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paulgraff

Need Alaska cruise advice

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Need advice and tips on how to plan a cruise to Alaska for my wife, thank you in advance for any suggestions on ships, time of the year, excursions, and anything else you can think of.

 

Thank you in advance.

 

PG

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My insanely long review from our Alaskan adventure last June may help.  As Bob suggested, try the Alaska forum.

 

 

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We went in September of last year. The weather was beautiful and the northern lights were stunning!

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Later in July/early August when it is warmer, the salmon are running, and the bears are out is a better time. We sailed Alaska in June in 2015 and 2018; and August in 2016. This year we will sail Alaska in August again for the wildlife. 

 

The best cruises are Northbound from Vancouver to Seward ending with a train and land tour to Denali National Park. But, that is an extra week.

 

Alaska excursions can be reeeeallllly expensive. Decide what your priorities are, close your eyes, and go for it. We have dropped $$$ to go on a floatplane tour to see bears. And realize that air tours have the highest probability of being cancelled due to weather.  Unless you are realllly a whale lover, don't book whale watching tours. Instead, spend time out each evening as you move between port and watch for whales along the way. We spend hours doing this. 

 

If you end up on an itinerary going Edicott Arm/Dawes Glacier, look for a Glacier Explorer tour that will take you from the ship up close and personal with the glacier, while the ship hangs back several miles. 

 

 

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I did a review too. It's from our September cruise. We have the same itinerary (this time on the Serenade) booked for this August to see more. Here is the link:

 

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17 hours ago, paulgraff said:

Need advice and tips on how to plan a cruise to Alaska for my wife, thank you in advance for any suggestions on ships, time of the year, excursions, and anything else you can think of.

 

Thank you in advance.

 

PG

 

You really need to do a lot of reading and figure out what works best for you.  The one way cruises go farther up than the round trips out of Seattle or Vancouver.  On the one way, north or southbound trips on Radiance, you can add a cruisetour (land tour) onto your sailing.  Cruise tours can be as little as two days and as much as a week.  We did a southbound sailing on Radiance with a cruise tour prior to our cruise.  This gets the longer flights out of the way before your trip since the cruise ends in Vancouver.  The cruise tour also has very long days and is very tiring, so it was nice to get on the ship an relax a bit.  The DIY route for a land portion is also a possibility and OCSC Mike's review is a great place to get lots of information.

 

Time of year will make a big difference in price.  We went in May into early June and that was much cheaper than July and August.  We did not see salmon running but we saw lots and lots of wildlife including lots of bears.  Our favorite excursion was our whale watch in Icy Strait Point.  We booked with Glacier Wind which is a small family run business, they have two small boats that only take 6 people each.  We got to see bubble feeding multiple times, bear along the shoreline, dall's porpoises and lots of bald eagles.  It was amazing.

 

I would just suggest that you read a lot and decide what your must do things are for your family.  Don't let any of us sway you from what is important to you.  I had read many saying going to Mendenhall Glacier wasn't worth it since it has receded so far.  We rented a car and DIYed that port and spent over three hours hiking and enjoying the area around Mendenhall.  Make a list and figure out what works for you.  Mike's review is a classic example of someone planning a cruise tour and deciding it wasn't what they wanted and then doing it all DIY.  We are doing what they did on our next trip in 2021.

 

Happy planning! 🙂 

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The main thing we learned on our AK cruise was that a balcony was not important.  We only used ours one time in the 10-night cruise; we spent all our waking hours on the open top decks, seeing the fabulous views in all directions.  It was warmer up there in the sun, too, and the $$$ you can save can be used for excursions.

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1 hour ago, shipgeeks said:

The main thing we learned on our AK cruise was that a balcony was not important.

 

We came to the same conclusion.

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I have been told many times to book the day that the itinerary opens to get the cabin that you want.  The aft balconies sell out fast.  I was also told to do a land and sea cruise.  We booked a north bound in August 2020 followed by the land portion.  I picked up a book from AAA to help me choose the land portion that we liked.  I have also talked with the next cruise folks when on board to get as much information as I could.  Sometimes they have wonderful suggestions and flyers to take home to look at.

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On 5/30/2019 at 2:23 PM, paulgraff said:

Need advice and tips on how to plan a cruise to Alaska for my wife, thank you in advance for any suggestions on ships, time of the year, excursions, and anything else you can think of.

Paul:

Holland America and Princess have the most permits for Glacier Bay, which is widely considered a must-do for first trips to Alaska. (Hubbard Glacier is a high-placing second-best. Do not book any tour without one of them!) A smaller ship could get you closer to "the action". If you choose to go one way and fly back, I recommend north-bound as each stop is "more Alaskan" more wild as it were. I recommend a R/T or one way out of Vancouver so that you sail between Vancouver Island and BC. 

 

Unless you can do a 14-day cruise out of Seattle!

 

I have been to AK twice in June and once in August (all HAL). In June the whales are more active, breaching and such. In August the temperatures are warmer. It can rain any time!!! Theoretically in August you should see salmon running and the bears out to feast on the salmon; however in 2018 the salmon runs were very disappointing and we saw no wild bears (only rescued black and brown bears at the Fortress of the Bear in Sitka).

 

Excursions: Totems in Ketchikan (Saxman Village or Totem Bight). A train trip in Skagway -- have done Up to White Pass and back, and Up by train back by bus. Recommend the latter because different views, more scenery. Whale watching with Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau. Best in June.

 

"Anything else you can think of" -- Be prepared for weather. Hats that cover your ears. Neck-scarves. Gloves. Raingear. Waterproof shoes or at least wool socks to keep wet feet warm. It is not frigid cold, but wet feels cold! Maybe you won't need all of the precautions but better to be prepared and not need than the reverse.

 

Edited by crystalspin

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