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beckylynnthomas

Tracy Arm Inlet

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My mother and I are looking at an Alaskan cruise in May 2021 as our first cruising experience.  After much research and reading a ton of reviews here on Cruise Critic, we would like to sail with HAL.  

 

Our next big decision comes down to itinerary.  The Noordam has a round trip sailing from Vancouver that includes stops in Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway, and Glacier Bay.  For a small price increase, the Koningsdam has the same itinerary, but includes cruising to Tracy Arm inlet on the morning of the stop in Juneau.   The itinerary states cruising Tracy Arm is from 9:00 am to 9:30 am and the stop in Juneau is from 1:00 pm to 10:00 pm.

 

From looking at excursion options on the HAL website, it appears that you can do the Tracy Arm Glacier Explorer by catamaran, which I think looks amazing!  However, we would still want to be able to go whale watching in Juneau.  Does anyone know if you begin the glacier explorer while at Tracy Arm, or do you have to wait until you get to port in Juneau, and then back track?  If we have to wait until we get to Juneau, I don't think there will be time for anything else.  

 

Alternatively, would anyone suggest whale watching at another port?

 

 I'm willing to pay extra for the Koningsdam itinerary, if it means we get to do both the glacier explorer and whale watching.  

 

Thanks for any insights you can offer!

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For my July 25, 2021 Oosterdam Alaskan Explorer cruise, the Tracy Arm Expedition is listed as one of the Juneau port activities.  (Actually, passengers get on the smaller boat on the way to Juneau, explore Tracy Arm and then are taken to the docked ship in Juneau.) When I check the list of excursions, the Oosterdam on July 25, 2021 is listed for the Tracy Arm Expedition. It's one that I was REALLY looking forward to.

 

However, when I go to my Shore Excursions under Already Booked, it isn't listed as one of the options! I called the HAL Shore Excursions number and the consultant was very surprised it wasn't there because it is very popular. She suggested I check back frequently in case it gets added.

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I've been to Tracy/Juneau three times, and that excursion hasn't been offered on any of my cruises. I keep hearing how great it is and hope that someday I'll be able to do it. 

 

Edited by 3rdGenCunarder

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If it were my first trip to Alaska, I would elect to go to Glacier Bay.   The views are amazing! You will see and hear calving - and wildlife.   If you can, select a Cabin with some type of balcony.  You will see so much wild life!   Ketchikan is our favorite port followed by Skagway.  I would recommend going on the crab boat excursion in Ketchikan, Whale watching in Juneau and the train in Skagway.   

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Since you are going in May, the Tracy Arm excursion might not be offered, or it may even be cancelled at the last minute due to too much ice in the water.

 

We have done Juneau whale watching and it was very good, but the same company (Allen Marine) does these HAL tours and the one we were on with them out of Icy Point Straight was FANTASTIC.  However, it is hard to find a cruise that stops at ICP.

 

Edited by DaveOKC

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I second the recommendation for the train in Skagway. There's a good brewery in Skagway, too. Great beer and great food.

 

I did the whale watch at Icy strait with Icy Strait Whale Adventures. Good boats, big windows that open, not too crowded. Avoid the huge boats with two decks. I've seen them crammed with people. 

 

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The Tracy Arm excursion is the absolute BEST thing you can do on an Alaska cruise, in my humble opinion.  I have cruised to Alaska every summer since 2004.  If the Koningsdam is offering an excursion that leave the ship (you get on the catamaran while at sea, near the opening to Tracy Arm.  The K-dam is too large, I believe, to actually cruise into the arm), that is, as I said the BEST excursion and you should grab it. It fills up.  The ship will leave you, as said, near Tracy Arm, to go exploring on your catamaran in the morning, and you'll be brought to Juneau to meet your ship in the early afternoon and still have plenty of time to do whatever you want in Juneau including a whale watch excursion.  Some of the smaller HAL ships actually go into Tracy Arm, eliminating the need for the separate excursion.  But either way - GO to Tracy Arm. It's amazing and awesome.

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5 hours ago, beckylynnthomas said:

 

it appears that you can do the Tracy Arm Glacier Explorer by catamaran, which I think looks amazing!  However, we would still want to be able to go whale watching in Juneau.  Does anyone know if you begin the glacier explorer while at Tracy Arm, or do you have to wait until you get to port in Juneau, and then back track?  If we have to wait until we get to Juneau, I don't think there will be time for anything else.  

 

 

Just wanting to clearly answer your question here. The Tracy Arm excursion takes place while the rest of the guests on your ship are on their way to Juneau. No back-tracking.

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2 hours ago, 3rdGenCunarder said:

I second the recommendation for the train in Skagway. There's a good brewery in Skagway, too. Great beer and great food.

 

I did the whale watch at Icy strait with Icy Strait Whale Adventures. Good boats, big windows that open, not too crowded. Avoid the huge boats with two decks. I've seen them crammed with people. 

 

Second this advice.  Don't try to crowd too much into your first cruise to Alaska.  Trust me, it won't be your last cruise to Alaska.  Definitely go for Glacier Bay.  It is spectacular as is the rest of Alaska.  Our first trip, our jaws dropped so often I'm surprised a bug didn't fly in and nest on our tongues.  Alaska is awe-inspiring and magnificent!  Enjoy.  

 

Koningsdam is a newer ship with a few extras that you won't find on Noordam; however, if HAL keeps Noordam's public rooms as they are after its next drydock, she's a favorite.  You may want to ask other CCers if they know exactly how the drydock will affect Noordam's deck plan.

 

You couldn't have picked a better line or a better itinerary for your first cruise.  I hope it's a trip-of-a-lifetime cruise with many more to follow.

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Beckylynnthomas, welcome to Cruise Critic.  I agree with several of the posts above (Moriah especially).  The Tracy Arm excursion on a catamaran was fantastic! It left from the ship at 10am then the ship continued on to Juneau with the rest of the passengers.  I would choose to go to Tracy Arm on the excursion from the ship and the Noordam!  The Noordam has just been refurbished so it should be nice and spiffy.  If you are staying in Juneau until late evening, then you may have time for whale watching, but the Tracy Arm excursion returns to the ship around 4pm so I personally wouldn't try to do another excursion after that. If Tracy Arm excursion doesn't go for some reason, then you could go whale watching. I have gone on Whale Watching with Harv and Marv from Juneau and it was great.  Have fun!

 

~Nancy

Edited by oakridger
added

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12 hours ago, beckylynnthomas said:

My mother and I are looking at an Alaskan cruise in May 2021 as our first cruising experience.  After much research and reading a ton of reviews here on Cruise Critic, we would like to sail with HAL.  

 

Our next big decision comes down to itinerary.  The Noordam has a round trip sailing from Vancouver that includes stops in Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway, and Glacier Bay.  For a small price increase, the Koningsdam has the same itinerary, but includes cruising to Tracy Arm inlet on the morning of the stop in Juneau.   The itinerary states cruising Tracy Arm is from 9:00 am to 9:30 am and the stop in Juneau is from 1:00 pm to 10:00 pm.

 

From looking at excursion options on the HAL website, it appears that you can do the Tracy Arm Glacier Explorer by catamaran, which I think looks amazing!  However, we would still want to be able to go whale watching in Juneau.  Does anyone know if you begin the glacier explorer while at Tracy Arm, or do you have to wait until you get to port in Juneau, and then back track?  If we have to wait until we get to Juneau, I don't think there will be time for anything else.  

 

Alternatively, would anyone suggest whale watching at another port?

 

 I'm willing to pay extra for the Koningsdam itinerary, if it means we get to do both the glacier explorer and whale watching.  

 

Thanks for any insights you can offer!

Have you thought of taking a 14 day cruise on the Maasdam out of Vanouver.  She'll be going to Anchorger, Homer, Valdez plus the using usual ports.

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6 hours ago, oakridger said:

 but the Tracy Arm excursion returns to the ship around 4pm so I personally wouldn't try to do another excursion after that. If Tracy Arm excursion doesn't go for some reason, then you could go whale watching.

~Nancy

 

Actually I've been on that Tracy Arm catamaran excursion twice (once from the Volendam and once from I-can't-remember-which ship, possibly a Vista) and both times we arrived in Juneau at 1 PM and the ship stayed until 9 or 10 PM.  OP, check the times on your ship's itinerary to see what applies to your particular cruise.  Nancy is right, if you arrive in late afternoon it might be a tight fit.  Also, of course this is never, ever a guaranteed experience, but... the first time I went to Tracy Arm we saw HUNDREDS (nope, I'm not exaggerating) whales!!!! The guides on our catamaran were completely blown away along with the guests. The whales were jumping and playing and there were three different kinds. The Orcas were in groups - it was absolutely awesome and amazing!!  So you might get lucky too.  That Tracy Arm excursion yielded FAR, far more whale viewings than any of the many actual whale watching excursions I've been on!  Alaska is like Forrest Gump's "box of chocolates".... you never know what you're going to get! 

Edited by Moriah

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7 hours ago, Sue from Canada said:

Have you thought of taking a 14 day cruise on the Maasdam out of Vanouver.  She'll be going to Anchorger, Homer, Valdez plus the using usual ports.

While I would LOVE to make that happen, given time and budget constraints it isn't an option right now.  Maybe in the future though!

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24 minutes ago, beckylynnthomas said:

While I would LOVE to make that happen, given time and budget constraints it isn't an option right now.  Maybe in the future though!

 

The cruise from Vancouver is a good starter cruise. The inside passage route means you'll probably have very calm seas. Note I said probably--Mother Nature can change that--but routes from Seattle have a greater risk of rough seas. And you'll have nice scenery.

 

Of the two ships, I'd pick Noordam. I'm one of the few who didn't like the K. But I love the Vista class ships, and Noordam is a Vista. 

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45 minutes ago, 3rdGenCunarder said:

 

The cruise from Vancouver is a good starter cruise. The inside passage route means you'll probably have very calm seas. Note I said probably--Mother Nature can change that--but routes from Seattle have a greater risk of rough seas. And you'll have nice scenery.

 

Of the two ships, I'd pick Noordam. I'm one of the few who didn't like the K. But I love the Vista class ships, and Noordam is a Vista. 

I agree with you on the K dam.  Personally I like Signature the best followed by Vista and R Class

Edited by Himself

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On 10/21/2019 at 3:24 PM, 3rdGenCunarder said:

I second the recommendation for the train in Skagway. There's a good brewery in Skagway, too. Great beer and great food.

 

I did the whale watch at Icy strait with Icy Strait Whale Adventures. Good boats, big windows that open, not too crowded. Avoid the huge boats with two decks. I've seen them crammed with people. 

 

I've just booked the train in Skagway for the 4th time.  Love it.  In Icy Straight I previously booked with F.I.S.H.E.S.  Small boat for six passengers and we were surrounded by whales.  Amazing.

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