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boontj2003

Alaska first timer-need advice

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We're looking at booking a cruise to Alaska in 2021. It appears that June will be the best month that works for us. I'm only Platinum on Royal and currently have 2 cruises booked on Celebrity. I love having the drink package I'm just not sure if I should ditch all the others and go with Princess or Holland (never been on either.).

 

Where do we start, Vancouver or Seward? North bound, South bound or close loop? Should we spend the extra $$ on a balcony?

 

No kids, 2 couples. I really just need to know what to book then I can figure everything else out.

 

 

**side note, we have to have at least one stop in Juneau since husband was born there**

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We did south bound on Radiance with a cruise tour prior to the cruise.  This gets the longer flights out of the way at the beginning of the trip.  The land portion was also very long days, so having the cruise after that to relax was great,  We had a balcony and used it a lot, especially when at Hubbard Glacier and doing the Inside Passage.  

 

We are looking to do Alaska in 2021 again too.

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I would FOR SURE spring for the balcony. Alaska is incredible. It was my first cruise a few years ago and I will be going back in May. There is just nothing like waking up, looking out your window and seeing the most beautiful landscape! It was also nice to be able to enjoy seeing glacier bay from you own balcony instead of finding a good place on the ship.  

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I'd also seriously look at Holland and Princess.  They have been doing Alaska longer than other cruise lines and many think they have the best itineraries.

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We did a Northbound cruise on Radiance a few years ago and loved every second of it! Our group of 6 all agreed that we're glad we started in Vancouver and went North as things seemed to get better as we went North. While we wouldn't have been disappointed going South, we just liked the build up to the glacier, etc.

 

The days are long and we didn't spend much time on the ship so we skipped the drink package this trip and enjoyed the 2 bottles of wine we brought with us instead. A balcony is an absolute must for Alaska, IMO. We spent a lot of time on our aft balcony and there were always great views and we saw many whales, seals, otters, eagles, etc. Bring binoculars! 

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1 hour ago, boontj2003 said:

We're looking at booking a cruise to Alaska in 2021. It appears that June will be the best month that works for us. I'm only Platinum on Royal and currently have 2 cruises booked on Celebrity. I love having the drink package I'm just not sure if I should ditch all the others and go with Princess or Holland (never been on either.).

 

Where do we start, Vancouver or Seward? North bound, South bound or close loop? Should we spend the extra $$ on a balcony?

 

No kids, 2 couples. I really just need to know what to book then I can figure everything else out.

 

 

**side note, we have to have at least one stop in Juneau since husband was born there**

 

Absolutely get the balcony. We always get a balcony, but Alaska was the most we ever used it. 

 

You can can see more if you don’t do a close loop, but it’s more convenient.

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We have cruised Alaska twice, both on Holland America.  We did a B2B on the Veendam Vancouver-Seward-Vancouver (14 days) in 2009 in an inside cabin.  Loved the trip, enjoyed the Glacier Bay from the upper deck, and had 2 weeks of 80 degree temps.  (Late June -> early July.  We did our second Alaska trip last month on the Noordam.  This time we decided to to do a land-sea trip, flying into Anchorage, a 3-day trip to Denali, & a 7-day Neptune suite from Seward to Vancouver.  The balcony was a wrap-around aft/port and the views were awesome!  We are probably now spoiled re: balcony on an Alaska cruise.

The weather this trip was also in the 80s temps.  The Denali land part was a great experience and I recommend it if you can make it work.

 

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Posted (edited)

We did a north bound Vancouver to Seward and the build up to the glaciers made the trip.  But the flight home from Anchorage to NY JFK was about 24 hours including the bus ride from Seward to Anchorage which is about 2.5 - 3 hours. Had 2 stopovers however going home only one going there. Also had a balcony only way to go on an Alaska cruise.

Edited by WeLuvVacation

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Royal doesn't go to Glacier Bay, the only downside to it.  We did Celebrity and Princess and saw GB on Princess.  Go now before they are all melted.

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5 minutes ago, shofer said:

Royal doesn't go to Glacier Bay, the only downside to it.  We did Celebrity and Princess and saw GB on Princess.  Go now before they are all melted.

 

Royal Caribbean does now have permits to go to Glacier Bay and a bunch of the future itineraries have been adjusted.

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5 hours ago, reallyitsmema said:

We did south bound on Radiance with a cruise tour prior to the cruise.  This gets the longer flights out of the way at the beginning of the trip.  The land portion was also very long days, so having the cruise after that to relax was great,  We had a balcony and used it a lot, especially when at Hubbard Glacier and doing the Inside Passage.  

 

We are looking to do Alaska in 2021 again too.

I agree with everything this poster said.  We also did southbound with a land tour prior on Celebrity.  Although we are generally not balcony people, we really enjoyed our balcony on this trip.  It was worth it for the day sailing down the Inside Passage.  We were on this trip a year ago and can't wait to go back!

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If you plan on doing a land tour as part of your trip, I recommend going southbound. Your days on land will be very busy so you'll want to some time to relax after that. If you're on Royal out of Seward, your first day will be a sea day so you'll get to unwind  from the land portion. I will disagree with all of the balcony advocates. We booked a balcony because everyone here says a balcony for Alaska is a must. We hardly ever used it and would not have missed it if we hadn't had one. When there were things to see, we wanted to be up on the pool deck or above it so we could see everything there was to see. We also spent a lot of time in the Viking Crown Lounge because the views were so good from up there. Our friends spent a lot of time on their balcony because they thought they would see it all. They missed out on a lot of things, whales for instance, that were on the other side of the ship. We got to see them because we were out and about where we could move from side to side. Many people ask what is the best side of the ship (port or starboard) for an Alaskan cruise. My answer to that after being on ours is; the best side is the OUT side.

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6 hours ago, boontj2003 said:

We're looking at booking a cruise to Alaska in 2021. It appears that June will be the best month that works for us. I'm only Platinum on Royal and currently have 2 cruises booked on Celebrity. I love having the drink package I'm just not sure if I should ditch all the others and go with Princess or Holland (never been on either.).

 

Where do we start, Vancouver or Seward? North bound, South bound or close loop? Should we spend the extra $$ on a balcony?

 

No kids, 2 couples. I really just need to know what to book then I can figure everything else out.

 

 

**side note, we have to have at least one stop in Juneau since husband was born there**

The most important piece of advice that I would like to give you, is to pick one cruise line and stick with them. The loyalty programs have awesome benefits!!! I wish someone had told me that 50 years ago. But, if you don't plan on cruising a lot, it's not as important. We cruised to Alaska in July on Princess (for a Cousins Cruise) and we really missed our loyalty perks from Royal. (Glacier Bay is BEAUTIFUL!)

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Absolutely get the balcony. I've done Northbound, inside passage, twice, started in Vancouver. As others have said, the buildup to the Hubbard Glacier is great. 

You will LOVE Alaska 

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19 hours ago, WeLuvVacation said:

We did a north bound Vancouver to Seward and the build up to the glaciers made the trip.  But the flight home from Anchorage to NY JFK was about 24 hours including the bus ride from Seward to Anchorage which is about 2.5 - 3 hours. Had 2 stopovers however going home only one going there. Also had a balcony only way to go on an Alaska cruise.

Yes! We will be flying back to NY also! Great advice from everyone! Thank you. Now I have a LOT to consider

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We sailed southbound and were only able to get a balcony on the starboard side, and thought that we'd miss seeing land. Well, it turns out that there is land on both sides of the ship during most of the voyage, not just through the inside passage! It was gorgeous! So any balcony will give you great views.

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I agree with the others who are recommending balconies. We've done three Alaskan cruises (all on Holland so far), and we chose the northbound itineraries each time because they were cheaper than the southbound itineraries.

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Having done Radiance a few years ago I completely agree to get a balcony, but also plan on being up top to get other views.  We did a northbound out of Vancouver and enjoyed the build up  but we also did a land tour after the cruise and while I understand what people say about relaxing on the cruise after the land tour it doesn't make that much of a difference.  In my opinion, the most important thing was doing a land tour.  If I was going all the way to Alaska I wanted to see more than just the coast.  Our 2 days in Denali were absolutely amazing!!  I actually most regret not doing a longer land portion.   

Whatever you decide though, I know you'll love it!

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We did 2 Alaska cruises, both with Royal and both were great.  The first cruise was a 7 night round trip from Vancouver.  We loved Alaska so much that we went back a couple of years later and did a 12 night cruise tour, south bound. 

 

Those were the days before we could afford or wanted to spend the money for balcony cabins.  We spent a lot of time on deck and in the public rooms.  I don't think that we missed anything by not having a balcony cabin.

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We just did Radiance of the Seas this past June, 7 day Northbound out of Vancouver, BC to Seward AK. We absolutely loved the cruise. We Flew into Seattle and took Amtrak to Vancouver. We also did a 5 day land tour with Royal Caribbean. We were the ONLY folks on the tour. ( Hubby, me, Daughter in law and Son). Royal ran the tour for the 4 of us. We Did Tour 10 A. This tour goes all the way into Denali, and we stayed at Kantishna Roadhouse ( in Denali.) We absolutely loved our cruise and our balcony. *yes get a balcony if you can* We spent lots of time on our balcony. The kids had an inside room and really only were there to sleep. They were on our balcony every second they could. We loved the balcony! We saw whales and orcas from our balcony. 

We saw Bears, Fox, Eagles, Moose, Caribou, Ptarmigan, Everything but a wolf and lynx while in Denali. We saw Denali it's self. ( It is covered in clouds about 70% of the time.)

We would go back in a skinny minute to Alaska. And actually are thinking of doing a winter trip to see the Northern lights. 

Alaska is not cheap but is so worth going.

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I started researching like BoonTJ03 a few weeks ago.  Do Northbound or Southbound with a land tour, people said.  Make sure you sail out of Vancouver, people said.  They are all 100% correct of course, but then when you look into the logistics, it quickly becomes a nightmare.   My wife, like B. A. Baracus from the A-team, doesn't like to fly.  She will only do non-stop flights.  Are there non-stop flights from Anchorage to the DC area, of course not and I didn't expect there to be.  Alright fine, let's do a round trip out of Vancouver.  Surly there are non-stop flights to a large Canadian city out of Dulles, Reagan, or BWI right???  No there is not.  There are occasionally non-stop flights out of Newark, so that may work out for BoonTJ03, but not as well for us.  

 

So Seattle it is, unfortunately, unless I leave the wife at home and just take my son or go by myself.  There is also the possibility of taking the train to Newark from home or the train from Seattle to Vancouver, but that is just more expense and time.  If I had unlimited time, I think I would do the train and then take a Northbound cruise from Vancouver and then stay a day or 2 in Anchorage and take a different ship back.  It would be like a back to back with a break.  Make sure one stops in Sitka and the other in Skagway.  One Glacier Bay and the other at Hubbard...  

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 Excursions are expensive. If possible, figure out a way to budget, and go ahead and take the excursion you want, especially if you don’t think this is an itinerary that you will do again. 

 

Enjoy

 

m

 

 

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On 9/14/2019 at 4:55 PM, maddycat said:

 We spent a lot of time on deck and in the public rooms.  I don't think that we missed anything by not having a balcony cabin.

 

Im glad to hear this.  Accessible balconies are booked solid already for next year for the dates I could go so we opted for a interior with "virtual balcony".   I never spend much time in the cabin and I really dont see having a balcony changing that.   There seems to be plenty of places on Ovation to view the scenery.

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