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Alaska cruise advice needed

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I know nothing about Alaska but my wife just told me her bucket list item is an Alaskan cruise.... so help me make my wife happy.


What cruise line, inside or outside passage, time of the year, things to do, and any other advice would be greatly appreciated.


Thank you in advance.



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There are lots of good books on AK cruising that are probably in your local library.  Try taking one or 2 out.  Then come back with some specific questions and we will be glad to answer them.



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Or.......you could just read thru this forum and learn everything you need to know.  😉

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I would certainly hope that you know your wife better than random strangers on the internet do Paul(!), so you should be best-placed to know if she has preferences in terms of cruise lines, room categories, and the sort of things she likes to do on excursions. I agree with Don that hitting the local library is a good idea - and without more info there's really nothing that anybody on here can do for you at this time except maybe point you at the trip reports (look at the sticky at the top of the forum) for some ideas of what other folks have done.


Really, really general info that is mostly correct for most people (at least on a statistical level - any given day or week can have very unseasonable weather, better or worse than normal) that may help with some of your choices -

  • May is driest, June has longest days, July/August are warmest, September is coldest and wettest and darkest of the typical cruise months. Cheapest prices tend to be May/Sep. Wildlife peak seasons vary - whales are all the time, bears are easiest to spot when the salmon runs happen, cute baby beasties are seen early in the season. If you want snow  then May is good - but late Sep can also see snowfalls starting up again.
  • One-way cruises all either start or end in Vancouver - that means you probably need a passport and no criminal record (of any kind, including no DUIs ever) in order to get into Canada. You can work around the passport requirement if you are cruising a mainstream line and do not fly in or out of Canada - buses and trains and rental cars all work for getting to Seattle for flights. Either Whittier or Seward are the other end of these, not Anchorage - so transportation to the latter needs to be booked even if you are just flying straight home rather than continuing to do a land tour
  • if you are cruising one-way and want to spend time inland, then June or later is better than May - lots of stuff doesn't open in AK as early as the first cruises start
  • round-trips you can do from Seattle and Vancouver all season - or a few from SF and LA. For someone who loves sea days, these latter two might be desirable
  • unless you can link multiple cruises, or afford a longer cruise (on mostly luxury lines), you will most likely be looking at a 7 day cruise with 3 or 4 ports plus your terminus - almost always Victoria on RT cruises out of Seattle/LA/SF, Juneau/Ketchikan/Skagway as the most common AK ports, then Icy Strait Point, Sitka, Haines as less common ones. A handful of others are visited too in BC and AK, and if you are interested in one of the more obscure ports like Prince Rupert you might find your hundreds of possible choices drop to just a literal handful!
  • glaciers - the commonly listed locations to view glaciers from the ship itself tend to break down into two major choices, Glacier Bay or Tracy Arm, on RT cruises. One way cruises will do one of those as well as another further up the coast, like Hubbard or College. Glacier Bay is as close as it gets to guaranteed that the cruiseship will be close to a glacier you have a good view of - there are multiple glaciers, the bay is wide, so ships can get in all season and will spend several hours there, turning so both sides get a view. BUT - there are lots of restrictions on who gets to take ships in, and Carnival lines won by far the most permits (mostly it's Princess/HAL). Some folks insist on GB and won't book an itinerary without it - and if you only plan to come once, it's hard to argue that GB is more desirable as it is a very reliable glacier viewing location! Tracy Arm is narrow, arguably more spectacular if you can get in - but it's common for ship not be able to get in at all due to ice. Even later in the season you may have problems - so if you decide on a cruise that has Tracy as the only glacier day, it's important to budget for a small boat excursion which is much more likely to get in. Some of these pick you up from the ship at sea, then drop you off in Juneau which is more time-efficient than a round trip boat from Juneau.
  • route to and from Alaska - if you sail out of or into Vancouver, generally you are taking the entire Inside Passage. Sheltered waters, so statistically less bouncy, and land on both sides of the ship for most of the way - but some of that you do pass in the dark (in September especially). Seattle/LA/SF cruises all stay out on the ocean west of Vancouver Island - so you will see lots of diddly and plenty of squat until shortly before your first AK port, and then again after you leave AK it's all ocean until you hit Victoria to comply with PVSA rules (a foreign port must be visited on RT cruises out of the USA).

Basically, the more specific you can get the more accurate and useful responses you'll receive Paul. If you grab some books, talk to your wife, look at excursions, figure out your budget - basically narrow down when you can come, which ports are Must Dos for you, and which lines seem to work with your schedule and budget - plenty of folks will be happy to go into detail on pros and cons of a short list of options with you. But the best we can do with your first question here is say: "Well, this is what I did when I cruised!" and we may be very, very different people with different budgets and tastes than you and your wife...

Edited by martincath

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BEST advice I can provide is to find a Travel Advisor who has lots of Alaska sailings or bookings.  Go meet with them to get a feel for what is available and to get an estimated budget for the experience.  Excursions are expensive in Alaska compared to warmer cruises.  How active do you wish to be when off the ship?  These are just a few of the questions to consider.

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