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Need Help with Alaskan Cruise. So many choices!!

Need Help with Alaskan Cruise. So many choices!!

Old Mar 2nd, 2004, 11:46 AM
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Need Help with Alaskan Cruise. So many choices!!

I am single 30 year old and will be traveling with my 21 year old brother and my parents (they are in their late 40's, early 50's). I have been researching all the cruise lines and their Alaskan iteneraries and ships. We have all cruised to the Carribbean many times with NCL and Carnival. From reading the Fodor's reviews, it seems that Princess cruise might be the way to go. Since my brother and I are going, we don't want Holland America because it caters to an older crowd.

Can you guys tell me if this might be a good choice for us or can you give me any suggestions? Also, can you tell me why some of the Alaskan cruises for example embark in Vancouver, B.V. and debarks in Anchorage? What do you do in that case and is it a good idea? And what is a good month to go to Alaska? Sorry for so many questions but we have never been to Alaska and have NO idea where to start.
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Old Mar 2nd, 2004, 03:10 PM
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Princess is probably a good choice. Of the major lines Princess and HAL have the longest track records in the north and arguably the best shoreside infrastructure.

The one-way sailings to/from Alaska (as opposed to round-trip sailings) all depart or arrive at Vancouver due to US legal restrictions on foreign vessels carrying passengers between US ports. If you want a round-trip (Inside Passage only) cruise then you can leave from either Vancouver or Seattle.

I believe that all of Princess' one-way sailings now terminate/originate at Whittier, a small port on Prince William Sound around an hour and a half drive or train ride from Anchorage. Most if not all the other cruise lines use Seward, another hour farther south. None of the large cruise ships can call at Anchorage, due to distance, tides, and relatively shallow draft at the Anchorage harbor.

Concerning timing, much has to do with your pre- or post-cruise plans. If you want to tour interior parts of Alaska before or after your cruise, the consensus of opinion is that August is best from a weather, insect, and crowds point of view. Aside from bugs (worst in early summer, and then only in some areas), I don't know that it makes all that much difference.

All the information you could ever want, and lots you don't need, is available at the Alaska forum on the boards at www.cruisecritic.com.
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Old Mar 3rd, 2004, 02:05 AM
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As mentioned- there are many options, but boiled down- major choices are one way or round trip. I myself would never consider a one way without adding at least 5 additional days interior touring, you are all the way there- why not take advantage. It is usually more costly and in time and money in/out Anchorage. My clear preference is independent touring. Round trips pack a LOT into 7 days, Vancouver is also my preference for more inside passage sailing. For Alaska it is important to look at OUTSIDE the ship. Ports, time in port, route, glacier, price. Budget fully for excursions- you get only half a trip without them. Overall passengers are older on Alaska sailings, middle aged and above the norm. HAL is not overly "old" and has some clear benefits over other lines. Their ships offer superior deck viewing space and they have some "smaller" ships. Get a bunch of cruise brochures and compare- Glacier Bay is the top glacier choice.
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Old Mar 3rd, 2004, 11:25 AM
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Thank you Gardyloo and Budget Queen for the information. As always, it is Fodorites that come to the rescue. I will look into all of your suggestions. I will probably do a Vancouver roundtrip since it might be less expensive. I will let you guys know what my final plans are. My family and I thank you.
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Old Mar 3rd, 2004, 03:04 PM
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Anastasia---
A couple of random thoughts to answer some things you brought up...

As a crew member who lived on the Celebrity Mercury for the summer '02 Alaska season, I saw some of the most beautiful sights around the second week of June. The bugs weren't an issue as a cruise passenger, unless you went hiking up Mount Juneau in the capital city, or visiting the woods in Sitka's forests. If you spend time further inland, however (i.e., pre- or post-cruise land tour), I certainly believe Gardyloo's analysis of the buggy conditions...

The prior mentioning of Inside Passage vs. One-Way is accurate-- it will cost you considerably more for one-way, primarily because of the required complexity of your travel to/from, but it's THE way to do a longer (10-14 days) trip.

In answering your original question, Holland America is likely not the company for you... much older clientele in Alaska. Princess attracts a wider variety of ages, and might be a tiny bit older group than Royal Caribbean's guests, but not a huge difference. Also worth noting, you could check Carnival's single ship as well [the Spirit]. I usually am not a Carnival fan, but Alaska IS a completely different creature. If it interests you, try reading a review on CruiseCritic.com; it's one ship I'm not an expert on and I don't want to speak for it.

Hope these thoughts help you a bit.
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Old Mar 4th, 2004, 01:07 AM
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Actually, the age on HAL is quite similar to the other lines- some of all ages. Including Carnival who has a majority of middle aged and above. I will add- on a one way- I feel 10 days isn't enough to add especially if including traveling and sailing days- 5 days is the least so to get to Denali Park without a marathon trip and the ability to tour elsewhere. You can't go wrong with added days and going independent can yield big savings allowing you to do so.
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Old Mar 4th, 2004, 09:47 PM
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I've been to alaska twice (RCCL both times) and I really don't think it matters which cruise line you chose. NCL is great and so is RCCL. I find Princess a little overpriced. Find the deal and route that makes you happy and go for it!
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Old Mar 4th, 2004, 11:12 PM
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Actually Princess is the one with frequent bargains- many more than all the other lines combined. $399-499 inside rates the last several years (I have taken 3 Sun sailings never over $500)
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Old Mar 5th, 2004, 03:07 AM
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I am single and 33.

I have sailed Princess and RCCL to Alaska - Princess was by far the better line for Alaska. It seemed that RCCL was just going through the motions and stopping at ports when Princess had a natualist on board, had many port talks on the ship, brought Libby Riddles on the ship in Juneau, offered more shore excursions and by far was a better experience.

I found the age group on Princess very diverse - lots of family generation cruises - children, parents, grandparents all on the cruise. On our RCCL cruise, we had tons of children that were not supervised and were running around the ship ringing door bells at midnight- waking people up, taking over the adult pool and the security were afraid of them, ect. . and didn't enforce anything. I was very disappointed in the ship experience on RCCL. Though Budget Queen always says - Alaska is all about everything you do off of the ship.

I also can confirm Budget Queen's pricing - last year, there were $399 and $499 Alaska pricing through Princess (for May, early June and Sept salings) and right now Princess has the lowest prices for cruises in May (several $499 prices) for one way then any other line.

I actually lucked out last year and my one way cruise with air booked on my own was cheaper then doing a RT out of Vancouver. I loved Glacier Bay and College Fiords and won't consider an Alaskan cruise that doesn't stop there.

Good luck in your planning.
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Old Mar 5th, 2004, 04:35 AM
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I just wanted to add my observation. Many people claim that it's more expensive to cruise one-way because you must fly from/to Alaska at the end/beginning of cruise. BUT, I've noticed that the RT cruises cost considerably more than the OW, thus effectively negating any concern about extra airfare. Also if you get an "open-jaw" ticket to ANC/SEA or VAN you might be surprised how little the difference is to just flying RT into VAN or SEA.
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Old Mar 5th, 2004, 04:41 AM
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Chris - that is exactly what I have seen. Right now from where I live, airfare for RT to Vancouver in May is about $440. To do an open jaw (fly to Anchorage, back from Vancouver) during the same time is $450. Cruises in May for one way on Princess is $499 a person. RT sailings are running about $800. Cheaper for me to do the one way.

The extra hour of flight is no biggie but gaining College Fiords and Glacier Bay is huge.
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