Which Alaska cruise for June 2006?

Sep 22nd, 2004, 11:44 AM
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Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 36
Which Alaska cruise for June 2006?

Hi cruisers,

I'm a bit overwhelmed in choosing a cruise for my trip next year (haven't found a travelmate yet), so I'm hoping you can help me. I have never been to Alaska; have done several Caribbean cruises and a Med. cruise; sailed on Carnival (years ago!!), NCL, RCCL, Celebrity (my favorite cruise company!), and Princess (didn't like them).

I'm interested in a 7-night cruise. I'm 48, so I'd like to be on a ship with an age group closer to my age rather then the average of over 80.

Is there any one book I should purchase that can help me narrow down which cruise to take? Or which ports to visit?

Also, I'd like to get a balcony cabin, which I understand is a "must" for Alaska. As for my budget, I'd like to keep costs down, but can afford a balcony room. Are the shore excursions expensive?

Can I visit most ports on my own or will I need to either do a ships tour or find a tour operator in those ports?

Is there a large difference in price starting a cruise in one port versus another? Or will that depend on the cost of an airline ticket?

I know I have a million questions, but I hope you can answer some of these.

Thank you very much,
MaryJG is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2004, 04:36 PM
Join Date: Sep 2004
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We just returned from a cruisetour on Friday, Sept 17. We were on RCCL and enjoyed it very much. There was a wide range of ages - from 20's to late 70's.

If I had it to do again, I would select an itinerary that includes Glacier Bay. We did not know enough when we booked our cruisetour to think about that.

Most of the ports we visited were overrun with gift shops and jewelry stores. The ship encouraged shopping at the stores they "endorse" - which really means that the store pays a fee to the cruiseline to be included on their endorsed list.

We enjoyed Juneau because of the excursions we took there. Whale watching with Capt Larry from Orca Enterprises is a MUST!!! They guarantee that you will see whales, or they refund part of your fee. We were incredibly fortunate to see both humbacks and orcas. Orca Enterprises can also coordinate a helicopter flight with a glacier landing so that you can do both of these in one day and get back to the ship on time. You need to book this yourself - they do not book through the cruise lines. Shore excursions are pretty pricey. There are lots of tour companies that will compete for your business after you get off the ship. Benefits are that you can book what you want to do based on the weather that day and prices might be lower; disadvantage is that the quality of the tour might be lower. Two of our dinner partners had a bad experience this way. There are also walking tours you can do in the ports if you don't want to go on an excursion.

I would encourage you to get a balcony if you can afford it. We loved ours.

Since we took a cruisetour, I can't comment on price of starting a cruise only in one port vs another. You probably know that airfare is expensive, esp. because you don't do a true "round trip," i.e., you will fly to one city and return from a different city.

My best advice - GO FOR IT!!! We thought this was going to be a once in a lifetime experience, but we liked it so much that we want to go back in a few years.

BeachDreamer is offline  
Sep 23rd, 2004, 04:18 AM
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Join Date: Mar 2004
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First of all, I meant to write June 2005, not 2006.

Thanks Beachdreamer for your input. Can you tell me what kind of prices you paid for your tours? Also I understand that only Princess goes into Glacier Bay. Correct? If so, I?ll have to do Glacier Bay another time. I really don?t want to book with Princess after my bad experience. I would love to do a whale watching tour! Orca Enterprises sounds like a good company if they partially refund your money.

I thought ?open jaws? was cheaper (flying into one city and out of another). It?s been a while since I did an open jaws trip, so I?ll have to check into that.

How was the food on RCCL? I sailed on RCCL back in the mid 1990?s and enjoyed it. Food then was ?okay? but not fabulous. I really loved dining on Celebrity.

Thanks again! I hope to hear from others. I definitely will check into a cruisetour.

MaryJG is offline  
Sep 23rd, 2004, 06:43 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 216
We did Alaska on Celebrity Mercury about four years ago. We had previously done Caribbean on Celebrity Mercury and two on Carnival. I wanted to do Princess for Alaska because the research I did really pointed to them as the leader in cruise lines for Alaska. The reason we did not choose Princess is that we had our 13 year old daughter and needed a balcony cabin that would accomodate three passengers. I couldn't find that on Princess without spending a bundle and since we had sailed on Mercury before and were very happy with Celebrity we went with that.

I would recommend the one-way cruise (some lines offer round-trip inside passage). When we cruised we did Glacier Bay on our itenerary, however, a friend cruised the same ship this summer and it was round-trip, inside passage.

I did my air with American on frequent flyer miles into Vancouver and out of Anchorage. They were wonderful on accomodating me and even holding my seats for a couple of months until I had enough miles accumulated to qualify for free flights. (This was prior to 9/11).

We did all of our own shore excursions. In one port (I think it was Skagway) we rented a car and drove into the Yukon territory thru some beautiful scenery. My regret on the shore excursions is that we didn't do a helicopter glacier tour. They were just so expensive that I could not justify that expense for the three of us. In Juneau, they had busses that you could pay I think just $5.00 to go to the glacier park.

One of the hardest parts to arrange was the rental car at the end one-way from Seward to Anchorage. If you are by yourself, the train may make the most sense, but doesn't give the flexibility.
paige is offline  
Sep 23rd, 2004, 11:08 AM
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Posts: 372
Hi Mary,
We cruised Carnival this past July. We chose the northbound one way 7 day cruise which ended in Whittier. Average age on board was probably 55. We're in our late 40's. I believe Carnival sails Glacier Bay earlier in the season. Budget Queen will probably answer that question better. We enjoy Carnival cruises but I know a lot of people on this board don't - to each his own. We had a balcony cabin this cruise - our first. We had friends with us that chose an inside cabin. They said if they had to do it over again they'd choose a balcony. We booked our open jaw flight with ff miles also - into Vancouver and home from Anchorage. We booked excursions on our own, with the ship and toured one on our own. There is a host of information on this board but probably more on cruisecritic.com. Budget Queen frequents both boards and is the resident expert on Alaska - heed her advice. We also included a few days pre cruise in Vancouver and post cruise to Denali and Seward. We did not regret it. Wonderful vacation! Alaska is beautiful and you won't regret going no matter which ship, which itinerary or excursions because you'll want to return. Have fun planning - that's half the fun of vacations IMHO
PamT is offline  
Sep 24th, 2004, 04:10 AM
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Thanks so much for your replies. This gives me a good start for my research. Yes Pam, planing is half the fun! I like the idea of a pre-cruise where ever we are. I live on the east coast so why not take advantage after a trip to the west coast.

MaryJG is offline  
Sep 25th, 2004, 03:55 AM
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 359
Many cruise lines go into Glacier Bay. Holland America, a very nice line. Older folks but not too old. NCL also goes in Glacier Bay. Getting to be a younger crowd and a little noisy for us. I'm sure there are others. Someone travelled on Raddison and they are all balcony rooms and the person really liked that line. I haven't tried it, but it is one of the top lines.
We book some tours on the ship but most of them off the ship. We like to walk around and shop and talk to the local people. For seeing anything, tours are about the best. They are set up to see the most important things in the shortest time and get you back in time to the ship. Liz
Liz_Frazier is offline  
Sep 25th, 2004, 04:01 AM
Join Date: Jul 2004
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Oops, you can tell I've never cruised on Radisson, I keep spelling it Raddison. Sorry.
Liz_Frazier is offline  
Sep 25th, 2004, 05:10 AM
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Posts: 4,469
You need to determine how much time you want to invest? Myself, I would never consider any one ways without at least 5 additional days interior touring. Take advantage of being all the way there and don't just pass through. Round trip Vancouver cruises (for cruise only vacations) are my clear preference over Seattle round trips- more inside passage sailing. HAL does Glacier Bay- again my preference. I have cruised Alaska 10 times on 4 different lines- MOST important is what is outside the ship. Ports, time in ports, glacier, route, price. Budget fully for costly excursions- you get only half a trip without them. They can run big money- but seldom do you hear of bad reviews and frequently you hear of regrets for not going. I never book ship excursions- always direct with venders. There are more than enough excellent tours that could fill 20 trips- so any trip will be a big compromise. Head to your library, take out Fodors and Frommers Alaska.
BudgetQueen is offline  
Sep 26th, 2004, 09:33 AM
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 102
We sailed on Holland to Alaska this past July - they go into Glacier Bay -wonderful cruise and we were well satisfied with everything on the ship - all ages on board - very few children. We did some port touring on our own and some with the ship. When we got to Seward - we did a rental car and toured for another week on our own. I would recommend Holland as a choice.
applejack is offline  
Sep 27th, 2004, 06:21 AM
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Join Date: Mar 2004
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Thanks again everyone for your comments. I'll definitely go out and buy a book to read. I think you are right BudgetQueen in adding extra days for interior sightseeing.
Will start saving for the trip!

MaryJG is offline  
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