Alaska cruise advice

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Whakamole
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Alaska cruise advice

Post by Whakamole » Sat Apr 22, 2017 11:43 pm

The SO and I are looking at taking a cruise to Alaska this year. She's been on several cruises; this would be my first time. We haven't been to Alaska before. Searching the board, it looks like there are quite a few experienced Bogleheads who may be able to help with some questions:

1. Cruise line selection. We've narrowed it down to Celebrity vs. Holland, and she seems more interested in Celebrity due to what looks like an overall nicer experience, more activities, etc. This would be on the Solstice, versus the Eurodam or Oosterdam on Holland. Any personal experiences or recommendations?

2. Destinations. Depending on where we leave, we could either visit Sitka or Skagway. I've heard nice things about both cities; Skagway for the train trip and Sitka for the local sights. For those who have done both cities, any specific recommendations?

3. Excursions. Any in particular "musts" (that aren't whale watching)?

4. How to book. We're looking at using a local travel agent because this is our first time with an Alaskan trip, versus Costco Travel which doesn't seem to offer that much handholding. Am I committing a Bogleheads sin by paying a bit more for personalized service? :wink:

Any other comments are appreciated.

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Doom&Gloom
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Re: Alaska cruise advice

Post by Doom&Gloom » Sun Apr 23, 2017 12:35 am

Whakamole wrote:The SO and I are looking at taking a cruise to Alaska this year. She's been on several cruises; this would be my first time. We haven't been to Alaska before. Searching the board, it looks like there are quite a few experienced Bogleheads who may be able to help with some questions:

1. Cruise line selection. We've narrowed it down to Celebrity vs. Holland, and she seems more interested in Celebrity due to what looks like an overall nicer experience, more activities, etc. This would be on the Solstice, versus the Eurodam or Oosterdam on Holland. Any personal experiences or recommendations?

2. Destinations. Depending on where we leave, we could either visit Sitka or Skagway. I've heard nice things about both cities; Skagway for the train trip and Sitka for the local sights. For those who have done both cities, any specific recommendations?

3. Excursions. Any in particular "musts" (that aren't whale watching)?

4. How to book. We're looking at using a local travel agent because this is our first time with an Alaskan trip, versus Costco Travel which doesn't seem to offer that much handholding. Am I committing a Bogleheads sin by paying a bit more for personalized service? :wink:

Any other comments are appreciated.
Best advice: Read as much as you can on Cruisecritic.com.

Having said that, we did an Alaska cruise a few years ago, so:

1) We did Holland and found it very pleasant with no glaring deficiencies. It's been a few years, so YMMV. (Have never been on Celebrity). My primary criteria would to pick an itinerary that goes into Glacier Bay.

2) We chose Skagway, did the train trip (actually bus up; train down). It was one of our best excursions.

3) My favorite was flightseeing from Ketchikan. Bus/train at Skagway was second. Not sure either are "musts" as there are many to choose from, depending upon your tastes.

4) You really don't need personalized service. It's pretty simple. Save some money where you can. We found we got far better value booking excursions ourselves rather than through the cruise line. We felt that a cabin with a balcony was well worth the expense. YMMV. Once again, read cruisecritic.com thoroughly.

Enjoy! We loved it!

itstoomuch
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Re: Alaska cruise advice

Post by itstoomuch » Sun Apr 23, 2017 12:47 am

Spend an extra day or two, three. in Seattle or Vancouver before embarking. After Debarking, visit Portand and Columbia Gorge for 2 days.
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Whakamole
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Re: Alaska cruise advice

Post by Whakamole » Sun Apr 23, 2017 12:53 am

itstoomuch wrote:Spend an extra day or two, three. in Seattle or Vancouver before embarking. After Debarking, visit Portand and Columbia Gorge for 2 days.
Oh, I should mention, I live in Seattle, which is why we're looking at Seattle (or maybe Vancouver) as the embark/debark point. Been to Vancouver/Portland many times.

itstoomuch
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Re: Alaska cruise advice

Post by itstoomuch » Sun Apr 23, 2017 1:03 am

Nice day in Seattle. Very little rain. :D
Visiting son in Seattle. We're from wetter Oregon. :oops:
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Whakamole
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Re: Alaska cruise advice

Post by Whakamole » Sun Apr 23, 2017 1:04 am

itstoomuch wrote:Nice day in Seattle. Very little rain. :D
Visiting son in Seattle. We're from wetter Oregon. :oops:
Yeah, you are enjoying a very rare event, a nice day in April. Enjoy your stay! :sharebeer

Cruise
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Re: Alaska cruise advice

Post by Cruise » Sun Apr 23, 2017 1:23 am

OP: We have been to Alaska on both HA and Celebrity. Each line has its pluses and minuses. Celebrity tends to have a younger crowd compared to HA

Sitka over Skagway, but only because we had a fantastic semi-private whale=watching excursion and have seen better railway vistas in Norway compared to the Skagway train.

tech_arch
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Re: Alaska cruise advice

Post by tech_arch » Sun Apr 23, 2017 8:26 am

I can't comment on those particular ships and I haven't sailed on HAL, but when we did Alaska we went to Sitka and Skagway. We walked through Sitka, did the national historic park, and it was a great day. In Skagway we rented a car and drove along the Yukon highway most of the day, which may have been my favorite excursion on the trip. Skagway itself only exists during cruise season; literally, very few people live there year-round but it's a great place to do laundry if you're on a longer cruise!

+1 for CruiseCritic.

Glacier Bay is gorgeous. Our sailing on Celebrity Infinity had Brent Nixon giving nature talks and he was awesome. It doesn't look like he's booked for anything during the season, though (http://www.naturetalksbybrentnixon.com/calendar.html). Flightseeing is fun; we booked one after we walked off the ship in Ketchikan. In Juneau we took a bus to the glacier, walked around a bit, and had some delicious crab chowder (https://www.kingcrabshack.com/) from a stand. If you go to Victoria, Butchart Gardens is gorgeous.

Also, this is the ONLY time I'd recommend an inside cabin. The days are 17-18 hours long and it never gets truly dark during the summer and we met people on our ship who said the blackout curtains weren't sufficient to darken their rooms for sleeping. YMMV.

Overall, it's a great trip! Enjoy!

dpm321
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Re: Alaska cruise advice

Post by dpm321 » Sun Apr 23, 2017 9:16 am

What kind of atmosphere and activities are you looking for? We've done a number of cruises on both lines. The food is better on HAL, and the variety of activities is better on Celebrity. HAL is primarily for the older, more sedate crowd and the ship pretty much shuts down after 10PM. Celebrity has a more varied age group and has activities well into the night. Also, Celebrity generally offers better deals on most cruises (drink packages, on-board credit, etc.).

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Re: Alaska cruise advice

Post by SueG5123 » Sun Apr 23, 2017 9:18 am

I did an Alaska cruise many, many years ago, on Holland America. I know they have totally refreshed their fleet since that time, but I would say that I remember the service as being top of the line and many entertainment options on board. As for excursions, I wish -- in retrospect -- that we had shelled out for the helicopter ride to the glacier. Still regret that frugality kept me from doing that!

tibbitts
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Re: Alaska cruise advice

Post by tibbitts » Sun Apr 23, 2017 9:30 am

Whakamole wrote:
itstoomuch wrote:Spend an extra day or two, three. in Seattle or Vancouver before embarking. After Debarking, visit Portand and Columbia Gorge for 2 days.
Oh, I should mention, I live in Seattle, which is why we're looking at Seattle (or maybe Vancouver) as the embark/debark point. Been to Vancouver/Portland many times.
You needed to mention that up front - you should go back and fix that. It makes a difference.

You should take an HAL 14-day HAL roundtrip. Now you just have to choose the date.

Whakamole
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Re: Alaska cruise advice

Post by Whakamole » Sun Apr 23, 2017 9:57 am

tibbitts wrote:
Whakamole wrote:
itstoomuch wrote:Spend an extra day or two, three. in Seattle or Vancouver before embarking. After Debarking, visit Portand and Columbia Gorge for 2 days.
Oh, I should mention, I live in Seattle, which is why we're looking at Seattle (or maybe Vancouver) as the embark/debark point. Been to Vancouver/Portland many times.
You needed to mention that up front - you should go back and fix that. It makes a difference.

You should take an HAL 14-day HAL roundtrip. Now you just have to choose the date.
Not doing a 14 day.

traveltoomuch
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Re: Alaska cruise advice

Post by traveltoomuch » Sun Apr 23, 2017 11:11 am

I would make a point of flightseeing over glaciers in Juneau. If you're feeling frugal, hire a local aviator rather than arrange the excursion through the cruise ship. Misty Fjords did not impress me as much.

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Watty
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Re: Alaska cruise advice

Post by Watty » Sun Apr 23, 2017 11:17 am

Unless you really want the cruise experience then consider flying up to Juneau and taking shorter cruises or day trips from there.

That would give you a lot more time on the ground and you would have some flexibly if the weather is bad.

tibbitts
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Re: Alaska cruise advice

Post by tibbitts » Sun Apr 23, 2017 11:20 am

Whakamole wrote:
tibbitts wrote:
Whakamole wrote:
itstoomuch wrote:Spend an extra day or two, three. in Seattle or Vancouver before embarking. After Debarking, visit Portand and Columbia Gorge for 2 days.
Oh, I should mention, I live in Seattle, which is why we're looking at Seattle (or maybe Vancouver) as the embark/debark point. Been to Vancouver/Portland many times.
You needed to mention that up front - you should go back and fix that. It makes a difference.

You should take an HAL 14-day HAL roundtrip. Now you just have to choose the date.
Not doing a 14 day.
There are no lesser-length itineraries that visit the same ports - this isn't just a case of more-of-the-same. You live in Seattle so you can spend the extra days (and money) the rest of us would need for getting there and back on the cruise.

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Re: Alaska cruise advice

Post by tibbitts » Sun Apr 23, 2017 11:26 am

Watty wrote:Unless you really want the cruise experience then consider flying up to Juneau and taking shorter cruises or day trips from there.

That would give you a lot more time on the ground and you would have some flexibly if the weather is bad.
The flexibility for weather would be very beneficial. But I've stayed in Juneau for a short time, and unless you're willing to limit yourself to exploring Juneau, you would probably spend more money doing that vs. a modestly-priced cruise, due to the cost of the "local" transportation. That could change if you throw serious money into things like cruise cabin upgrades.

ResearchMed
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Re: Alaska cruise advice

Post by ResearchMed » Sun Apr 23, 2017 11:32 am

Whakamole wrote:
itstoomuch wrote:Spend an extra day or two, three. in Seattle or Vancouver before embarking. After Debarking, visit Portand and Columbia Gorge for 2 days.
Oh, I should mention, I live in Seattle, which is why we're looking at Seattle (or maybe Vancouver) as the embark/debark point. Been to Vancouver/Portland many times.
I'm not sure if this is always the case, but at least 'usually', the cruises out of Vancouver head up the Inside Passage, which is both incredibly scenic and also avoids much of the open sea that can get choppy.
Cruises from Seattle always? sometimes? sail west of Vancouver Island, and *then* head into the "inside passage" areas.
We found the sailaway from Vancouver, that first evening to be an incredible start to the trip.
On the other hand, sailing out of Puget Sound might also be very scenic.

As nice as Glacier Bay was (and we chose an itinerary specifically to include this), we found lingering off Hubbard Glacier to be much better. But it might be only the one-way (we did Northbound) itineraries that get up this far.

For a really special (but pricey) private excursion, we found someone offering a Hovercraft excursion (only 4 people plus pilot) out of Juneau that went to some otherwise relatively inaccessible places, right up to a glacier front, where one could walk around (safely).
There were two Hovercraft. After hearing the various ways it "could" get "stuck", we are pretty sure they travel in pairs for a reason :shock:
We went through a very long distance of very shallow water and then mud flats, and I have no idea what other vehicles could get through that.

Even without the end goal of the glacier front, it was beautiful and peaceful, just nature and us. And some wildlife along the shores.

Hubbard Glacier was the high point of that cruise for us. LOTS of huge and noisy calving that day, right up close.

We docked in Seward, and the next day took a 9-hour "cruise" on a much smaller boat, down around the Kanai Fjord area.
Lots of marine and shore life, and good looks at some smaller glaciers.

RM
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JaneyLH
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Re: Alaska cruise advice

Post by JaneyLH » Sun Apr 23, 2017 12:04 pm

Did Celebrity Solstice last year and heartily recommend it. Beautiful observation area at front of ship and a naturalist on duty there frequently to explain what you were seeing. Lovely ship. We did the hovercraft excursion to the glacier and it was a wonderful, unique experience worth the splurge. We saved the sightseeing flight for our Denali visit.

On a different Alaska trip we spent 5 days in Sitka and loved it. Lots of hiking and things to see. Nice historic town and not so touristy. Fortress of the Bear grizzly rescue and Alaska Raptor Center are worth a half day each. Scagway is a great cruise stop so you can take the train ride, but one day there was enough for me.

ThreeBears
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Re: Alaska cruise advice

Post by ThreeBears » Sun Apr 23, 2017 12:30 pm

We did a Holland Cruise . . . careful. The Cruise from Alaska to Vancouver ends up putting you in Glacier Bay at night, and you can't see anything.

My other advice is not to upgrade your room. Like most people, we spent almost no time there.

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Re: Alaska cruise advice

Post by Quickfoot » Sun Apr 23, 2017 3:10 pm

Whakamole wrote:The SO and I are looking at taking a cruise to Alaska this year. She's been on several cruises; this would be my first time. We haven't been to Alaska before. Searching the board, it looks like there are quite a few experienced Bogleheads who may be able to help with some questions:

1. Cruise line selection. We've narrowed it down to Celebrity vs. Holland, and she seems more interested in Celebrity due to what looks like an overall nicer experience, more activities, etc. This would be on the Solstice, versus the Eurodam or Oosterdam on Holland. Any personal experiences or recommendations?

2. Destinations. Depending on where we leave, we could either visit Sitka or Skagway. I've heard nice things about both cities; Skagway for the train trip and Sitka for the local sights. For those who have done both cities, any specific recommendations?

3. Excursions. Any in particular "musts" (that aren't whale watching)?

4. How to book. We're looking at using a local travel agent because this is our first time with an Alaskan trip, versus Costco Travel which doesn't seem to offer that much handholding. Am I committing a Bogleheads sin by paying a bit more for personalized service? :wink:

Any other comments are appreciated.
I'm from Alaska, if you get the option spend a few days on the Alaska Railroad, it is a great way to see interior Alaska including Denali and Fairbanks. If you to get Fairbanks visit Pioneer Park (Alaskans will always call it Alaska Land), there are also gold mines you can visit and you can do a river tour. You can spend 2 weeks in Alaska and not even scratch the surface of what there is to see so get a couple books and make a wish list then decide what's practical. If you get the option to do a helicopter or plane tour it'd be worth it, Alaska is a unique place.

Also if you don't have a good (SLR) camera with both wide and tele lenses either get one or go to https://www.borrowlenses.com or a similar outfit to rent one. Something like a 24-70 would be a good general purpose and something like 70-200 or 70-300 variable telezoom would be good too to get closer to wildlife. You DO NOT need FAST glass for Alaska in the summer as it really doesn't get dark so 3.5 or 4 aperture would be fine and you don't really need full frame, the extra magnification from a DX camera (usually about 1.4 - 1.5X) will come in handy for wildlife shots, bring extra memory cards and at least one extra battery.

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Re: Alaska cruise advice

Post by Cruise » Sun Apr 23, 2017 3:26 pm

tibbitts wrote: You should take an HAL 14-day HAL roundtrip. Now you just have to choose the date.
Yes. But make it one of the dedicated 14-day itineraries, not b2b 7-day ones.

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tetractys
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Re: Alaska cruise advice

Post by tetractys » Sun Apr 23, 2017 3:40 pm

Skip the canned smoked salmon. -- Tet

tibbitts
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Re: Alaska cruise advice

Post by tibbitts » Sun Apr 23, 2017 5:48 pm

Cruise wrote:
tibbitts wrote: You should take an HAL 14-day HAL roundtrip. Now you just have to choose the date.
Yes. But make it one of the dedicated 14-day itineraries, not b2b 7-day ones.
Yes, I don't think there are any back-to-back based in Seattle, but I could be wrong. I agree that the Vancouver routing is prettier (inside of the island), but there is a huge logistical advantage to leaving from Seattle if you already live there. There is just no good way to get from Seattle to Vancouver (or back), and yes that includes the train. Ugh.

I'm flying home from Vancouver for my cruise this year and there is really only one decent flight all day, and it's at a horrible time. And I have to stay over an extra night to take that flight. I haven't even left yet and I'm already dreading the return flight almost as much as I'm looking forward to the cruise. Seattle has superior flight options - I can easily return the same day as the cruise returns and the airline choices are vastly superior.

On the other hand Vancouver has plenty of interesting places to see. But if you have a choice you want to leave from there, not return to there.

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Re: Alaska cruise advice

Post by mmmodem » Sun Apr 23, 2017 8:30 pm

I've gone on an Alaska cruise twice. Once with Norwegian and once with Carnival. With one exception, they all go to the same places and do the same things, so choose whichever cruise line you prefer. The one exception is Glacier Bay. We were told only a limited number of ships were allowed to go up to the glacier. Our first cruise did and out second did not. This was a highlight for me as I enjoyed watching the glacier calving. The don't miss excursion is the whale watching which you nixed. We got the excursion that was combined with a trip to Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau which had a nice museum to visit.

We liked the charm bracelet scavenger hunt offered by the jewelry stores. It's free. You go in and talk to them and they give you a charm. It's a set and it's fun to collect in each of the small towns as there not much else to do in them anyway.

rfowler
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Re: Alaska cruise advice

Post by rfowler » Mon Apr 24, 2017 3:31 am

We live in Puget Sound and did a last minute Alaska Cruise on Celebrity (Silhouette) from Seattle last June.
We booked through Costco Travel including 3 of the excursions. The benefit of using Costco travel is you get onboard credit which you don't have to use and will be credited back to your credit card after the trip.

The ship was very comfortable and we appreciated the mix of passengers, from couples to families, many people from across the US and some Europe. Everyone on a great outdoor adventure.

Through Costco we booked Misty Fjords small plane and the helicopter ride to glacier, both we enjoyed very much. In addition we signed up for small boat whale watching. Living in Puget Sound, it may have been unnecessary since one can a whale now and then in season. However, the small boat tour was a different experience and the guides quite knowledgeable.

If we had more time we would have wanted to do hiking inland but on a 7-day cruise it's not feasible.

We were impressed how close the ship could approach a glacier (don't recall the name of glacier). The captain said they routed to a different one based on weather. That morning of "glacier approach" was a highlight, as we had clear skies and smooth-as-glass water from 6 am to 11 am. The captain did slow wheelies with the ship, so there was plenty of time to marvel.

Another highlight of Celebrity was the "nature guy" -- the lecturer who spoke each day on various topics ranging from brown bear, black bear, whales species etc. Initially we thought he was corny but we learned a lot and felt more prepared to appreciate our "back yard."

Someone else mentioned that it would be cheaper to fly to Ketchikan and do your own excursions. If you can get a last minute deal (living in Seattle), it is worth taking the cruise. There is something magical about sailing in to the ports--knowing that many places along the Alaska coast are accessible only by boat or plane---and seeing your huge ship completely dwarfed by the fjords.

One last note: We had no issues with choppiness while sailing the outside passage.

I would the same cruise all over again in a heart beat.

tech_arch
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Re: Alaska cruise advice

Post by tech_arch » Mon Apr 24, 2017 9:17 am

rfowler wrote: Another highlight of Celebrity was the "nature guy" -- the lecturer who spoke each day on various topics ranging from brown bear, black bear, whales species etc. Initially we thought he was corny but we learned a lot and felt more prepared to appreciate our "back yard."
Brent Nixon (did he chastise using the phrase "killer whales" for Orca?) He was on our Celebrity cruise to Alaska several years ago and was great!

jodydavis
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Re: Alaska cruise advice

Post by jodydavis » Mon Apr 24, 2017 10:54 am

Whakamole wrote:The SO and I are looking at taking a cruise to Alaska this year. She's been on several cruises; this would be my first time. We haven't been to Alaska before. Searching the board, it looks like there are quite a few experienced Bogleheads who may be able to help with some questions:

1. Cruise line selection. We've narrowed it down to Celebrity vs. Holland, and she seems more interested in Celebrity due to what looks like an overall nicer experience, more activities, etc. This would be on the Solstice, versus the Eurodam or Oosterdam on Holland. Any personal experiences or recommendations?
I've taken HAL to Alaska twice (RT from Seattle) and would recommend it. Ships are very nice, service and food were quite good. Agree with the other commenters that the clientele skews older, FWIW. In general, I would place more emphasis on itinerary than on the ship, since, unlike some cruises, the most interesting stuff happens on the excursions or in viewing glaciers from the ship. Glacier Bay was spectacular.
Whakamole wrote:2. Destinations. Depending on where we leave, we could either visit Sitka or Skagway. I've heard nice things about both cities; Skagway for the train trip and Sitka for the local sights. For those who have done both cities, any specific recommendations?
Have never been to Skagway, but we liked Sitka quite a bit. Beautiful, sleepy, with an interesting history (Russian influence).
Whakamole wrote:3. Excursions. Any in particular "musts" (that aren't whale watching)?
Flight seeing from Ketchikan was my favorite. Followed by helicopter tour to glacier in Juneau. Visiting the sled dog camp is also great, if you love dogs.

Whakamole
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Re: Alaska cruise advice

Post by Whakamole » Mon Apr 24, 2017 11:22 am

Thanks for the recommendations so far. I'm not quite sure if air travel will be in the mix, are excursions limited to that?

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Re: Alaska cruise advice

Post by Jim85 » Mon Apr 24, 2017 11:45 am

Been on many cruises - Celebrity, Princess, RCl, NCL. Celebrity is our hands down favorite. Haven't been to Alaska since 1994 so I'm sure there's been changes. We took the inside passage from Vancouver. I think that's the way to go vs open sea - more scenic and calm. We had flown into Seattle and at that time, the cuiseline (NCL) had an option for a chartered bus to Vancouver from the Seattle airport, which we used. As others have said, I don't see any value in a TA's hand holding -you just need to get to the port. I'd go with an inside cabin. With the extended daylight, better sleeping in the inside cabins and with the weather, wouldn't sit much on the balcony. Plus balcony only provides one perspective, I'd rather wander around the ship and decks to get different views. Not to mention the lower cost of the insides. We took a helicopter from Juneau to a glacier, spectacular and worth it and we don't usually go for the ship arranged excursions. Last but not least - cruisecritic.com, you can get all the inside info from many experienced cruisers.

ResearchMed
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Re: Alaska cruise advice

Post by ResearchMed » Mon Apr 24, 2017 11:48 am

Whakamole wrote:Thanks for the recommendations so far. I'm not quite sure if air travel will be in the mix, are excursions limited to that?
Not at all.

There are all sorts of walking tours, bus/train tours, small boat tours, etc., in addition to those that are in the air or reached by air.

You might want to browse TripAdvisor.com and browse through the tours that are offered.
Those probably won't be the ones you'd take (or it might be!) but it would give you a flavor of what's available at each port.

Also, similar is available on CruiseCritic.com, but it's less commercially focused.

We had an amazing trip, and never set foot on a plane, other than to get to Vancouver, and then to fly home from Anchorage.

RM
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alaskantraveler
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Re: Alaska cruise advice

Post by alaskantraveler » Mon Apr 24, 2017 1:36 pm

Lifelong Alaskan here- I've been to both Skagway and Sitka. The train out of Skagway is one of the most spectacular I've ever been on. Sitka is a cool town, but all of the activities you can find in Sitka, can be found in other stops in Alaska. Whale watching, fishing, flight seeing, kayaking, bear watching, zip lining, nature tours can all be found in other cities. Sitka does have a really nice totem pole park and it is probably the best one in Alaska.

As for the cruise line, I think either are fine. Celebrity is often seen as the more budget friendly with more young people. When it comes to cruises, take a look at vacationstogo.com. Look at their 90 day ticket which shows cruises leaving in the next 90 days. I see Alaska Cruises going for $499/person for a 7 day cruise. Once you find the one you like, then use cruise compete to see if you can get an even lower price or possibly so extras. On board credit, shore excursions, etc.

If you are going to go for it, I know there is a way that you can own some cruise line stock and get onboard credit for being a shareholder.

I think the one way cruises from Vancouver to Whittier (Anchorage) are a good way to mix up some independent travel. Once in Anchorage you can rent a car and drive up to Denali National Park a definite highlight of Alaska.

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CardinalRule
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Re: Alaska cruise advice

Post by CardinalRule » Mon Jun 19, 2017 11:03 pm

We had been researching cruises for a while, and then we came across one of these storefronts:

https://www.cruiseshipcenters.com/en-US/corporate/home

We ended booking a HAL (Eurodam) cruise near the end of the summer with these Expedia folks. The expert advice was helpful and the price we got was at least as good as we were able to find on our own.

We have an obstructed-view cabin. We have not purchased any excursions yet.

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Re: Alaska cruise advice

Post by jbranx » Mon Jun 19, 2017 11:35 pm

We did the Holland America package that included their train trip to Denali. We've done several HA cruises. Food is poor compared to most other lines, but they were the pioneers in doing AK cruises, and, being Seattle based, are usually on top of the best excursions. Definitely Skagway. Kenai. Beautiful scenery on any line down the coast from Seward. Glacier tours are great. Big warning: all of those cruise stop towns are mostly touristy places that are big put-offs. Maybe look for a salmon hatchery or a place to watch bears. We hiked in Juneau up to the governor's house to see where Sarah use to live, but you have to do research ahead of time if you want to avoid the tourist trap kind of places.

We stayed in Fairbanks, did the train to Denali, and then took the bus back to Seward to the ship. You pass Mt. McKinley, now Denali, which is awesome to see. We took a small plane to near the Arctic Circle and landed at a little village near the Pipeline. Pretty awesome except for the state bird: giant, giant skeeters. All said, HA or any of the others will enable you to see the awesome scenery on the inside passage. I've been on HA, Regent, Seaborne and can say the latter two have better food, but that's only one part of the reason for going. The Indonesian and Filipino staff on HA are always a delight, and we have run into staff we have cruised with before. Always a good hug.

HA is distinguished anymore by being a high charger for internet service. Others sometimes give it free or discounted. Always pays to check the cruise info sites to see if there are any bargains as the lines try to fill up the ships or have late cancellations.

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TNL
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Re: Alaska cruise advice

Post by TNL » Tue Jun 20, 2017 7:05 pm

I did a 7 night cruise, Inside Passage, on the Ruby Princess with Princess Cruiseline last year. Loved and we intend to go back on Celebrity next year. We are early 40s. I am really wanting to try Celebrity next. Holland is for an older crowd, like 60s and 70s. Both are great though.

I definitely agree with the other posters. I would not pay any travel agent and just book direct through either Costco or Vacations to go. I have booked several cruises through both and I always check both and go with the better deal in terms of who has the better shipboard credit that day. When I go with Costco I use my Citi Visa and get 3% cash back on travel. Say you spend $3200 all in between your cruise fare and on board charges (easy to go). Use your Citi Costco Visa and get 3% back on travel. When I use my Amex I get the points and spend toward my Delta medallion status so it's all good either way.

We did the train ride in Skagway, highly recommend.

We did the balcony cabins and it was great, there were 3 couples so we had 3 balconies in a row and opened up the balcony dividers to make 1 long balcony. The gals liked to sit out on the balcony in the morning and have coffee and chat for an hour or two just watching the scenery go by. But it's true, it gets light very early (4:45am) and stays late until 11 so if that will interfere with sleep, do the inside cabin and save the money.

Either way, you can't really go wrong, Alaska cruise is a great trip and since you are already in Seattle and don't have to pay for airfare, just have a friend drop you or Uber to the port and you are good to go. Have fun!

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