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My husband and I are thinking of taking the Vancouver-Alaska cruise. Could you advise us as to:
1)one-way or return, is it pricier to fly back?
2)which itinerary?
3)what kind of cabin?
4)advantages of May as opposed to June?
5)prices?
6)how do I go about getting the best deal for my money? How much cheaper are last minute sales and when do they come on the market?
(I am in Austria,which means I also have the flight to Vancouver to consider.)
Thank-you so much in advance,
Linda Bowman

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    Most Alaska cruises, including the cruise + land tour, which I recommend are one way with a flight back to where ever you want to go. It should be easy to het flights to Europe from Vancouver or Seattle.
    2. What ever appeals to you. The cruises are pretty much the same with a few variations. I can't imagine an Alaska cruise that I would not like.
    3. I don't think I would like a cruise without a balcony or verandah cabin.
    4. We went in late July and I was still cold much of the time, especially around glaciers. I think May or June may be a little too cold.
    5. I guess you can pay a great deal or not so much. If you can find a personal Travel Agent with some experience it would help.
    6. That is difficult. Remember that the quoted price is a start. Then there are land tours, on board items like alcohol, fancy coffees, etc. I would research tours carefully and arrange as many as you can on your own. Seek advice from the internet etc. Watch out for on board expenses and shopping. Read up on Alaska cruises and find a line that you like. We like Holland America and Celebrity. Some slightly more upscale like Oceana or Viking ocean cruises may include more. Do some home work with,e.g. Frommers guide books and the internet.It will help.

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    We went on our first cruise last summer. We went from Anchorage to Vancouver aboard the Coral Princess in August. August is supposed to be rainier but we lucked out. We had a room with a window but if we wanted to go outside for views we could always find plenty of lounge chairs. We didn't do any excursions except for a van ride to the Yukon which was beautiful and much cheaper than the train ride.
    The calving of a glacier is much more spectacular when you can get closer than cruise ships can get. The wildlife is also much more close on smaller sightseeing boats than from a cruise ship. We enjoyed the cruise but we saw more driving the Kenai Peninsula and driving to Denali in a 2 week vacation 2 years ago. The glacier cruise out of Whittier we saw up close calving glaciers, eagles, puffins and otters. The 8 hour wildlife boat tour out of Seward was especially scenic with whales, dolphins, otters, seals and sea lions.
    Flying around Denali was magical, beauty beyond belief.

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    We went on a cruise one way from Alaska (Seward) to Vancouver a few years back in mid-May. Advantages: lower prices by far, fewer crowds. And while chilly, we had sunny clear skies - given that you are coming from Austria, this is probably not a big deal (coming from Florida, it seems pretty chilly for us).

    On June 1 this year, we are again doing the one-way cruise. Two weeks later meant higher fees, although not so high as peak July-August.

    Not sure about Vancouver fares, as we use the Seattle, Washington, airport. But... I had been seeing flights running around $300+ on that flight (Seattle-Anchorage). Kept watching, and ended up paying $121 on Alaska Air.

    Last time we had an "obstructed view" cabin without balcony. This time we have a veranda and are looking forward to it. Either way is fine, but generally cruisers to Alaska say the veranda/balcony is well worth the cost.

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    What I've noticed about the round trip cruises that start in Seattle is they have less time in ports or do fewer ports because they have farther to travel than the round trip cruises that start in Vancouver. This is just my observation...YMMV The ones that start in Seattle HAVE to go to a forgien port (for reasons I've never really understood) so one of the ports is Victoria. I like Victoria, but when we were planning an Alaska Cruise...I wanted to see Alaska. DH hates to fly so that's why we chose a round trip from a port we could drive to. The round trip cruises only go as far as the Alaska Panhandle but we've driven to Alaska before and hadn't been to the Panhandle so that was best for us.

    When we planned our first cruise which was to Alaska, I looked for the itinerary I wanted first and then the best price. My number one criteria was to visit either Glacier Bay or Hubbard Glacier. Glacier Bay was my first choice because it limits the amount of ships that can visit so you will probably have the glaciers to yourselves.

    We were retired and could go any time so I watched and waited until just one month before sailing date to book the cruise because the prices kept dropping. We got an excellent price on a verandah in July on Holland America by doing this. Holland America had the best prices and itinerary that I was interested in. We have since done another cruise with them and will go with them again in the future.

    Utahtea

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    #Linda: We've been to Alaska a few times and what's below would be our preference: not necessary better, just our preference.

    1)one-way or return, is it pricier to fly back?
    Vancouver north bound one way would be our preference with a land tour after. If there is no land tour, north bound is still preferred over the south bound due to the time of the day when you travel through the inside passage.
    South bound one way would be second choice; round trip Vancouver next, Seattle round trip next, and depart from San Francisco last.
    We usually book on Alaska Air and one way ticket is only a couple hundred bucks (to Seattle) and a bit more if flying to Vancouver (higher tax and fees). You will also notice that one way cruises are slightly cheaper than round trip (as in more discounting or sale on one way passage) So the total cost would be very similar.

    2)which itinerary?
    Whichever one you take, make sure Glacier Bay National Park is on the list. If you have never cruise through Alaska before, the Glacier Bay is a "must see". There is a quota system for cruise ships to enter Glacier Bay National Park. The cruise lines has to bid on it every year. They have to pay plus meet certain standards so you may find itinerary including Glacier Bay scenic cruising is slightly more expensive. The US Park Rangers will board the ship and offer information on the top deck, handing out pamphlets, selling books etc.
    Most ships make the same port of calls (Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway) so there are no choices there. We like Sitka and would love to go back but it is not generally offered.
    If you can get Hubbard Glacier and College Fjord on the same cruise, bonus! Both are spectacular in their own way so if you catch one over the other, it is no big deal.

    3)what kind of cabin?
    Northbound, balcony cabin high deck mid-ship on starboard side (right). Southbound, balcony cabin high deck mid-ship on port side (left). Round trip, balcony cabin high deck mid-ship on port side (left).

    4)advantages of May as opposed to June?
    There is no advantage. We've been there through May, June, July and August. Other than the temperature/weather which is always unpredictable, it really makes no difference. You will see less family in May/June and more children and family in July/August.
    If you have Tracy Arm on your itinerary, in May, you have a 1 in 3 chance of actually sailing all the way up there on the big ship. You can book an excursion with a smaller boat to get into Tracy Arm. After mid-June, your chances of seeing Tracy Arm improves to about 2 in 3.

    Weather wise, it will be rain, rain and more rain. If it is cloudy and didn't rain, you are doing good. If you have 7 days of sunshine and no clouds or rain, it is highly unusual. The summer is the rainy months along the inside passage and it is "rain forest" country.

    5)prices?
    You are doing good if you manged to get ...
    Inside cabin $50-$75 per person per day
    Ocean view $75-$100 per person per day
    Balcony $100-$125 per person per day

    We cruised last June for $349 plus tax per person on a 7 day round trip from Seattle. The Trip report link is here:
    http://www.fodors.com/community/cruises/alaska-shore-excursion-on-the-cheap.cfm

    6)how do I go about getting the best deal for my money? How much cheaper are last minute sales and when do they come on the market? (I am in Austria,which means I also have the flight to Vancouver to consider.)
    "Last minute" sales usually happens at 90 days, 45 days and 21 days prior to sailing, making it difficult to book flights on the cheap or flying on points. Your flight is probably going to cost you as much as the cruise, so I wouldn't bother to wait for a last minute sale unless you live nearby.

    My suggestion for you, IMHO, would be as follow:
    Traveling from Europe, this could be a once in a life time experience. Don't even try to save a few bucks here and there and ended up missing out. You come all the way out here, you might as well maximize your time here.
    (1) Book the cruise based on the time that works best for you. Last week of June, July and first 2 weeks of August would give you best chance of decent weather. But it will still rain. I ruined a perfectly good DSLR camera due to heavy rain in August and I did not protect it sufficiently despite the fact that I was wearing a rain poncho.
    (2) If you can afford it, book the balcony. If you are not going to book a balcony, by all means, save money and book an inside cabin. Just don't spent any time in the cabin except for sleeping from say between 11 pm and 6 am only. You want to spend all the day light hours outside (and that's where the balcony came into play where you will have some privacy and space while viewing the spectacular sights) and you might have to "fight" to get a premium spot on the outside public areas. You will spend most of your time on the top deck, on the promenade deck or the front of the ship. Dress warm, in layers and bring neck warmers, toques, gloves, sweaters, water proof wind breaker/ jackets etc. With wind from the glacier and the moving ship, the wind will be cold, guaranteed. Think late fall or early spring for clothing. Once you are out of the elements, then it would be shorts and t-shirts with 70F+ temperature. The wind chill is what makes the difference.
    (3) Pick travel days with cheaper flights. By all means stay in Vancouver a couples before and after to take advantage of mid-week cheaper flights. Vancouver is beautiful and if you have not been there, bonus.
    If you have a chance, search the forum here for Alaska cruise trip report. There are tons of information there and probably not much had change for the past 4 or 5 years.

    Once you made all the travel arrangement, you can come back here and post questions and ask about excursions etc.

    Alaska is magical. You will enjoy it!

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