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Which cruise line is best in Alaska?


GE Mom

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We are starting to plan for our summer 2010 cruise to Alaska. We want to do both a (probably) 7 day cruise and a 7-10 day land tour. We have only cruised with Carnival and Princess before, but hear great things about Holland America. I would love to have advice on the relative merits of the various cruise lines. What makes one better, worse, different? Thanks!

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You'll have to cruise between Vancouver and either Seward or Whitter to do both the cruise and the overland tours. To further narrow it down, I would pay very special attention to the glacier experiences and towns visitited by the various itineraries. I prefer Glacier Bay National Park and Hubbard Glacier to College Fjord or Tracy Arm. The are just so much more spectacular.

 

Next look at the cities: if either Sitka or Skagway is important based on the activities in either, most itineraries have only one or the other. Seward & Kenai Fjords National Park are great, but are only offered by Celebrity and Holland America easily since their ships dock in Seward at the end of the cruise. Princess and Carnival go to less spectacular Whittier and Prince William Sound.

 

Finally look at the size of the ship and think about your needs. Carnival has a younger more lively crowd IMO. Princess has larger ships and a more diverse crowd (lots of multi-generational families). Holland America has smaller ships but perhaps the oldest average guest age. They do well with multi-generational families, but I would not recommend younger couples or young families for them given the other choices.

 

If you plan on building your own overland tour (which is totally doable and affordable) all you need consider is ship and cruise line at this time. If however you want the convenience and ease of planning found in buying a bundled cruisetour, you need to repeat this process comparing the overland itineraries of the various cruise lines. The key questions there are how many national parks do you get to? How long do you get at Denali (2 days is essential IMO). How much time do they spend in Anchorage & Fairbanks (the less the better IMO as you have cities wherever you are from).

 

Prices are so low there shouldn't be much difference between CCL, HAL, PCL or CEL for cruises. A few hundred here or there shouldn't motivate you to compromise the quality of your vacation if the itinerary is wrong. Study content before price and don't be in any hurry to book. These ships don't fill fast in this market. You have time to ask a lot more questions and research before making a deposit.

 

I hope this helps. Hopefully Budget Queen will be able to respond... she's done more of these than anyone I can think of on this board.

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If you are planning to reserve a suite/larger cabin/balcony, you expect to consume a lot of alcohol, do a bunch of excursions, etc, you may want to look at Regent. Yes, it's far FAR more expensive than the other lines for base fare but is basically a floating four seasons, totally all-inclusive: meals, beverages (including cocktails), tips, specialty restaurants w/ no additional fee. And right now they are offering free shore excursions and free airfare. if you look at the base cabin fare on a mainstream line and wish to get a suite or balcony, then budget in what you would pay for alcohol, excursions, and flights, it may be pretty close (or even a good deal), and you're getting a smaller ship (which may be a plus or minus, for us it's a plus because we don't like formal dinner seatings and crowds/lines,plus they have a pretty restrictive smoking policy which is good for minimizing our allergies). I did a quick check and it looks like the lowest level suite on Regent is equivalent to the mini-suite with balcony on Princess (base fare about 1/2 of Regent but then add all the things that are included in the Regent fare).

 

We went on the Regent Mariner in '06 Vancouver to Whittier and just booked Regent Mariner again for this summer from Seward to Vancouver - we were so blown away by our first cruise we can't wait to do it again.

 

Good luck with your decisions - regardless of whcih line you choose I am sure you will love it. Alaska is simply amazing.

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There is no "best" except what will be best filling your Alaska priorities. :)

 

I suggest you first, head to your library and take out Alaska By Cruiseship, Fodor's Alaska, Frommer's Alaska. Read up on areas and cities, what activities they offer you. Look over ship shore excursion lists. Request cruise brochures.

 

THEN fit in the ship that offers you what you have decided is important for you.

 

For land touring, be EXTREMELY knowledgable, know what you are looking at, and especially if going with a cruisetour- know every detail. These are big problems for many people, and most people do not realize some significant factor.

 

This board has excellent independent trip planning advice, accurate. Take advantage, if of interest.

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Thanks for everyone's input. PLease keep them coming.

 

With Carnival announcing the changes for their line this year, we will be forced to pick a new ship/line so we can do the southbound trip in 2010. More info the better.

 

Go Cats

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Thanks for the thoughts. We will definitely get a balcony, and we are not big nightlife people nor are we heavy drinkers. Both Holland America and Princess say they have deep roots in Alaska. Does that make a difference? And what about Celebrity? People who know praise Celebrity. And we remember from our Caribbean cruise that we hated the coffee on Princess...

 

I really appreciate your advice..

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Thanks for the thoughts. We will definitely get a balcony, and we are not big nightlife people nor are we heavy drinkers. Both Holland America and Princess say they have deep roots in Alaska. Does that make a difference? And what about Celebrity? People who know praise Celebrity. And we remember from our Caribbean cruise that we hated the coffee on Princess...

 

I really appreciate your advice..

 

Determine WHY you are going to Alaska for?? If it's for the ship and coffee, then make the choice with that priority. IF it is for Alaska, you would be best doing your homework, finding out about glacier choices, touring options in ports and routes. THEN find a ship itinerary that fits.

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We cruise Princess regularly and also hate the coffee...so we always buy the coffee card...entitles you to specialty coffees (15 I think) and unlimited fresh brewed coffee in the coffee bar...I would chose the cruise line based on itinerary and your budget...for us the Coral Princess was an excellent choice last year!

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We cruise Royal Caribbean most of the time. We always choose an oceanview room and use the savings for excursions. Most Alaska cruises are port intensive and we found we were not in the room very much except to change clothes and sleep. Many choose an inside cabin for that reason. By the time you spend all day in a port, it's time to change for dinner then a show. That's my opinion and you'll get lots of others here on CC. You will do best if you decide what you want to do in ports and use the cruise as a comfortable passage between them.

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Thanks for everyone's input. PLease keep them coming.

 

With Carnival announcing the changes for their line this year, we will be forced to pick a new ship/line so we can do the southbound trip in 2010. More info the better.

 

Go Cats

 

After seeing your post, I did a search to find out what Carnival changed for 2010. I can understand why roundtrip cruises from Seattle are so popular - especially with the much lower airfare. That's why I booked mine for this May on Princess!

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GE Mom,

Be sure to purchase Alaska's Southeast: Touring the Inside Passage. This is an excellent book and the new edition is 2008. I spent almost all of 2008 researching ships and Alaska because my husband and I have wanted to go there for quite some time. We are going mid-May and when it got down to it, we wanted a small boat and lots of interaction with nature. We chose American Safari Cruises and the Safari Explorer. I haven't found anything on the boards about this particular line, but there are a couple of reviews from last summer in the member reviews. You might want to add this cruise line to your list to check out.

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