Alaska Cruise 101?

Old Mar 1st, 2006, 09:08 AM
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Alaska Cruise 101?

I want to pick a cruise to Alaska, but couldn't find any basic info on which routes to take and what you see on the way. Any website or book out there that gives Alaska Cruising 101 for dummies?

I've looked at the Princess and Holland America websites but couldn't obtain much info, and read some of the postings in fodors forum but not clear what to take.

I'm looking at Holland America, and is it better to go northbound or southbound and which route to take. Their website is pretty lousy as it doesn't show the routes and map and itinerary.

Please help. Thanks.



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Old Mar 1st, 2006, 10:54 AM
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We publish a book called Alaska Ports of Call that gives a good overview of the different ships and ports. Many of the cruise line web sites do give good information. If you are looking for a mainstream cruise, don't leave out Carnival. My parents are doing a Carnival Spirt cruise in August, and it has more port stops than almost any other ship, though I think Holland America is a better cruise line for them. Holland America is good if you want a more structured and sedate environment. Princess is good if you want more flexibility. Royal Caribbean is trying to appeal to a younger, more active clientele, so they may offer a few more interesting shore tours. I don't know if it matters much which direction you choose. The crucial question is whether you begin (or end) your cruise in Seattle or Vancouver. That will affect the number of ports you visit and also your airfare to or from where your cruise begins/ends (it's often much cheaper to fly to or from Seattle, for instance). Pick a ship and line that offers the kind of experience you are looking for (our Complete Guide to Caribbean Cruises gives profiles of most of the lines and ships and might also help you there). Choosing the right ship is going to be a bigger factor regarding whether or not you enjoy your trip ... perhaps more even than the choice of ports. But this is likely to be your only trip to Alaska, so make sure you are seeing the kinds of things you want to see. There are a lot of cruisers on these forums, so don't neglect to look through the Alaska posts as well as those in this cruise forum. I hope that helps.
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Old Mar 1st, 2006, 08:48 PM
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Have you checked out www.cruisecritic.com? There is tons of info there, just overlook the nasty remarks. Have done one Princess and one HAL in Alaska, to me HAL has a better product, but it is also more expensive. From what I've read the one was cruises either starting or ending in Alaska are the best if you don't have time restrictions.

Here is a link to my August round trip Seattle cruise review(HAL):

http://www.cruisefools.org/showthread.php?t=7622

Also which glacier you get to view is important, Glacier Bay seems to be the most highly recommended and then perhaps Hubbard Glacier?

We loved our Diamond Princess Alaska cruise with Tracy Arm glacier but because of the ship's size & ice we were not able to get very close for viewing on that particular sailing, something also to consider if this is perhaps your only cruise to Alaska. Hope this helps
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Old Mar 2nd, 2006, 04:14 AM
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There are several factors to consider first. If you want a one way cruise, then consider adding on another week so to take advantage of being all the way there. Touring interior Alaska is a definate plus. Of the ports, I greatly prefer Seward, but if you plan on just passing through and not taking advantage of the superb touring opportunities then Whittier is closer to Anchorage and the hurried trip home. HAL has an excellent itinerary with Glacier Bay and College Fjords, and Seward. Princess has Whittier, Glacier Bay and College Fjords.
I disagree with the above poster about Carnival, although they do have a good product sailing Alaska, having the extra port, skips another glacier viewing. So pluses and minuses to all cruises. With a one way, strongly consider College Fjords, otherwise the ships just sail open ocean stright across the Gulf of Alaska, no scenery.

For round trips, superior are Vancouver sailings, more scenery and usually better port times. Seattle sailings have the least scenic sailing. The top itinerary in my opinion are the HAL round trip Vancouver sailings that include both Glacier Bay and Tracy Arm.

So with your choices- look at, ports, time in ports, ship naturalists, glacier, price, route. Budget fully for costly excursions, you get only half a trip without them.

For clairfication- ship passengers are similar on ALL Lines sailing Alaska and don't have the distinct demographic differences of the Caribbean. Overall, the bulk of the passengers are still middle aged and above, even on Carnival, no party ships yet.
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Old Mar 3rd, 2006, 09:23 AM
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Thanks, all, for the helpful info.

I'm looking at 2 possible itineraries on HAL:

1) 7-day 1 way: Southbound via Glacier Bay on Veendam departing 5/21

2) 7-day roundtrip Vancouver with Glacier Baby and Tracy Arm on Volendam departing 5/17

Please let me know the tradeoffs between the 2. We kinda like the one-way trip, so we could spend more time on land in Alaska, but it will be more expensive to get an air ticket like that. I'll check to see if I could use my airline miles.

We want to see spectacular glacier and ice and wildlife. And have time to do active shore excursion activities (kayaking, etc.), preferably on our own arrangement instead via the ship? Easy to do so in Alaska?

Detailed itineraries:
Day Port Arrive Depart
0 Anchorage (Seward), Alaska 8:00 pm
1 College Fjord Cruising, United 1 6:00 am 9:00 am
2 Glacier Bay Scenic Cruising 1 10:00 am 7:00 pm
3 Haines, Alaska 6:30 am 9:00 pm
4 Juneau, Alaska 8:00 am 6:00 pm
5 Ketchikan, Alaska 2:00 pm 8:00 pm
6 At Sea
7 Vancouver, B.C. 7:00 am

======
0 Vancouver, B.C. 5:00 pm
1 At Sea
2 Tracy Arm, Alaska, Usa 1 8:00 am Noon
2 Juneau, Alaska 2:30 pm 10:30 pm
3 Skagway, Alaska 7:00 am 9:00 pm
4 Glacier Bay Scenic Cruising 1 7:00 am 4:00 pm
5 Ketchikan, Alaska 10:00 am 6:00 pm
6 At Sea
7 Vancouver, B.C.
===
Thanks much!

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Old Mar 4th, 2006, 07:15 AM
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These both are superb itineraries. BUT if you are looking at using ffmiles, then determine available NOW, likely you will have no availablity on basic rates, if you are loaded with miles, see why you can get and you need at least 7 more days interior Alaska if you want to do both Denali Park and Seward.

Look at 'Multicity" booking, not 2 one ways.

IF you can not invest the time, then go with the round trip.

It is simple to arrange all tours independent, for the land portion also look at using www.toursaver.com for interior Alaska tours. Less useful for lodging.

Key for excellent glacier viewing is to include a glaicer tour out of Whittier, wildlife, Denali Park for at least 2 nights and Seward with a Kenai Fjords boat trip on the water at least 6 hours. Here are some wildlife photos from my last trip.- http://community.webshots.com/user/budgetqueen
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Old Mar 4th, 2006, 08:01 PM
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Thanks all for your replies.

travelinwifey, why do you think HAL offers "a better product"? How is it better from other cruise ships going to Alaska?


Also, I think we'd rather do the one-way trip, as I can use my airline miles to get a flight like that. But I'm still trying to figure out the route. I still prefer southbound, so that we could rough'n it in Alaska first and then relax a bit on the cruise. But I'm not sure about the routes.

I really want to see massive glacier and icebergs. One route does Hubbard Glacier for 4 hours (Icy Strait Point is the other difference in the itinerary). Another route does Glacier Bay and College Fjord. Which one is better for glacier viewing?

I've read that Hubbard Glacier may not reliable. People have reported the cruise ship avoiding it because of fog. A problem at the end of May/early June? Also, how is Icy Strait? I'd rather see a real town as opposed to an artificial place owned by the cruise companies.

Thanks for your advice!
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Old Mar 5th, 2006, 03:26 AM
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Icy Strait Point is a "recreated" cruise ship "town" but Hoonah is not, so just hook up with a local vender and see the area. I give an edge to College Fjords and Glacier Bay. Hubbard is definately impressive but two visits are better than one on the one ways. I also give a big edge to Seward, so HAL is the clear winner here.

Your flight routing would be- home to Anchorage, then either Vancouver or Seattle to home, called an open jaw, and listed as Multi city on booking sites.
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Old Mar 5th, 2006, 09:56 AM
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Thanks, BudgetQueen, for the good info.

It looks like we have no choice but take the northbound route on HAL if we want to do Glacier Bay and College Fjord for the time frame we want to go.

But when the ship gets to Seward, is it possible to rent a car there? The HAL sales rep told me it's not possible, and we have to take the bus trip w/ them to Anchorage which costs $80 per person.

We'd rather stay in Seward for a day or 2 to sightsee and then go onto Anchorage on our way. How to go about this? Possible to stay in Seward and do things there w/o a car? And then take a public bus to Anchorage, and rent a car from there.

Thanks.

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Old Mar 5th, 2006, 01:43 PM
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Hi JC98, I have cruised HAL once (only the alaska cruise) Princess (5) RCCL (3) and NCL (1). To me HAL's biggest advantage was the food. The juices and hot chocolate and ice cream are included (at least on the Oosterdam), something you have to pay extra for on the other cruise lines. The food quality was a few notches above the other cruise lines. Dinner is served to you (main entree only, buffet for salad and sides like pizza you get on your own) at the buffet with table linens each evenining.

Regarding Hubbanrd Glacier, we sailed the last week of August and we were able too get really close to the glacier, it was the closest a HAL ship got all of last year (the guide narrarator told us onboard at the time)- we saw amazing calving and even seals resting on the iceberge by the glacier. Tracy Arm was a disappointment as we did not get very close at all with the larger Princess ship. Hands down Hubbard is a far superior glacier vs. Tracy Arm... the scenerey and beauty is much better BudgetQueen's advice last year is actually what made us choose Hubbard Glacier - Thanks again BudgetQueen! And we want to sail Glacier Bay perhaps next year.
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Old Mar 7th, 2006, 12:38 PM
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You should be able to rent a car in Seward and take it one way to Anchorage. We did it the opposite, so someone needed to get it back! I suspect the cruise line wanted to convince you to take their transportation. There are lots of places to stop on the way back, that I would recommend having your own car. I believe Hertz is the only company that rents one way (but this was a couple of years ago and may have changed). Depending on where you stay in Seward you can do some things without a car, but it's kind of spread out. I definitely recommend doing a smal boat trip into Kenai Fjords. Do the longer one if you have the time since you will see more wildlife. It'll be a great way to finish off your cruising and maybe see some animals up close that you didn't see from the larger cruise ship. Going into College Fjord and Glacier Bay are both well worth it. We saw humpbacks cooperative feeding in the mouth of Glacier Bay and a grizzly bear swimming across one of the smaller arms. It was amazing. Plus calving glaciers and beautiful scenary. It was trip I won't soon forget!
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Old Mar 8th, 2006, 06:27 AM
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Hertz is the only car rental company in Seward. Expect one way rates to run in the $200/day range.

I do not recommend a bus to Anchorage, would be my last choice. Instead opt for the Alaska RR, superior scenery compared to the Seward Highway, easy to get and goes to downtown Anchorage arriving after 10pm, leaves Seward 6pm. So consider one overnight in Seward and 2 days of touring.
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Old Mar 13th, 2006, 02:05 AM
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I just booked HAL Vancouver RT for May 7th. Had no problem getting FF Flights although on my first try United said dates weren't available. Was going to book American. Tried United again and dates and times were great. 25,000 miles plus $36. fee.
Checked web and fare would have been $836.00
Try different gateways if you run into a problem.
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Old Mar 20th, 2006, 04:34 PM
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When I was young and cheap, I traveled by putting a tent on deck of a ferry on the Alaska Marine Higway System. Enjoyed the overhead heaters and the lounge chairs. The best benifit was price and flexability. I could get on and off whenever and get to see more of the mainland-Got to like it rough though.lol
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Old Mar 20th, 2006, 09:53 PM
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Actually, I found the cruise prices to be cheaper than the Alaska State Marine System. My 7 day cruise on HAL costs only $585 including all taxes. Prices have gone down even more if for certain dates--like $499! And you'll get a nice room, room service, food, and entertainment. We use the big cruise ship as a moving hotel. We get out of the ship early when it docks and do shore excursions on our own, and get back just before it pulls anchor. Settle for a nice meal and some entertainment and hit the sack. It's the most economical way to travel if you find a good cruise deal!
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Old Mar 21st, 2006, 03:46 PM
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my wife and i want to take a trip to alaska, south bound. any recommendations or suggestions. thanks.
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Old Mar 22nd, 2006, 03:50 AM
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tritran- start a new thread with more information.
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