30 miles away and can be seen. The last time and only time I was on Glacier bay we were right next to the glacier, like almost touching it. On that trip r we saw a mother bear and cubs right next to the shore quite close. I know Viking is going to be cruising the shoreline.

 

Thanks for your input Jim, my first thought was as highly rated as Viking is maybe it will offer more without glacier bay and I am still a bit confused if Hubbard is the same as Yakutat Bay. Is it?

Yakutat/Yakutat Bay is the general area where Hubbard lives.  Interesting fact:  Hubbard Glacier is advancing.  You only hear horror about the retreating ones.  

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Similar to Jim, I am a fellow mariner and have worked Alaska Cruise ships or cruised as a pax way too many time. I also spent 30+ years working the BC Coast.

 

While we haven't sailed with Viking (yet), we have researched them thoroughly and happily booked our next World Cruise with them, so I would have no worries about booking an Alaska trip.

 

The Viking itinerary has many positives, and a small negative (no Glacier Bay).

 - Alaska itineraries start from Vancouver, Seattle and San Francisco. San Francisco has too many sea days, to reach Alaska and Seattle ships must go up the Pacific Ocean rather than the more sheltered Inside Passage. Therefore, in my experience, Vancouver is the best port to embark and/or disembark. As a further benefit, Vancouver ships do not require a technical stop in Victoria, or other Canadian port, which again in my opinion is a waste of 4 or 5 hours that could be used in Alaska.

 - Viking have posted that they will be using Grenville Channel on the BC Coast to reach Alaska. Back in the 70's & 80's, all Alaska bound ships used this route, rather than going up Hecate Strait. All the other Vancouver based ships (mega ships) use the not very scenic Hecate Strait, but Viking will use the very scenic Inside Passage along the entire BC Coast.

 - Glaciers - the 4 primary areas for seeing glaciers from cruise ships are Tracy Arm/Endicott, Glacier Bay, Hubbard Glacier/Yakutat Bay and Prince William Sound. Tracy Arm is frequently ice bound and not accessible safely. Hubbard Glacier is located at the end of Yakutat Bay, which is occasionally ice bound and inaccessible to cruise ships. In my experience, Glacier Bay & Prince William Sound are always accessible during cruise season.

 - Glacier Bay - is a spectacular day, but these days you only see 2 glaciers and have Rangers aboard the ship. Viking do not have any permits, which are mostly held by Princess & HAL. Having worked for and sailed with Princess for 35+ years, I believe a Viking cruise without Glacier Bay is a vastly superior option than Princess or HAL.

 - Hubbard Glacier - located in Yukatat Bay, which is north of Icy Strait, it is a wide bay that tapers down to the glacier at the end. It is one of the wider glaciers reaching tidewater in Alaska.

- Prince William Sound - has numerous glaciers. Haven't been to Valdez, so will defer to Jim's greater knowledge of this port. However cruising in Prince William sound is spectacular.

- Meadenhall glacier reaches tidewater, just north of Juneau. You can visit the Visitors Centre and walk trails to view the glacier. Car Rentals, city bus and shuttle are available. Many tours are also available taking you up to the glacier - helicopter tours

 - Sitka - haven't been since 80's, but it is a smaller port and often it is not included on the mega ship schedules, so it can be less busy

- Icy Point Strait - Almost opposite Glacier Bay. Don't believe they have built a dock yet, so this is probably a tender port.

- Seward - suggest planning to stay a few days in Seward/Anchorage. The train between Seward/Anchorage is spectacular. Seward has small boat cruise options around the peninsula. From Whittier you can also get the Phillips 26 glaciers cruise, which is an excellent day. 

- Time in port - I like the number of hours Viking has in each port. This is something that should be considered when comparing Alaska cruises, as Seattle based ships must sail an extra 100+ miles to reach Alaska and lose 4 or 5 hours in Victoria.

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3 minutes ago, Heidi13 said:

Similar to Jim, I am a fellow mariner and have worked Alaska Cruise ships or cruised as a pax way too many time. I also spent 30+ years working the BC Coast.

 

While we haven't sailed with Viking (yet), we have researched them thoroughly and happily booked our next World Cruise with them, so I would have no worries about booking an Alaska trip.

 

The Viking itinerary has many positives, and a small negative (no Glacier Bay).

 - Alaska itineraries start from Vancouver, Seattle and San Francisco. San Francisco has too many sea days, to reach Alaska and Seattle ships must go up the Pacific Ocean rather than the more sheltered Inside Passage. Therefore, in my experience, Vancouver is the best port to embark and/or disembark. As a further benefit, Vancouver ships do not require a technical stop in Victoria, or other Canadian port, which again in my opinion is a waste of 4 or 5 hours that could be used in Alaska.

 - Viking have posted that they will be using Grenville Channel on the BC Coast to reach Alaska. Back in the 70's & 80's, all Alaska bound ships used this route, rather than going up Hecate Strait. All the other Vancouver based ships (mega ships) use the not very scenic Hecate Strait, but Viking will use the very scenic Inside Passage along the entire BC Coast.

 - Glaciers - the 4 primary areas for seeing glaciers from cruise ships are Tracy Arm/Endicott, Glacier Bay, Hubbard Glacier/Yakutat Bay and Prince William Sound. Tracy Arm is frequently ice bound and not accessible safely. Hubbard Glacier is located at the end of Yakutat Bay, which is occasionally ice bound and inaccessible to cruise ships. In my experience, Glacier Bay & Prince William Sound are always accessible during cruise season.

 - Glacier Bay - is a spectacular day, but these days you only see 2 glaciers and have Rangers aboard the ship. Viking do not have any permits, which are mostly held by Princess & HAL. Having worked for and sailed with Princess for 35+ years, I believe a Viking cruise without Glacier Bay is a vastly superior option than Princess or HAL.

 - Hubbard Glacier - located in Yukatat Bay, which is north of Icy Strait, it is a wide bay that tapers down to the glacier at the end. It is one of the wider glaciers reaching tidewater in Alaska.

- Prince William Sound - has numerous glaciers. Haven't been to Valdez, so will defer to Jim's greater knowledge of this port. However cruising in Prince William sound is spectacular.

- Meadenhall glacier reaches tidewater, just north of Juneau. You can visit the Visitors Centre and walk trails to view the glacier. Car Rentals, city bus and shuttle are available. Many tours are also available taking you up to the glacier - helicopter tours

 - Sitka - haven't been since 80's, but it is a smaller port and often it is not included on the mega ship schedules, so it can be less busy

- Icy Point Strait - Almost opposite Glacier Bay. Don't believe they have built a dock yet, so this is probably a tender port.

- Seward - suggest planning to stay a few days in Seward/Anchorage. The train between Seward/Anchorage is spectacular. Seward has small boat cruise options around the peninsula. From Whittier you can also get the Phillips 26 glaciers cruise, which is an excellent day. 

- Time in port - I like the number of hours Viking has in each port. This is something that should be considered when comparing Alaska cruises, as Seattle based ships must sail an extra 100+ miles to reach Alaska and lose 4 or 5 hours in Victoria.

Haha, Andy, my knowledge of Valdez rarely exceeded the sailor's bars on the waterfront.  Back when I was there it was all about oil and the pipeline.  Hubbard Glacier (technically Disenchantment Bay/Russel Fijord) is a better spend of a day over Glacier Bay but then I have been to Glacier Bay a few times.  Icy Strait has new docks and a tourist village at the entry to the dock.  Actually a nice walkabout with a few bars/restaurants to sample Halibut, etc.  We have mentioned the mass market lines calling Hecate Strait "inside Passage".  To be blunt, it aint.  Viking shows the track of their Alaska cruises using Hecate Strait.  I remember them referring to Grenville Channel and hope they do in fact use the beautiful Canadian INSIDE PASSAGE......🍸

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4 minutes ago, Jim Avery said:

Haha, Andy, my knowledge of Valdez rarely exceeded the sailor's bars on the waterfront.  Back when I was there it was all about oil and the pipeline.  Hubbard Glacier (technically Disenchantment Bay/Russel Fijord) is a better spend of a day over Glacier Bay but then I have been to Glacier Bay a few times.  Icy Strait has new docks and a tourist village at the entry to the dock.  Actually a nice walkabout with a few bars/restaurants to sample Halibut, etc.  We have mentioned the mass market lines calling Hecate Strait "inside Passage".  To be blunt, it aint.  Viking shows the track of their Alaska cruises using Hecate Strait.  I remember them referring to Grenville Channel and hope they do in fact use the beautiful Canadian INSIDE PASSAGE......🍸

Hecate Strait - remember it all too well, since we did the Rupert to Skidegate run with 3 or 4 round trips per week. Can be really nasty. Princess Royal/Grenville Channel is a much nicer day. I would do Alaska again, just to sit enjoying a cocktail or 2 while watching somebody else navigating around Boat Bluff, etc.

 

Still remember the day I almost got sucked into Lowe Inlet on a big flood when N'bd. Slowed down for a S'bd tug with wild barge and ended up steering on the opposite shore. Needed a small libation after that watch. Looks easy, but this coast has some interesting challenges.

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3 minutes ago, Heidi13 said:

Hecate Strait - remember it all too well, since we did the Rupert to Skidegate run with 3 or 4 round trips per week. Can be really nasty. Princess Royal/Grenville Channel is a much nicer day. I would do Alaska again, just to sit enjoying a cocktail or 2 while watching somebody else navigating around Boat Bluff, etc.

 

Still remember the day I almost got sucked into Lowe Inlet on a big flood when N'bd. Slowed down for a S'bd tug with wild barge and ended up steering on the opposite shore. Needed a small libation after that watch. Looks easy, but this coast has some interesting challenges.

Yes, just because you are on this big steel thing doesn't mean the waters you are trying to transit won't toss you about like a chip of wood.  Thankfully, most see Canada/Alaska on nice days.  Adventure cruisers should find some ship running up there in January.  Hard to find but there were some of us idiots running ships year round and seeing the extra strong tides Andy mentions.  The old timers always told us "young sprouts" that this part of the world will separate the men from the boys.  What was your line about "old bold" Captains??  You always bring back memories.👍

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HaHa - remember the day pouring over weather maps & forecasts with the Captain when we were stuck in Skidegate. We had 120 kts at Cape St James. He decided to sail when it dropped to a sedate 90 kts. Was the most uncomfortable crossing I every did.

 

I think it goes something like, "You may find old Captains or bold Captains, but never old & bold Captains". 🙂

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Thank you Heidi13 and Jim Avery for your entertaining and knowledgeable responses!

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On a land based Alaska trip in 2000, while in Seward, we did a Kenai Fjords National Park day trip cruise with these folks https://www.alaskacollection.com/day-tours/kenai-fjords-tours/kenai-fjords-national-park-tour/   It was a great day with lots of wildlife, glaciers and generally beautiful scenery.  If it fits with your port times, I would highly recommend.

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Gosh some wonderful information from everyone. Fantastic. We’ve been told it will be a tender at ISP and Vancouver but I also think Sitka might be a chance. And I’ve pretty much organised private excursions rather than Vikings which aren’t available to be booked just yet.  Being in a DV I’m lower on the pecking list. Have booked Michelle of Island Wings for Ketchikan, a private small boat tour at Sitka and again in ISP, helicopter and dog sled tour to Medenhall in Juneau. There’s not much private in Valdez - Viking offers some stunning but expensive ones. Thinking of kayaking there. It’s my birthday and wedding anniversary in Valdez so hoping to also book a nice restaurant that night. The only day we don’t have anything planned is Skagway. I’m not sure I want to spend another full day on a train but know that’s what everyone seems to want to do. 

 

Having read rave rave reviews about the train we are waiting in Seward until 6pm and taking the train back to Anchorage, and splurged on the Dome service. 

Edited by Pushka

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We did the Whitehorse Yukon rail trip and really enjoyed it.  Had very good host on the rail car with engaging history and open to questions.  I don't recall that it was actually a full day for us.  Seems it was maybe 4 hours (this was on a Princess cruise back in 1991) since we spent the morning in Skagway, lunch and then the train ride, back to the ship in time for dinner.

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5 minutes ago, Pushka said:

Gosh some wonderful information from everyone. Fantastic. We’ve been told it will be a tender at ISP and Vancouver but I also think Sitka might be a chance. And I’ve pretty much organised private excursions rather than Vikings which aren’t available to be booked. Have booked Michelle of Island Wings for Ketchikan, a private small boat tour at Sitka and again in ISP, helicopter and dog sled tour to Medenhall in Juneau. There’s not much private in Valdez - Viking offers some stunning but expensive ones. Thinking of kayaking there. It’s my birthday and wedding anniversary in Valdez so hoping to also book a nice restaurant that night. The only day we don’t have anything planned is Skagway. I’m not sure I want to spend another full day on a train but know that’s what everyone seems to want to do. 

 

Having read rave rave reviews about the train we are waiting in Seward until 6pm and taking the train back to Anchorage, and splurged on the Dome service. 

I would take the Seward train many times over the train at Skagway (White Pass).  Skagway is easy walking and the Red Onion saloon and brothel will provide a cooling beverage.  

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1 minute ago, Jim Avery said:

I would take the Seward train many times over the train at Skagway (White Pass).  Skagway is easy walking and the Red Onion saloon and brothel will provide a cooling beverage.  

 

Well that sounds like a plan my husband might enjoy! He really likes a mix of excursions and staying on the ship when everyone else has left. I’m pushing the boundaries a little with all the excursions I’ve planned, however Alaska is the place I’ve had on the bucket list forever! Plus he’s going on a trekking tour of Grand Canyon just before so that’s his bucket list done. 

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I might have sounded a bit negative on trains.  The White Pass train from Skagway is nice.  Not fabulous, just nice.  Several stunning vistas but lots of close up rocks and trees.  Seating not very comfy and the ride seemed to be about an hour too long.  Also in Skagway there is a helicopter base.  Lots of great flightseeing.  We took a helicopter to the nearby glacier to ride dog sleds.  And yes, I was the only dope to fall off the sled runners...... Managed to miss the brown and yellow snow....😳🍸

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2 minutes ago, Jim Avery said:

I might have sounded a bit negative on trains.  The White Pass train from Skagway is nice.  Not fabulous, just nice.  Several stunning vistas but lots of close up rocks and trees.  Seating not very comfy and the ride seemed to be about an hour too long.  Also in Skagway there is a helicopter base.  Lots of great flightseeing.  We took a helicopter to the nearby glacier to ride dog sleds.  And yes, I was the only dope to fall off the sled runners...... Managed to miss the brown and yellow snow....😳🍸

 

I was thinking we could use Skagway as a last minute helicopter tour if the Juneau excursion is cancelled. So that’s helpful. 

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1 minute ago, Pushka said:

 

I was thinking we could use Skagway as a last minute helicopter tour if the Juneau excursion is cancelled. So that’s helpful. 

That is a very good plan as we have had flying excursions from Juneau cancelled.  Never from other ports but twice from Juneau.  Skagway has a nice little helicopter port and lots of options.

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In addition to the train & Red Onion Saloon, in Skagway I usually take a walk up to the Lower Lake. Entrance is across the train track just as they leave the Princess dock. Up hill most of the way with about 500' elevation gain. About 1/2 ml up and a little less than 3 miles around the lake.

 

Usually takes 2 - 3 hours.

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For what it's worth, the best excursion so far in Alaska has been the flight to Taku Lodge.  Float plane flight (can be out of Juneau or Ketchikan, maybe others) flys over 5 glaciers and lands at the Lodge.  A fresh salmon feast is included and there is bar service if desired.  A beautiful setting right across from the Taku Glacier. Bears and other wildlife all around.  Next best would have to be the helicopter to the dogsled on the glacier in spite of my sled driving acumen......

Edited by Jim Avery

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Thanks for all of the info.  We have been on several Viking Ocean trips and have been ruined for others.  I have been looking at this trip, but have yet to pull the trigger. I wish Viking still allowed full payments 6 months out.  I have a friend that does a tour out of Skagway, Tom and Michelle Strand, trail of 98 tour.  Check them out for a private tour,  I am not employed by them.

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