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nyllas

Alaska cruising - Help

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HELP! I'm a first timer and trying to book a cruise for the Inside Passage of Alaska in early September. Any comments from experienced cruisers out there who want to offer suggestions, will be welcomed.

 

Will Sept be so miserable that I should wait until 2008?

 

I'm considering the NCL Pearl. Starboard side is no longer available, given that it might be cold in Sept and I'll be on the port side, do you think that the extra money for a balcony is worth it?

 

Mini-suite vs outside/balcony? Any insights?

 

I'm overwhelmed w/the choices of ships/accomodations, etc. It is far more complex that I had anticipated it to be. Your help will be appreciated.

 

Thanks!

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We sailed on the Star last September to Alaska. We loved having a balcony when we were in Glacier Bay. We were able to stand there and see everything but when we got cold we could always go back in the suite. We are going again this September but this time to Sawyer Glacier and once again will have the owner's suite, which also has a front balcony. The front balcony was awesome when we were heading into Glacier Bay because we had a view that was totally awesome! When the ship started turning we went to the side balcony. If you can afford the owners suite or a penthouse go for it. You won't be sorry. Plus you get the added benefits of a butler, concierge, 3 liters of booze, bottled water and canned soft drinks, priority embarkation, debarkation, and so much more.

 

It was cold (well, for us...we live in Texas where we had left 90 degree temperatures) but it wasn't unbearable. We took light jackets and wore long sleeves and we were fine. It did rain while we were in Juneau and Ketchikan so we made sure our jackets were waterproof.

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I haven't cruised NCL to Alaska, but I have cruised Alaska and I must say a balcony is the only way to go. This is coming from someone who has stayed in a 90 sqft bunk cabin to the largest suite on my honeymoon, and then cabins everywhere in between. However, in Alaska, the scenery is nonstop and will be missed if you don't have a balcony. In addition, I heard a lot of people complaining about having trouble finding a space on the public decks to enjoy the glaciers, which isn't a problem if you have a balcony.

 

Keep in mind that you'll have scenery on both sides of the ship, so the side isn't that important. In addition, when you're viewing the glaciers, the ship will turn to give both sides of the ship an opportunity to view the glaciers.

 

Enjoy your trip.

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great, port side is where you want to be. that the side that gets the best views in glacier bay. if you look at my photo (linked below) you will see that even cruising up the passage the port side gets views. most views (on either side) are too far away to make any real difference, except for glacier bay. in port we had views of the flight planes taking off and leaving as well as other ships coming to port.

i did that same route last sept on the NCL star. (sept 17-24, 2006)

we spent a great deal of time on the balcony, even kept the balcony door open any time we were in the room and at night. the sounds were great.

we did have rain:

in rained in juneau and we got sleet/ice while out whale watching.

skagway got heavy fog in the morning but cleared to a beautiful day.

glacier bay was outstanding, sunny and warm.

ketchikan was heavy rain, we didn't do anything that day.

sunny leaving and coming back to seattle.

you can go to

http://boards.cruisecritic.com/forumdisplay.php?f=55

and read down to get more ideas.

also:

http://www.traveljuneau.com/

http://www.fs.fed.us/r10/tongass/districts/mendenhall/

http://www.skagway.com/

http://www.visit-ketchikan.com/

last year they had a lot of rain in auguest and sept...you just can't tell what the weather will be. june is suppose to be the best, but it's the most crowded and highest prices. go when it's best for you and just enjoy.

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I agree, port side is the better side for the Glacier Bay itinerary. I would definately get the balcony. It is great for Glacier Bay. Everyone else crowds up on deck and you can sit on your balcony, uncrowded and enjoy the scenery. Also, just turn on your tv in your room to the "ship channel" and some US park naturalist who they bring on board will give narration about what you are seeing. Turn up the volume and sit on your balcony!

 

Finally, September is a great time to go. Less crowded and many of the shops are trying to unload merchandise before the end of the travel season. Some great deals to be had in the shops in port!!

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Thanks so much for the info. Do you have any words of wisdom re: your experiences w/excursions on the inside passage sailing? Pros vs cons.

 

nyllas

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just remember that some wildlife viewing is seasonal. the bears are out when the salmon are running. sea life...humpbacks, sea lions and such are around most of the time. some humpbacks stay in the area all year round, but most will migrate to mexico or hawaii from late sept to may.

check out the website for the port towns and compare that to the ship's excurisons. the alaska port-of-call boards has pages of people discussions the train out of skagway vs renting a car and driving the yukon.

mendenhall glacier is popular, but you don't need a tour. shuttle from the docks run up there every hour for $6 pp 1-way. several of the whale watching tours (not from the ship) will pick you up or drop you off at mendenhall, depending on time.

don't need a tour for the mr roberts tram in juneau, it's right at the docks..if you have time you buy a ticket.

if interested in any flightseeng or glacier landing, plan on pre-booking as soon as you can. they book up fast. no dog sleding on glacier after last of august, sometime about no enough ice for the dog? dog sledding on wheels are still available in most area.

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Mendenhall Glacier and Wildlife Quest in Juneau was outstanding!

 

Can't reccommend the train in Skagway...I found it a little boring. But if that is your cup of tea, it is a beautiful trip.

 

Next time I do Alaska, I will skip a shore excursion in Ketchikan. Best shopping sites in my opinion and you are there for such a short time.

 

Hated Victoria. Very boring to me. Next time, I will stay on the ship there.

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i agree the train ride, on the way back..was very quiet. but hubby got a great nap. the views on the way up were outstanding. other combo trips include the train one way and bus on the hiway. many combo trips to choose from. best of both worlds.

ketchikan has great stores, right at the dock area...very nice. but i wish i could have gone to the totem poles and really been able to look around. it was just too wet and we had FIL on the ship by himself. next time...?

if early enough, the salmon come right up the creek in the middle of town..smelly, but interesting. also a good time to go bear watching.

juneau is great for whale watching, fishing, glacier landings, flightseeing.

we did whale watching through orca enterprises. rest of family did shuttle to mendenhall. so much to do and so little time to do it.

in sept you don't have the long daylight hours, it gets dark around 7pm, less time to do stuff in port.

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I went whale watching in Juneau with "Harv and Marv". It was fantastic. 6 people on the boat with a guide who has lived in Alaska his whole life. Google "Harv and Marv". They guarantee you won't miss the boat or they pay for you to get to the next city.

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Had starboard balcony on Coral in June. Was great but in galcier bay I think port side would be better. In inside passage there is stuff to see in both sides,

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The most important part of enjoying an Alaskan cruise is to be prepared for terrible weather. Layer your clothing. Be sure the outside layer is waterproof and wind resistant.

 

On our Alaskan cruise, the only folks who seemd unhappy were those who were complaining about the weather. There is an old Russian saying; there is no such thing as bad weather - only bad clothes.

 

You can't change the weather. so be prepared to deal with it. It will rain in Ketchikan - almost a guarantee. And in Skagway, it could be 40 degrees and windy and rainy or it could be 70 degrees and sunny.

 

Whiete Horse Railway in Skagway is beautiful...on the days you when there is no fog. Ketchikan is a fun shopping place, and if you get off the beaten track, you may find the kennel where they raise Malemutes. Socializing with a 3 month old Malemute puppy is a delight!

 

It's a great trip!!!

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We did a floatplane over glaciers, landing at a fantastic lodge for a salmon bake from Juneau (wonderful), the White Pass & Yukon Railroad in Skagway (also wonderful), and deep sea kayaking in Ketchikan (wonderful, again). Shopping is available everywhere. Great memories. We went in June and the weather was great (it still rained in Ketchikan, but that was OK).

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I might be against the majority here but I wouldn;t book a balcony in AK again. I did 2 years ago in late august and we hardly used it. Not worth it inmy opinion - you would be better off putting the money towards excursions. I've always had balconys on all the cruises I've been on but if I go back to Alaska will get an oceanview.

 

We did a Ranforest tour in Ketchikan - got to feed reindeer and saw a totem pole being carved but I think I would have preferred to walk around town or go to Saxman village.

 

In Juneau we did the Mendenhall Glacier and Whale Watch and had a blast. We also took the Tramway to the top of Mt. Roberts on our own and walked around Juneau and shopped. We had dinner off the ship at Hanger at the Wharf (for a birthday).

 

In Skagway we did the roundtrip Whitepass Railroad. There was a trip where you take a bus one way and the train back. We were on the right side of the train going up and it wasn;t the best side for taking photos so we had a turn with the great views going back. It actually worked out best because I already new where I wanted to take photos. My sister road outside the car on the way back and got some awesome video. We also took a ferry to Haines and visited an areas where we watched eagles and hiked through a rainforest.

 

It rained the day we were in Glacier Bay - I had been there before in sunny weather so was disappointed that the views were clouded in. We still saw a lot of glaciers up close and we actually sat in the indoor pool area of the Island Princess. This worked out well as it is all windows so we could see but still stay protected from the elements. There were doors on both sides if we needed to go out to take photos.

 

If you are considering going to Denali National Park make sure you take one of the independent tours that goes to Kantishna. They book up quickly so plan early. It's a long day but we saw all of the animals that you can see in Denali including wolves, Dall sheep, grizzley bear, caribou, moose, and Mt McKinley was out in all it's glory. We lucked out with that trip since the day before it rained and if we headed into the park that day it would have been miserable. I know people who have been to Alaska 3 time and still haven't seen Mt. McKinley. We also loved Jeff King's Husky Homestead tour near Denali. We also loved Jeff King's Husky Homestead in Denali.

 

We had the nicest weather in Ketchikan and Juneau. Good luck with your planning.

 

Pat

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I have cruised to Alaska 5 times in an inside. Nothing wrong with it. Just have to go up on deck where all the action is. In Skagway, the WP&YR is great. Approx 3 1/2 hours. Glacier Bay is where you want to be if you want to see some glacier action. Have cruised to Sawyer Glacier and it was horrible. All we saw was a clump of ice and nothing else. Victoria is beautiful. I have heard that the ship only docks there for a couple of hours. Of course you can't see anything there if the ship isn't in port for the whole day. It takes approx 30 minutes to get into town if you walk and only a few minutes by taxi. The inner harbour is breathtaking. Of course I am from Vancouver, so I am defending our capital city. Anyways, whichever cruise you decide upon, you will have a great time.

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i agree, victoria is beautiful. i just wish i could see it in the light or earlier in the season.

we had a family dinner on the ship that night and went into town later. took the bus for $12 roundtrip? we just walked around and watched the street entertainers. i do love the stores, very "old world"...takes you back a few years. it's totally different shopping then the other ports on the cruise. the lights around the harbor are so pretty.

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I'm another one who wouldn't spend a lot more money for a balcony. We had one three years ago when we went to Alaska on the Sun and hardly used it. We spent a lot of time sitting on the couch in front of the window looking out, but the wind really bothered me and I couldn't stand to be outside in it for long. It wasn't the cold -- we'd gone prepared with coats and blankets, it was the feel and the noise of the wind.

 

When we went back to Alaska in May, I happily booked an inside cabin and used the difference in cost between the inside and the balcony cabins to pay for our excursions. We went whale watching in Juneau (Harv & Marv), which was probably our favorite excursion, did the long train/bus ride combo in Skagway, riding the train from Carcross along Lake Bennett and back to Skagway, and went on a catamaran ride through Misty Fjords. I'm not terribly comfortable flying, so I didn't even consider those options.

 

I'd also prefer to go in the late May/ early June time frame. Historically, there is less rain then, and I LOVE the extended daylight hours. One of these years, I'll wait and go later in the year to do a bear watching excursion, but for right now, I'm happy with the earlier time frame.

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