Nov 11th, 2014, 08:37 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 662

I have never been more confused in my life! Trying to compare ships and land packages to Alaska! Obviously, one cannot do all, but there must be some way to whittle down options. Prices vary by thousands and thousands of $$$$. Suggestions?
wondering is offline  
Nov 15th, 2014, 11:36 AM
Join Date: Nov 2014
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YOU read my mind!! I'm doing the same research and I feel like my head is going to explode. I think I have it narrowed down to doing a land tour first, then sailing south. I've spent a lot of time looking at Princess. I hope some more experienced Alaska cruisers respond to your post.
ChristyH is offline  
Nov 16th, 2014, 05:43 AM
Join Date: Jul 2005
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You will gain flexibility and save money if you skip the land tour portion and just rent a car and see the areas you want on your own. These things are heavily marked up by the cruise lines, so why not put the money back into your own pockets? It's not hard to plan a trip to Denali, Seward or the Kenai Peninsula at all.

Vic's travels:
Orlando_Vic is offline  
Nov 16th, 2014, 06:47 AM
Join Date: Feb 2014
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We did a roundtrip out of Seattle on Princess and can highly recommend it. The itinerary included Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan--all great ports (picturesque, walkable), as well as Glacier Bay, a narrow channel with just about the most amazing landscape I've ever seen (snow-capped mountains everywhere you look), ice-filled waters, blue-ice glaciers).

Princess is a great line to take to Alaska because it's a specialty and they've been doing it for a long time. Some of the features:
* Narration/lectures--they had a great naturalist on board, who gave many interesting and entertaining lectures about different aspects of Alaska. They also had a woman who was in the Iditarod dog-sled race who gave a captivating talk
* Glacier Bay activities--to showcase our cruise through the park, they offered a champagne breakfast (with cost), the naturalist narrated over the PA and through the TV, hot chocolate was served to folks who went on upper decks to watch
* Seafood buffet--salmon is the star on this trip, so Princess did a buffet with salmon about six or seven different ways

While we didn't do it, Princess also has an array of add-ons, including stays at their own lodge (i.e., at Denali).

My understanding is that Holland America is also a good line for Alaska.

I know the research may seem overwhelming, but once you dive in, you'll start feeling more comfortable. I think you're going about it the right way--by asking folks who've been there lots of questions. One biggie is time of year. You might ask different folks their experience, because what you see and in what conditions will vary.

Hope this helped! - Musing About Cruising,
rjgdjg is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2014, 01:12 AM
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We've been to Alaska twice on Holland America. We chose it for the price and itinerary. We have only done the cruise part and haven't opted for any of the land packages but I've read that Holland and Princess are your two best choices for land tours because they have their own lodging and tour people and have both been doing it for a long time.

I highly recommend the Holland America 14 day cruise! We saw SO much more than on the 7 day cruise.

utahtea is offline  
Nov 23rd, 2014, 12:59 AM
Join Date: Sep 2007
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Do a search on the cruise forum for Alaska and read previous posts. There are all kinds of post and comments as it is a popular destination and topic.

Depending on budget and timing, start a few days early in Vancouver, it is a nice place to visit but could be expensive. Take the North bound cruise, rent a car and tour and fly home. Make sure you include Glacier Bay national Park on you itinerary.

If you don't care about the land portion in Alaska, take the inside passage round tip from Seattle.
Eschew is offline  
Dec 20th, 2014, 06:25 AM
Join Date: Dec 2014
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Hi Wondering, First-I am an Alaska travel specialist for exactly the reasons you stated! I worked for Holland America for many years both onboard and land. I spoke with so many people after my presentations that felt totally overwhelmed by all of the options, but knew they didn't want Holland America which is when I opened an agency to help people wanting more.I now specialize in small ships and small group independent land journeys but I know quite a bit about the big ship companies.

Several first things to decide: 1) how much are you allotting budgetwise and time-wise to this vacation? 2) what are the main things you want from this vacation ("want to see whales & glaciers" "don't want to go on a big ship" "want relaxing cruise with lots of amenities/activities for us and the kids" "want relaxing but somewhat active experience off the beaten path" - MANY reasons- this is your most important step!) 3) dates- this can make a huge difference in price.

I wrote a FAQ for people starting to plan their Alaska trip:!faq...-started/c1g2n

Find an advisor that knows Alaska; he/she can really help you at no extra charge, and even save you money especially on the big ship cruises if they have group space with extra amenities. Alaska is so big, it takes so long to get from point A to B that people underestimate what they can see and do. Better to concentrate on one or two areas than try and see "everything" unless you need very little sleep!

If price is your most important component, then off-season big ship cruises are your best bet. The land portion is pretty pricey especially in peak season, but I usually put components together myself, like using Alaska Rail instead of the Holland America train. There are so many variables and this could go on and on, so my best advise is find a trusted advisor/planner and tell them what you have in mind so far and let them present you with an option suited to YOU!

I agree with the person above who recommended Holland America's 14 day cruise- a unique itinerary, decent pricing, couldn't be easier than unpacking once and seeing all these sights, as long as you budget in for shore excursions at ports of call. But if you have your heart set on staying at Denali Nat'l Park this won't cut it, though you can see it on a flightseeing trip from Anchorage. And if you're not a big ship cruise person, then perhaps a small ship combined with wilderness lodges is more up your alley.

Best of luck! All of this planning will pay off in one of your most life-changing vacations. I have people planning 1-3 years in advance, so you're not alone!
alaskaandbeyond is offline  
Jan 6th, 2015, 05:08 AM
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I understand that Princess and Holland America are the only cruise lines which are allowed to enter Glacier Bay (it is a matter of limited access and extra fees). We found the northbound route more interesting, because scenery becomes increasingly dramatic on the way north.

We also needed extensive research to plan our combined sea & land tour. We will share our experiences gladly. Just read my trip report:
traveller1959 is offline  
Jan 6th, 2015, 01:13 PM
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 495
You will find so many differing opinions about visiting Alaska that it will make your head spin. We were a group of 6 that went on a cruise to Alaska in July of 2010. I did a lot of research on a land/sea cruise and we ended up going on Holland America as they offered the best value at the time we went. We were very satisfied w/ HAL, the ship (Statendam) was old but we enjoyed it, had an oceanview cabin (didn't want/feel necessity to spend $$$ on balcony, it worked out well for the 6 of us). We were hardly ever in our cabins so having a balcony didn't matter to us. We would also go out on deck (very accessible) from our location when we were going into port. We do enjoy having a balcony cabin on most of our cruises.

You have to decide what is important to you on your cruise, do you want to do a land tour? We did the Denali land tour pre-cruise and were glad we did as we could relax on the cruise portion. My only advice if you are going to do a land tour is to book more days rather than less. We only had 3 days so were always packing and unpacking suitcases and no down time to enjoy where we were on the land. A minimum of 4 but preferably 5 would be good. JMO....

We were so glad we did Denali and that was the most amazing experience for the 6 of us. What we saw in Denali was so wonderful and will never be forgotten. If your budget only allows the cruise, then that will be a spectacular trip as well. The scenery and ports were amazing. One of our favorite things we did was to take a flightplane in Ketchikan to the Misty Fjord - simply amazing experience. I booked this myself before we left home. We decided that we wanted to book an all-inclusive trip and not have to worry about anything. Again, this worked well for us as 2 of our group had never cruised before so it was easier having everything done for us. The next time I would definitely book my own hotels, rail trips, etc.

Another thing to consider is when to go. We went in July and had almost 24 hr. of daylight - very strange feeling to see daylight even when it was bedtime! However, we were able to take an afternoon tour into Denali (Tundra Wilderness Tour) and had a good 8 hrs. for the trip into the park. Wildlife we saw was amazing! Highly recommend this trip.

It takes a long time to put a trip like this together. As I mentioned, you should sit down and organize what you would like to see and do, Denali, etc. Do your homework on what you will see. Go to Cruise Critic website and look at the Alaska boards and get ideas from others. You will feel more confident in your planning if you do this. Once you decide what you want, then go to the next step and get prices, etc. from several agencies. I would also suggest that you look at both Princess and Holland America websites and compare both of their Alaska cruises offerings, write down prices and what the tours offer and you will get a better visual of the trip. You can't skip from website to website or you will be more confused!

There is some good info on the above website about self-touring vs escorted tour. We loved the train trip from Fairbanks to Denali, had one of the dome cars.

Here's another good website w/ info on narrowing down what you would like to do, ports, visiting Denali, touring land on your own.

Once you put your thoughts together get back to us. I will be happy to give you some websites that I use for cruises. Good luck. Things will fall into place once you get yourself organized.

We did Juneau (loved that port), Ketchikan (loved our floatplane trip) and lots of good souvenir shopping there; stayed overnight in Anchorage pre-cruise); Glacier Bay cruising.

Here are the HAL Denali tours:
(we did the 1st tour listed but did not visit Haines or Skagway.)

That's enough for you to digest now! Have fun planning & get back w/ questions, etc.
Luv2travel15 is offline  
Jan 6th, 2015, 01:34 PM
Join Date: Jun 2006
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There is no advertising or solicitation on these forums as specified in the guidelines. Perhaps Alaskaandbeyond didn't realize this as it is her/his first posting. Post indicates he/she is an Alaskan cruise specialist w/ own agency.
Luv2travel15 is offline  
Jan 6th, 2015, 10:22 PM
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 2,730
traveller1956, that is not quite true about only HAL and Princess are the only 2 mass market lines that is allowed into Glacier Bay national Park.

The way it works is that there is a quota on number of ships allowed per day and the cruise lines bid on the quotas, Princess and HAL got the majority of them. Disney and NCL both own some permits and sail through Glacier Bay National Bay on select cruises. I am not aware that Celebrity of RCCL own any permits.

For first time Alaska cruise, I will put Glacier Bay as a "must" stop. I have posted at least 2 TR here on Alaska. Just do a search on the forum and you will find many TR's on Alaska.
Eschew is offline  

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