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Differences between Alaska itineraries


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AK is a place where you can use non ship tours - I used Chilkoot for my Skagway train trip. We were in a car by ourselves for the train trip and were in a small bus for the trip back. We easily out manuvered the larger buses used by the cruise lines. There are some trips you can't do without using the cruise line - for example the small boat glacier tour out of Juneau that meets the cruise ship after a close up viewing of the glacier (Sawyer or Dawes).

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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!


This exactly.  We did a White Pass one-way, with mountain biking back into town, and it was probably the highlight of the shore excursions (Although Kayaking Ketchikan came a very close second).  And Glacier Bay was just a dream come true, even if there were plenty of growlers that the Captain kept us far away from.

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On 12/26/2020 at 6:16 PM, Sand and Seas said:

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

I don't know but we were there in May.

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9 hours ago, bssc said:

I don't know but we were there in May.

We went at the end of May/beginning June and we saw quite a few whales with Harv and Marv's excursion. A small boat with eight of us, not including the boat captain and the guide. Who knows if the ships will still require you take ship excursions. This was one of the best excustions we took hands down.

 

 

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To throw in my perspective, you might consider another (non NCL) line for Alaska. NCL has made a major push into Alaska in the past several years, but our NCL Alaska cruise fell short compared to all of our other trips to the state. 

One major issue in Alaska is NCL's refusal to hire naturalists. If the ship goes to Glacier Bay, the National Park Service rangers board the ship and narrate what you're seeing. However, at all other times, you're on your own.

The three other lines we've taken in Alaska (Holland America, Princess, Carnival) all hire a full-time naturalist who lives on board. That means if whales, bears, moose, birds, or other wildlife are spotted from the bridge, the naturalist will give specifics on where to look, what you're seeing, etc. This also goes for glacier-viewing outside of Glacier Bay. Your naturalist explains everything (or doesn't if there's no naturalist). On our Princess cruise, hundreds of pacific white sided dolphins played under and around our ship... I only saw them because the naturalist was standing there with us helping to look for wildlife. On NCL, we were lucky to get the captain saying "I think I maybe see whales off the port side."

Princess and HAL took this a step further, with Alaskan beer and food onboard, and bringing dog mushers and mountain climbers onto the ships to give talks. On princess we got sled dog puppies in the lobby one day for photo ops.

Another odd thing on our NCL cruise is that the "Inside Passage" part of the voyage consisted of scooting alongside Vancouver Island for an evening before slamming on the throttle and taking the ship into the open ocean. This was compared to the other lines who budgeted extended time in the inside passage surrounded by nature and looking for wildlife while the naturalist pointed things out.

All of that said, the excursions are exactly the same in each port for all ships... the White Pass Railroad is the same for everyone. It's more the in-between parts that NCL falls a little short on in Alaska. 

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Glacier Bay is a must do.  It is amazing.  Your ship spends the entire day there and you so much wildlife and the glaciers are amazing.   Our ship did a 360 right in front of the huge main glacier at the end of the bay and we could enjoy watching it from our balcony on our aft-balcony cabin.

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11 hours ago, AstoriaPreppy said:

To throw in my perspective, you might consider another (non NCL) line for Alaska. NCL has made a major push into Alaska in the past several years, but our NCL Alaska cruise fell short compared to all of our other trips to the state. 

One major issue in Alaska is NCL's refusal to hire naturalists. If the ship goes to Glacier Bay, the National Park Service rangers board the ship and narrate what you're seeing. However, at all other times, you're on your own.

The three other lines we've taken in Alaska (Holland America, Princess, Carnival) all hire a full-time naturalist who lives on board. That means if whales, bears, moose, birds, or other wildlife are spotted from the bridge, the naturalist will give specifics on where to look, what you're seeing, etc. This also goes for glacier-viewing outside of Glacier Bay. Your naturalist explains everything (or doesn't if there's no naturalist). On our Princess cruise, hundreds of pacific white sided dolphins played under and around our ship... I only saw them because the naturalist was standing there with us helping to look for wildlife. On NCL, we were lucky to get the captain saying "I think I maybe see whales off the port side."

Princess and HAL took this a step further, with Alaskan beer and food onboard, and bringing dog mushers and mountain climbers onto the ships to give talks. On princess we got sled dog puppies in the lobby one day for photo ops.

Another odd thing on our NCL cruise is that the "Inside Passage" part of the voyage consisted of scooting alongside Vancouver Island for an evening before slamming on the throttle and taking the ship into the open ocean. This was compared to the other lines who budgeted extended time in the inside passage surrounded by nature and looking for wildlife while the naturalist pointed things out.

All of that said, the excursions are exactly the same in each port for all ships... the White Pass Railroad is the same for everyone. It's more the in-between parts that NCL falls a little short on in Alaska. 

Yes both Princess and HAL are in competition with each other (interesting because they are both owned by CCL) to be the "best in Alaska" so I would expect nothing but the best from them.  I agree that NCL leaves you on your own for the most part. That said on our recent Panama Canal cruise we had several enrichment programs prior to the canal passage and we had full narration during the passage. As for the "inside passage" i have found that only the ships that leave from Vancouver BC actually go on the leeward side of the island - all of the Seattle ships go on the seaward side of the island. Once they head up the channel for either Juneau or Ketchikan do they go through the "inside passage". If I did not like NCL so much I would probably try Princess. That said, all three lines were the first ones to break into the AK cruise business.

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