Alaska Inside Passage Cruising

Sep 4th, 2004, 06:39 AM
  #1  
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Alaska Inside Passage Cruising

My husband and I just returned from our long awaited cruise of Alaska's Inside Passage. We delayed our trip so long because the only way we wanted to go was by small ship. I can tell you that it was worth the wait and the more than 100% cost differential over the 'regular' cruise lines. We were upclose and personal with all the wildlife, not having to take additional excursions to see whales, bears or porpoises among others. We were on a ship with 96 other passengers and long before the trip was over, we were all comfortable friends. We had a 'cruise interpreter' onboard who made announcements while cruising about things that were going on outside. Being able to see it was never more than a dozen steps away. When she said 'whales on port side,' everyone was able to get there quickly. There was enough time built into the cruising schedule to allow the captain to hover whenever we sighted things that merited more time. We signed up on a list to be awakened at night if anything spectacular was going on and on the very first night we saw Northern Lights. We had to show an id only once (when we boarded the ship), never having to stand in line as much as 200 deep like we saw 'regular' cruise line passengers do. There were so many other things that made this type of cruise the perfect cruise for us. Just wanted to say to all who are considering Inside Passage cruise, if I could not afford to do it this way, I would forgo a vacation for 5 years rather than go on a conventional cruiseliner. !!My two cents worth!!
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Sep 4th, 2004, 12:55 PM
  #2  
katybird
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Sounds wonderful!! What cruise line and ship were you on? We are contemplating an Alaska cruise and would LOVE to go on one of the small ships but the cost is considerably higher than the larger ships...as you well know! Were you able to get any kind of discount? I have not found any significant discount online through the discount cruise sites.
 
Sep 5th, 2004, 10:01 AM
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We choose Cruist West (Spirit of '98). I checked with 2 travel agents but alas, there was no discount available. They do have a 'stowaway' program (which we did not use) whereby you can designate a 30 day window, make a deposit and cruise for about 75%, I believe. (You can look it up on their site for specifics.) We did find (because we are over 50) that AARP gives a $100 per person onboard ship credit which is an appropriate amount for the consolidated tip they suggest. And we used frequent flyer miles to get to the departing port. I also discovered that they do not add a mark-up for the port excursions they offer. I checked in various places and found that those trips were priced at the exact amount we would have paid if we walked up to the vendor and offered them cash. But the good thing is, you dont have to add on many excursions to see the real Inside Passage because they include at least one activity in each port to acclimate travelers to the area.

I just noticed in the Washington Post today, that Glacier Bay Cruiselines is offering a severely discounted price on its repositioning cruise later in the month. You might want to check that online, because that was the other line I considered.
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Sep 5th, 2004, 05:44 PM
  #4  
katybird
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Pollyw - Thanks so much for your reply. I appreciate it. I will check out the web site for the 'stowaway" program. Thanks for pointing out the AARP discount as well. I did not know about it.
Glad you had such a wonderful time.
 
Sep 5th, 2004, 10:40 PM
  #5  
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Whenever you travel, always ask if there is any benefit afforded you by your AARP membership. They also give fare discounts on Collette Vacations. And I get $2 per month on my mindspring internet access. (Good thing we are getting something out of them since they sold us out on the prescription drug benefits)
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Oct 13th, 2004, 10:04 AM
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pollyvw,

We are considering a Cruise West trip in the future. I have looked at their website and it looks like it would definitely be more up close and personal. (We ended up taking a Radisson Seven Seas cruise from Seward to Vancouver instead for some other reasons. Very nice. Different type of experience than Cruise West.)

How did you like the food? How were the cabins - comfortable?? Did the passengers mingle and visit pretty easily? Did you learn a lot about the wildlife, etc.?

Just wondering about some of the details. Thanks!

Ginny
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Oct 14th, 2004, 08:08 AM
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I dont know if I can get this all in one post but I will try.

I can only rave about Cruise West.

The food was wonderful. We choose to partake of the daily continental breakfast in the lounge, but there was a full breakfast served every morning in the dining room. Fantastic sit down, waiter-served lunch and dinner everyday in the dining room except one when we had a buffet lunch of spare ribs, knockwurst (sp) and other 'cook-out' style foods. There is no assigned seating which makes it easy to get to know everyone. If you rotate companions (6 at a table) each meal, you soon know everyone. I still laugh at the acquaintance who walked by our table one night (we had empty seats there), looked at us, waved us off and said "We already ate with you." Nibbles are served around 5 every afternoon in the lounge...nuts, quiche, cheese, fruit, brownies, crackers, etc. though not all on the same day.

The cabins were comfortable (I recommend AA cabins on Spirit of '98). They are not as plush as you might find in a 4 star hotel, but they are clean with adequate storage and comfortable beds and roomy enough for the time you will spend there...enough room for 2 people to change clothes at the same time. Actually, the bath was more spacious that those on a Celebrity ship we cruised on once. (Observation: DO NOT choose a cabin on the lowest level. The noise from the bow thrusters is just too much when you are trying to sleep, I was told by people who were in those cabins.)

By the end of the second day, everyone on our cruise was friends with everyone else and the crew. The ships have an enclosed lounge and an additional exterior smoking area where people congregate when not in port or on excursions. People mingle freely and the ship naturalist and/or assistant are always around to help locate things of interest in the countryside/water and to answer questions or chat.

Almost every night in the lounge, there was a program interpreting things we would likely see the next day. I remember a program on sea animals/birds the night before we went into Glacier Bay; one on totem poles the night before we arrived in Sitka. And there were others that slip my mind at the moment. We learned so much about glaciers and about whales and about porpoises...all this from the naturalist who stood with us on the bow of the ship (with microphone in hand) as we observed these things.

At the ship orientation meeting upon embarking, we were informed of a WOW list. Anyone who wanted to be awakened during the night if something spectacular was going on outside could sign the list and be informed via phone. The very first night, we were awakened to see Northern Lights on the port side.

The ship has a communication system that allows you to enjoy music in your cabin or to listen to the naturalist's commentary. That means that if some phenomenon takes place outside, you can know about it instantly and due to the design of the ship, you are never more than 12 steps away from being able to observe it. This was important to many when we 'came upon' pods of whales cavorting in front of the ship. It was important to ME during a couple of the evening presentations when I was just too tired (from having so much fun during the day) to go to the lounge. I could lie in my bed and listen...and learn the same things everyone else was learning.

Since our cruise, I have talked to some who chose to see the Inside Passage on a conventional cruise ship. It was hard not to feel smug when I learned that they had to take excursions to see whales. We saw pods on at least 5 different occasions. The captain would hover (sp) the ship in the area, often for as much as an hour; everyone would congregate on the bow of the ship; listen to the naturalist and take picture after picture.

There are bookshelves in the lounge with fiction, non-fiction and video-tapes about Alaska and the Inside Passage. The lounge is a good place to do such reading and the cabins have VCR to view the videos.

One other thing: I did a bit of investigating about price of ship excursions. It has been my assumption (as well as that of others who post here) that a cruiser can get a better price directly from the vendors in port. I did not find that to be true with Cruise West. I checked prices at 2 different locations and found the "walk up" price to be exactly what Cruise West charged us.

I can say nothing but good things about Cruise West and I cannot imagine a better way to see the Inside Passage.

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Oct 14th, 2004, 05:00 PM
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pollyvw,

Thanks so much for all the details about your cruise! It sounds great.

One more question - what was the age range on your ship?

Thanks again,

Ginny
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Oct 17th, 2004, 07:01 AM
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Most people on this cruise were at least mid-40 and above. I would say that more than 50% were retirees. There was a young lady (with her mother) who had just graduated from law school. This is not to say it was not a spirited group, but it was definitely not a crowd like you would find on Carnival.
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Oct 17th, 2004, 07:10 AM
  #10  
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One more thing:

Just this week, we watched a Travel Channel program which followed one of the Radison ships on its voyage through the Inside Passage. After our experiece, I was saddened to realize that people pay so much money to cruise this wonderful part of the world and spend so much of their time luxuriating in the onboard casinos, pools and discos. If one desires that type of vacation, so be it, but our goals in choosing a small ship cruise were to be as close to nature as possible (without actually hiking it); to enjoy the beauty of God's incredible countryside; and to learn as much about it as possible. You will not get the above type distractions/entertainment on a small ship. The closest to that you will get is one exercise machine on the upper exterior level. But on a conventional cruise ship, you will not get 'the real Inside Passage.' My humble opinion.
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Feb 18th, 2007, 08:07 PM
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Topping for Lorraine
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Mar 4th, 2007, 02:20 PM
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Topping for LOYL
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