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Differences between Alaska itineraries


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Sorry if this is on the boards already, it has been awhile since I have been on these boards and can’t find the search feature.  I was looking at Alaska fall of 2021, and looking at the Bliss versus Encore.  I’ve never sailed Alaska before.  It looks like the path the Bliss takes is more interior, while the Encore goes up into Glacier Bay?  Plus it does not seem like there is much to do in Icy Strait Point and I prefer the Encore as the entertainment is more our cup of tea.  Any advice on the differences between the two itineries?  I’ve saved pictures of the maps of both itineraries, but I don’t know which would be more picturesque.

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There are three main ports and one up and coming port in AK the old standbys are Juneau, Ketchican, and Skagway with icy Point Strait the up and comer. There are two main glacier areas - Glacier Bay and the area around Tracy Arm near Juneau. My favorite cities are the main three and for glacier touring nothing beats Glacier Bay. I could care less about the ship - AK is all about wildlife, scenery, and ports..

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2 hours ago, Shidah said:

Sorry if this is on the boards already, it has been awhile since I have been on these boards and can’t find the search feature.  I was looking at Alaska fall of 2021, and looking at the Bliss versus Encore.  I’ve never sailed Alaska before.  It looks like the path the Bliss takes is more interior, while the Encore goes up into Glacier Bay?  Plus it does not seem like there is much to do in Icy Strait Point and I prefer the Encore as the entertainment is more our cup of tea.  Any advice on the differences between the two itineries?  I’ve saved pictures of the maps of both itineraries, but I don’t know which would be more picturesque.

i did not care for Icy Strait Point; however it is VERY popular with cruisers.

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We enjoyed Icy Straits Points because when we were there, there were a group of bald eagles and several pods of whales.  Also, we really enjoyed Glacier Bay so you probably should do both at some point.

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We were fortunate to do Alaskan cruises for our 25th and 30th wedding anniversaries.  The first cruise was a true Inside Passage and we did not get up into Glacier Bay.  While we really enjoyed it, we were so thankful that we did get to see Glacier Bay on our second cruise.  Glacier Bay was amazing! 

 

I always tell people that if you think you may only get to go on one Alaskan cruise, you will want to get to Glacier Bay.  It is just breathtakingly beautiful!

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If glacier viewing is your thing, do not put your money on Tracy Arm / Sawyer Glacier / Endicott Arm / Dawes Glacier itineraries. The ships miss them often enough. Go with a Glacier Bay itinerary.

 

As stated by others, Alaska cruising isn't about the ship or its entertainment options. Choose based on itinerary. 

 

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We did a land/cruise package with Princess 2 years ago.  The land tour was mainly in Denali National Park: we were fortunate to have 3+ days of mostly clear weather and saw Denali every day.

As great as the Denali experience was, the cruise was even better.  Along with stops at the three main ports noted above, we cruised Hubbard Glacier and Glacier Bay.  By far these were our favorite days.  Various land tours were good, but our best memories are the hours spent on our balcony enjoying the constantly changing scenery.

We're currently booked on an Alaska NB/SB B2B in June '22 on the Jewel, which will include cruising Glacier and Hubbard again.  We are very much looking forward to again spending time on our balcony enjoying the scenery.

Absolutely agree that AK is all about scenery, wildlife and ports, not the ship.

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I would also note that the Jewel has the best and longest port times of the three NCL ships in AK. Leaving from Vancouver BC it sails the true inside passage of Johnstone Strait between Vancouver Island and mainland Canada. The NB sailing goes through it at night while the SB sailings go through it late afternoon. Skagway is my favorite port - love the train and on our last cruise I spent most of the day riding to Carcross YT with a bus return. There is alot of things to do in all of the ports. I am not sure if IPS will continue to grow as a tourist port or not. NCL did build a dock there - but they also promoted Haines AK back in the late 90's early 00's it was an evening stop after  Skagway on our 02 cruise and was gone when we repeated the cruise in 03. NCL also made promises to other small towns and they simply fizzled out.

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For me the difference would be the departure day from Seattle.

 

Does a Saturday- Saturday cruise or a Sunday- Sunday work better for you and your family?

 

I like Saturday- Saturday better.

 

If the Canadian ports are open and you can manage a Monday- Monday one way cruise, The Jewel would be fantastic either from Seward, Alaska to Vancouver, British Columbia or Vancouver to Seward.

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17 hours ago, bssc said:

We enjoyed Icy Straits Points because when we were there, there were a group of bald eagles and several pods of whales.  Also, we really enjoyed Glacier Bay so you probably should do both at some point.

Is there a month of the year where there is a greater chance of seeing whales? 

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Regarding whale sightings, we went on our first Alaskan cruise in late May and saw several whales, but we found our second cruise, which was in July, was much better for whale watching.  We had a fabulous sighting during an excursion from Icy Straight Point, where a pod of whales was bubble feeding.  The guide said how lucky we were to get to see that type of action.  I've still never seen a whale breach though.  It's on my bucket list to go on a Hawaii cruise in whale season one year.

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15 hours ago, Sand and Seas said:

Is there a month of the year where there is a greater chance of seeing whales? 

 

Up in SE Alaska, the whales are pretty much active during the cruise season throughout the region. Here is some information:

 

https://alaskashoreexcursions.com/blog/whale-migration-patterns-throughout-alaska

 

I found that photographing them is a bit like gambling and not at easy as it might seem. Some people get very lucky!

 

 

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We were absolutely lucky a few times (with a lot of time spent pointing a camera towards where you think something will happen).

On an excursion to Misty Fjords out of Ketchikan, we saw a mother and baby killer whale within sight when leaving the harbor, and then a single adult for about 15 minutes later in the trip.

We sat on our balcony on our last night and watched a pod of whales spout for almost two hours: they seemed to be following the ship.  It was a very memorable way to spend our final evening. 

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Last time we went we used Harv and Marv's out of Juneau and we had a great time and saw plenty of whales. I hope you will love the Glacier Bay itinerary as much as we did. We went at the end of May last time to enjoy the extra daylight. Trying to talk the husband into a 2022 Cruise to ALaska becasue he is not going for another Europe cruise. 😂

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2 minutes ago, Shidah said:

I didn’t even consider seasons.  I was looking at October with hopes that cruising will be allowed again by then.  Is that too late in the season?

 

The Alaska cruise season is five months long -- from May to September.

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I wouldn’t book anything for Alaska or at least plan on going to Alaska before mid summer. I booked the Bliss for the last week of August. I pushed late because I wanted to get as much time in front of my cruise for cruise startups, the vaccine distribution, prior sailing results, Seattle cruise port opening, and most importantly Canada opening their borders. Wouldn’t even consider putting a deposit on a cruise to Alaska that would be scheduled to sail in May or anything around there...... wait if you can. 

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Thanks, I have credits from two cancelled cruises in 2020, so that should cover the deposit so wouldn’t need to put additional money out and was looking at October for all the reasons you listed.

 

 If the season goes May to Sept, why do they offer them later in October?

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I have already cancelled my AK cruise for June 2021 - Canada does not plan on opening ports anytime soon and with the new strain of COVID they will proably remain closed through the summer. While I wish I were back on a cruise ship right now - I am hoping to rejoin cruising in 2023.

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On 12/26/2020 at 9:22 AM, PhillyTravelBug said:

Make sure the itinerary includes Skagway for that white pass train ride. We did ours into the Yukon. By far, the best excursion I’ve ever taken. Glacier Bay is out of this world!

i did the white pass rail and coach too.

 

the bus part got a bit long, however it was a great all in all.

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