Alaska Trip/Cruise Summer of 2020. Help me plan

Questions on how we spend our money and our time - consumer goods and services, home and vehicle, leisure and recreational activities
Post Reply
Housedoc
Posts: 142
Joined: Thu May 24, 2018 4:25 pm
Location: Alabama

Alaska Trip/Cruise Summer of 2020. Help me plan

Post by Housedoc » Mon Jul 16, 2018 12:19 pm

Wife and I will be celebrating 30 years of her putting up with me. We would like to see as much as we can over a 2 week period. No set schedule or time of year to travel as we are both retired. No physical restrictions besides a little Arthritis in the knees. Not interested in climbing mountains but most everything else should be open for consideration. We would fly into "somewhere?" and begin the journey. We live in the southeast so driving would be a journey in itself. Please comment on ideas, suggestions, things not to do, etc. I searched the forum and found a few threads but one had a baby and the other had an elderly parent traveling with the party. Also, any advice on travel agency or packages would be appreciated. I looked at the Costco packages but don't know enough to value them.

ResearchMed
Posts: 7218
Joined: Fri Dec 26, 2008 11:25 pm

Re: Alaska Trip/Cruise Summer of 2020. Help me plan

Post by ResearchMed » Mon Jul 16, 2018 12:28 pm

Housedoc wrote:
Mon Jul 16, 2018 12:19 pm
Wife and I will be celebrating 30 years of her putting up with me. We would like to see as much as we can over a 2 week period. No set schedule or time of year to travel as we are both retired. No physical restrictions besides a little Arthritis in the knees. Not interested in climbing mountains but most everything else should be open for consideration. We would fly into "somewhere?" and begin the journey. We live in the southeast so driving would be a journey in itself. Please comment on ideas, suggestions, things not to do, etc. I searched the forum and found a few threads but one had a baby and the other had an elderly parent traveling with the party. Also, any advice on travel agency or packages would be appreciated. I looked at the Costco packages but don't know enough to value them.
We finally took a cruise to Alaska, but didn't plan to spend another week exploring once there.
Big mistake!
So we'll do it again in the future.

Taking a one-way cruise from Vancouver puts you in the inland passage, and they go to Seward or Whittier, with stops along the way.
Most are 7 days, and then there are often add-ons with excursions for several days, including Denali.

We prefer smaller excursions, so we'd probably either drive or use a private guide (for a variety of reasons, we've found this adds a *lot*, although it does add to the cost).

IF you cruise, everyone says Glacier Bay is a "must".
We like it, but... we found Hubbard Glacier to be breathtaking in comparison. Less time, but far more dramatic.

It's beautiful!

We went very early in the season, so we'd see more "white" on the mountains.
If you want to head north, some roads might still be closed then.

RM
This signature is a placebo. You are in the control group.

delamer
Posts: 6138
Joined: Tue Feb 08, 2011 6:13 pm

Re: Alaska Trip/Cruise Summer of 2020. Help me plan

Post by delamer » Mon Jul 16, 2018 12:36 pm

This type of trip might work: https://www.hollandamerica.com/en_US/cr ... rneys.html

We did a 7 day Alaska cruise on HAL, but did not add a land tour.

barnaclebob
Posts: 2962
Joined: Thu Aug 09, 2012 10:54 am

Re: Alaska Trip/Cruise Summer of 2020. Help me plan

Post by barnaclebob » Mon Jul 16, 2018 12:39 pm

Spend the money for a Salmon fishing charter. Try and book a 6 man boat or less but I don't know if they have the big 20 person boats up there like they do in WA.

curmudgeon
Posts: 1585
Joined: Thu Jun 20, 2013 11:00 pm

Re: Alaska Trip/Cruise Summer of 2020. Help me plan

Post by curmudgeon » Mon Jul 16, 2018 12:51 pm

It depends a lot on what your priorities are. Obviously a very big state, and hard to see it all. For standard packages and cruises, Costco is pretty good on pricing. A standard package might be to fly into Fairbanks, spend a day or so there, then take train to Denali, stay a day or two, then on to Anchorage and either Seward or Whittier to catch a cruise going south. Alternately, rent a car and do it on your own with more flexibility.

A few points for consideration:

1) It's common for the mountain to be clouded in at Denali, so don't count on the classic view, but there is wildlife and other aspects of the park to see.
2) Don't expect resort-like towns and fancy lodging on land; with a short season and challenging weather places are more basic.
3) The cruise ports in SE Alaska are packed in summer when there are multiple ships in port. Shore excursions can be helpful to get away from the gift shop zone.
4) Seward is not a bad spot to spend a couple of days before a cruise visiting Kenai Fjords NP. Whittier is much more limited.
5) Car rental (and food and lodging) will be expensive. I think Hertz is the only rental option for Seward.
6) If you are interested in the glaciers, not all cruise lines treat them alike. Only two ships a day are allowed in Glacier Bay NP; the other spots (Hubbard Glacier and Tracy Arm) aren't as consistently interesting (in my opinion).

NoHeat
Posts: 191
Joined: Sun Sep 18, 2016 10:13 am

Re: Alaska Trip/Cruise Summer of 2020. Help me plan

Post by NoHeat » Mon Jul 16, 2018 4:28 pm

duplicate post deleted
Last edited by NoHeat on Mon Jul 16, 2018 4:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.

NoHeat
Posts: 191
Joined: Sun Sep 18, 2016 10:13 am

Re: Alaska Trip/Cruise Summer of 2020. Help me plan

Post by NoHeat » Mon Jul 16, 2018 4:29 pm

Alaska Rail packages are a good alternative to cruises -- it's a ground package that avoid the cruise experience of being herded into massive ships. I was happy with a one-week Alaska Rail package that we used a year ago; I can recommend buying the first class (gold star) version. You travel slowly on the passenger train to a destination, where there will be an excursion operated by some third party, and then you check into a pretty nice hotel, and then you repeat. The highlight for us was a boat tour starting from Seward.

To do this, separately buy your own round-trip air ticket to Anchorage, and the Alaska Rail package that you like. Alaska Rail has a website, but you'll want to do the transaction on the phone.

An Alaska Rail package includes excursions from outside vendors, which can sell out, so booking six months in advance is a good idea to get exactly what you want on exactly the day that you want, but you can book much later and still have a good time.

Johio
Posts: 24
Joined: Sun Mar 12, 2017 12:54 pm

Re: Alaska Trip/Cruise Summer of 2020. Help me plan

Post by Johio » Mon Jul 16, 2018 4:48 pm

We flew to Anchorage. Next day, took a day trip to Katmai National Park to see the bears at Brooks Falls. You can research and sign up for this prior to arriving, which is necessary given the crowds in summer. You will leave Anchorage pretty early, fly to a small town (King Salmon I think), get on a float plane, and take the floatplane to Katmai.

Next day we took Alaska railroad from Anchorage to Seward - about 3-4 hours. Stunning scenery. Upgrade to Gold Dome service - worth the price.

Boarded a cruise ship in Seward for 7 days, ending up in Vancouver. Great experience, saw quite a bit via the excursions in each port.

We did not venture north to Denali, we heard a lot of feedback that weather can be iffy, and most folks we talked to said they are not sure it was worth the time to get there from Anchorage.

If you are interested in fishing or related activities, then the above will not be of interest. Our intent was to see Brooks Falls and then visit as much of SE Alaska as we could via the cruise. Loved it...

User avatar
HomerJ
Posts: 11713
Joined: Fri Jun 06, 2008 12:50 pm

Re: Alaska Trip/Cruise Summer of 2020. Help me plan

Post by HomerJ » Mon Jul 16, 2018 4:51 pm

NoHeat wrote:
Mon Jul 16, 2018 4:29 pm
Alaska Rail packages are a good alternative to cruises -- it's a ground package that avoid the cruise experience of being herded into massive ships. I was happy with a one-week Alaska Rail package that we used a year ago; I can recommend buying the first class (gold star) version. You travel slowly on the passenger train to a destination, where there will be an excursion operated by some third party, and then you check into a pretty nice hotel, and then you repeat. The highlight for us was a boat tour starting from Seward.
Heh, you slam cruises, but the highlight was seeing Alaska from the water... :)

Also, one of the best parts about a cruise ship is the hotel room floats with you. You only have to check in once, unpack once, carry your luggage once.

That said, I've heard nothing but good things about railroad trips across Canada and in Alaska. It would be pretty neat to see the countryside that way.
The J stands for Jay

adksherm
Posts: 16
Joined: Wed Dec 21, 2016 10:16 am

Re: Alaska Trip/Cruise Summer of 2020. Help me plan

Post by adksherm » Mon Jul 16, 2018 6:56 pm

We did an eight day small ship (68 passengers) cruise that primarily looked for wildlife via skiffs, kayaks, and shore hikes. A fine crew and the opportunity to get to know and talk to 66 other interesting people who enjoyed the wildlife and mild exercise. You should look at it as an option.

User avatar
friar1610
Posts: 1270
Joined: Sat Nov 29, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: MA South Shore

Re: Alaska Trip/Cruise Summer of 2020. Help me plan

Post by friar1610 » Mon Jul 16, 2018 7:11 pm

adksherm wrote:
Mon Jul 16, 2018 6:56 pm
We did an eight day small ship (68 passengers) cruise that primarily looked for wildlife via skiffs, kayaks, and shore hikes. A fine crew and the opportunity to get to know and talk to 66 other interesting people who enjoyed the wildlife and mild exercise. You should look at it as an option.

We went on a similar cruise - lotsa wildlife, got much closer to glaciers than the big ships do, captain had the flexibility to alter route/times if, for example, we ran across a pod of whales, etc. Shore excursions, kayak trips, cookouts ashore. Great time! Alaska Dream Cruises. (Great meals onboard, too.)
Friar1610

Housedoc
Posts: 142
Joined: Thu May 24, 2018 4:25 pm
Location: Alabama

Re: Alaska Trip/Cruise Summer of 2020. Help me plan

Post by Housedoc » Tue Jul 17, 2018 5:57 am

Thanks to all for the information, looks like I need to get busy and expand my research to include rail options.

User avatar
GoldStar
Posts: 534
Joined: Wed May 23, 2018 10:59 am

Re: Alaska Trip/Cruise Summer of 2020. Help me plan

Post by GoldStar » Tue Jul 17, 2018 6:55 am

Housedoc wrote:
Tue Jul 17, 2018 5:57 am
Thanks to all for the information, looks like I need to get busy and expand my research to include rail options.
Another option to look at for Alaska:
Princess Cruises offers combined cruise/rail/land-stay packages. Leave from Vancouver - inside passage - transfer to train in Whittier - stay out at Danali - etc. You can book directly with Princess the entire package (they own the train and lodges I believe) or through a travel agent.

GmanJeff
Posts: 150
Joined: Sun Jun 11, 2017 7:12 am

Re: Alaska Trip/Cruise Summer of 2020. Help me plan

Post by GmanJeff » Tue Jul 17, 2018 7:42 am

Having taken two of them to Alaska, I'll echo the recommendations for a cruise, especially if you take advantage of shore excursions to see and experience things from the inland side as well as from the water, giving you a more complete picture than you'll obtain by only touring on land. One shore excursion I took involved flying in a seaplane to a inland river location to observe bears feeding on salmon, a site which would have been inaccessible as a practical matter otherwise. You can of course make such arrangements on your own, but the cruise line's shore excursion offerings provide what are effectively curated selections for you, and also give you the convenience of one-stop shopping. The Cruise Critic site and message boards are a good resource for information about different cruise lines, specific ships, and ports. I have been pleased with the relatively smaller ships and all-inclusive character of Regent Seven Seas, and suggest you check our their offerings.

bradpevans
Posts: 330
Joined: Sun Apr 08, 2018 1:09 pm

Re: Alaska Trip/Cruise Summer of 2020. Help me plan

Post by bradpevans » Tue Jul 17, 2018 7:51 am

If you plan to fly (and Alaska Air is an option), consider this for the "companion fare"
https://www.alaskaair.com/content/credi ... -signature

tibbitts
Posts: 8006
Joined: Tue Feb 27, 2007 6:50 pm

Re: Alaska Trip/Cruise Summer of 2020. Help me plan

Post by tibbitts » Tue Jul 17, 2018 8:00 am

Housedoc wrote:
Mon Jul 16, 2018 12:19 pm
Wife and I will be celebrating 30 years of her putting up with me. We would like to see as much as we can over a 2 week period. No set schedule or time of year to travel as we are both retired. No physical restrictions besides a little Arthritis in the knees. Not interested in climbing mountains but most everything else should be open for consideration. We would fly into "somewhere?" and begin the journey. We live in the southeast so driving would be a journey in itself. Please comment on ideas, suggestions, things not to do, etc. I searched the forum and found a few threads but one had a baby and the other had an elderly parent traveling with the party. Also, any advice on travel agency or packages would be appreciated. I looked at the Costco packages but don't know enough to value them.
If I liveed (full-time) in the southeast it would probably take me a week just to fly to Alaska - what's your rush? Two weeks? I can see maybe not wanting to do a two-plus week cruise but you could go to Vancouver, take a one-week cruise to AK, take a couple of weeks to see the area (train, etc.) then take a different cruise home. Or if you timed it right and liked cruises you could take a longer cruise - on one of my AK cruises many of the passengers had been on the ship from Miami, went around South America, then up the west coast and on to Alaska. The previous year we had a bunch of passengers that had come with the ship from Australia, and on my last AK cruise if I'd just stayed on board I would have ended up in Australia.

User avatar
midareff
Posts: 5733
Joined: Mon Nov 29, 2010 10:43 am
Location: Biscayne Bay, South Florida

Re: Alaska Trip/Cruise Summer of 2020. Help me plan

Post by midareff » Tue Jul 17, 2018 8:09 am

We went to Alaska in June last year. We started with a couple of days in Vancouver before we boarded a Princess Cruise Lines Ocean and Land Tour of Alaska. Excluding the portion we added in Vancouver it was about a two weeks or two weeks and a couple day trip. It was terrific, the Ocean and Land portions were very well done from the food and entertainment on ship to the cabins and ground lodgings. Trip pic are here if you are interested.... https://www.martindareff.com/Travel-in- ... ilderness/

sawdust60
Posts: 19
Joined: Tue Jul 17, 2018 12:06 pm

Re: Alaska Trip/Cruise Summer of 2020. Help me plan

Post by sawdust60 » Tue Jul 17, 2018 2:53 pm

Here are two to consider. Princess may not have 2020 schedules until spring 2019. Also note that current pricing reflects the Alcohol promo (i.e. prices probably higher than normal). When you search, the website has a separate tab for CruiseTours.
https://www.princess.com/find/cruiseDet ... ode=T9ANB7
https://www.princess.com/find/cruiseDet ... ode=T9AAB3

Princess has 5 lodges and several passenger railcars. The tour we had in 2017 started with a night in Anchorage, then rail service to McKinley, bus to Denali and Copper River.

Several years ago, we cruised first and finished in Fairbanks. After the tour, we flew to Anchorage and got a car to explore the area, stayed at Alyeska Resort three nights. Before the cruise, we spent a couple of days in Vancouver; took a bus tour to Victoria island/Butchart Gardens. Hotel was close to Stanley Park.

September was good. No mosquito problem. Kids back in school.

When you compare tours, some might not offer rail service. Fairbanks was ok, but we don't plan to return. Next time, hope to include Kenai.

After the 2017 cruise, we spent two nights in Vancouver. Then took a California Coastal cruise to Los Angeles. (And avoided the Vancouver airport.) We may do this again in 2019, as the Royal Princess arrives in Vancouver on September 14, and the Island Princess departs on September 16 to L.A. and Ft. Lauderdale. [Different ships or overnight stay is required as Alaska embarkation and Los Angeles debarkation would violate Jones Act for non-U.S. transport between two U.S. ports.]

Why Princess? Self-service laundry rooms enable packing less. Princess EZ-Air has what you need when booking segments from multiple airports. Note the link to "Flight Quotes" -- not yet available if the dates are too far out; now available thru May 2019. You can often check flights/prices before booking the cruise.

Shareholder benefit: 100 shares of CCL, $50/$100/$250 onboard credit on 1-6, 7-13, 14+ -day cruises.

bluelight
Posts: 257
Joined: Sun Jul 10, 2011 12:08 am

Re: Alaska Trip/Cruise Summer of 2020. Help me plan

Post by bluelight » Tue Jul 17, 2018 11:50 pm

We just signed up for this cruise tour in June 2019 through Costco - https://www.hollandamerica.com/en_US/fi ... /W852.html
It is 15 days total with the land portion first, starting at Fairbanks, then a cruise through the inside passage to Vancouver.

This will be our 3rd cruise that we have booked through Costco and we have been very pleased with them. I think we receive $650 shipboard credit. I noticed though, that HAL had the 2019 cruises listed months before Costco did and they weren't many available (to Costco) cabins.

an_asker
Posts: 2170
Joined: Thu Jun 27, 2013 2:15 pm

Re: Alaska Trip/Cruise Summer of 2020. Help me plan

Post by an_asker » Wed Jul 18, 2018 9:50 am

curmudgeon wrote:
Mon Jul 16, 2018 12:51 pm
It depends a lot on what your priorities are. Obviously a very big state, and hard to see it all. For standard packages and cruises, Costco is pretty good on pricing. A standard package might be to fly into Fairbanks, spend a day or so there, then take train to Denali, stay a day or two, then on to Anchorage and either Seward or Whittier to catch a cruise going south. Alternately, rent a car and do it on your own with more flexibility.

A few points for consideration:

1) It's common for the mountain to be clouded in at Denali, so don't count on the classic view, but there is wildlife and other aspects of the park to see.
2) Don't expect resort-like towns and fancy lodging on land; with a short season and challenging weather places are more basic.
3) The cruise ports in SE Alaska are packed in summer when there are multiple ships in port. Shore excursions can be helpful to get away from the gift shop zone.
4) Seward is not a bad spot to spend a couple of days before a cruise visiting Kenai Fjords NP. Whittier is much more limited.
5) Car rental (and food and lodging) will be expensive. I think Hertz is the only rental option for Seward.
6) If you are interested in the glaciers, not all cruise lines treat them alike. Only two ships a day are allowed in Glacier Bay NP; the other spots (Hubbard Glacier and Tracy Arm) aren't as consistently interesting (in my opinion).
OP:

Looks like you might have come across my thread (with elderly parent) :-) :sharebeer

A few points to add of my own (some might be contradictory)!

- consider airbnb. You'll get a place per your budget. Always good to get the local perspective from a local!

- Costco offers the best deal for the (expensive) car rental. We got it for about 30% or so less than what we were getting elsewhere.

- do strongly consider driving (or joining a group package) on the Dalton Highway. We didn't, but I know others who've been. The scenery on the drive just to get to the beginning of the Dalton - from Fairbanks - is otherworldly with the road upheaval as a result of the permafrost.

- consider Katmai for bears (we didn't for a couple of reasons - time and money!)

- for glaciers, consider driving to remote areas if you wish to walk/trek/hike on them. I recall reading a couple of Alaska-related blogs where the authors actually went to this remote glacier (Root glacier?) and took some really nice photos. Alternatively, to just get close, you could take little day cruises out of Seward or Whittier. Whittier is better if you tend to get seasick, but on the flip side, Seward cruises are definitely the more scenic ones and you get to see more sealife as well.

- though we didn't take the train (again for time and money!), I am fifty-fifty about riding them. The time factor actually is more relevant than the money aspect when you are only the two of you (for us, it was for five folks when the cost analysis worked out a lot different). But we did do a lot of railfanning, having seen the train on its way to Whittier from Anchorage, at Seward and at Denali! :-)

- for our travel in July (peak), we were able to reserve - in February - decent cabins less than 15 miles from Denali that were reasonably priced (less than $100/day for up to three); obviously, the closer you get to Denali the more expensive it gets.

Needless to say, we scarcely scratched the surface of what you could do and where you can drive. We didn't go towards Valdez, for instance, or anywhere that is accessible only by air/boat and not by roads (which is probably two-thirds of Alaska!), or even the Juneau area.

Housedoc
Posts: 142
Joined: Thu May 24, 2018 4:25 pm
Location: Alabama

Re: Alaska Trip/Cruise Summer of 2020. Help me plan

Post by Housedoc » Wed Jul 18, 2018 1:56 pm

All great info, pls keep sharing. It is OK to send money too! HA

rjbraun
Posts: 1233
Joined: Sun Sep 09, 2012 8:22 pm

Re: Alaska Trip/Cruise Summer of 2020. Help me plan

Post by rjbraun » Wed Jul 18, 2018 2:21 pm

A trip to Alaska is also on our list of desired future trips, so I will be interested to follow this thread. In addition to the cruise option, I read about traveling independently via passenger ferries. I plan to look into this at some point, but a friend mentioned recently that the ferries can stop running "for days" if the weather is foggy, etc. Obviously, that could make things challenging.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyl ... 49fa69818f

kd2008
Posts: 571
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 6:19 pm

Re: Alaska Trip/Cruise Summer of 2020. Help me plan

Post by kd2008 » Wed Jul 18, 2018 2:31 pm

We are thinking of Alaska in the next year or two. One option is to book the Alaska rail package. Anyone here did that? Tripadvisor has glowing reviews of it.

https://www.alaskarailroad.com/travel-p ... y-daylight

ALASKA BY DAYLIGHT
10 Days/10 Nights

Available late May - early September 2018

Travel Package Highlights:

Ride the Coastal Classic, Glacier Discovery and Denali Star Trains
Glacier & wildlife cruises in Kenai Fjords National Park and Prince William Sound
Riverboat Discovery tour in Fairbanks
Tundra Wilderness Tour in Denali National Park
Talkeetna Jetboat Safari


TOUR PRICE: $3,979 GoldStar Service per person

Value Season pricing available for May and September departures.

ResearchMed
Posts: 7218
Joined: Fri Dec 26, 2008 11:25 pm

Re: Alaska Trip/Cruise Summer of 2020. Help me plan

Post by ResearchMed » Wed Jul 18, 2018 2:37 pm

kd2008 wrote:
Wed Jul 18, 2018 2:31 pm
We are thinking of Alaska in the next year or two. One option is to book the Alaska rail package. Anyone here did that? Tripadvisor has glowing reviews of it.

https://www.alaskarailroad.com/travel-p ... y-daylight

ALASKA BY DAYLIGHT
10 Days/10 Nights

Available late May - early September 2018

Travel Package Highlights:

Ride the Coastal Classic, Glacier Discovery and Denali Star Trains
Glacier & wildlife cruises in Kenai Fjords National Park and Prince William Sound
Riverboat Discovery tour in Fairbanks
Tundra Wilderness Tour in Denali National Park
Talkeetna Jetboat Safari


TOUR PRICE: $3,979 GoldStar Service per person

Value Season pricing available for May and September departures.
Thanks.
This looks REALLY interesting!

We took the Goldstar train (cars with amazing views) from Seward to Anchorage, and it was VERY comfortable and amazingly scenic.

This just went on our list :happy

RM
This signature is a placebo. You are in the control group.

Post Reply