Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Travel Topics > Cruises
Reload this Page >

Which Alaska cruise ports should we "not miss"?

Which Alaska cruise ports should we "not miss"?

Jun 15th, 2012, 12:37 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 40
Which Alaska cruise ports should we "not miss"?

My husband and I are planning our first trip to Alaska, and to keep things easy during a hectic time at home, we would like to do a cruise. We are 32 and 33, live in New York, and need a break!

I'm seeing many similar ports come up on various cruise company itineraries... how do we pick a route? Can you recommend ports that you all really enjoyed, places you think we should either be sure to get to, or ones you think are miss-able? We are planning for a 7-day cruise for late August. Any advice on how to pick an itinerary would be wonderful.

Separately - advice on the best cruise lines for that region? We love good food, pretty swimming pools, nice surroundings and we definitely want help planning amazing excursions (good entertainment is a plus as well). I hear Silversea and Regent are top notch (but are they stuffy)?? And are they worth the premium price? How is Celebrity?

Many thanks to all in advance!
missbridgett is offline  
Jun 15th, 2012, 01:52 PM
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 159
You will probably need to make some compromises. I would pick a cruise line and then see where they go. We took Holland America to Alaska and thought the trip was great. We stopped in Kethican, Juneau, Sitka,Valdez, and Seward. We then took the tour to Fairbanks. It was great and we enjoyed every bit of it. However, I would have preferred to stop in Skagway and Valdez was not very interesting. From Seward we went by small boat down the Kenai peninsula and it was great.

HAL was great. The food and service were wonderful. More recently, the food on HAL trips had slipped a good bit. Two trips on Celebrity were good also. It ha sbeen a few years but the food was good. Probably you will get better food and service on the more upscale lines, but it is a value judgement on your part.
Reme is offline  
Jun 16th, 2012, 09:06 AM
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 4,469
I disagree, pick the cruiseline last. IF the high cost ones are doable, look at those itineraries first.

There are only 6 Alaska ports on 7 day inside passage trips. Each is very different from the other with excellent touring opportunities. IF funds are going to limit out, doing a costly cruise- I would suggest going with a cheaper cruise and include the excursions.

For the most scenic sailing a round trip Vancouver on HAL really can't be beat. These include Glacier Bay and Tracy Arm.

If a one way is a possibility, be sure to consider adding on time for mainland Alaska travel. It is hardly worth it to be all that way and not do so. There are cruisetours, be very careful and do your homework. Many people underestimate the transits and don't understand the inclusions. Also simple to go on your own.

Second consideration is the glacier sailing on a cruise. Glacier Bay is a highlight seeing at least 4 glaciers. Tracy Arm is narrow fjords sailing, with "maybe" a glacier view. I always highly recommend as "necessary", to pay for the costly add on Tracy Arm ship tour. Grossly superior transit. Then there is Hubbard, one massive 6++ mile wide glacier.

Determine what your priority is for this trip, then fit in the cruise that is best.

The above cruiser went years ago. None of the cruiselines have ported in Valdez in many years.

Demographics are similar on all lines with all ages sailing.
BudgetQueen is offline  
Jun 17th, 2012, 09:11 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,830
My favorite Alaska line is HAL and my favorite port of Sitka, with Skagway second.
boom_boom is offline  
Jun 18th, 2012, 08:31 AM
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 159
I recommended picking a cruise line first, as they seemed to place the amenities on the ship as a high priority. Cost would obviously be an element of their decision.
Reme is offline  
Jun 18th, 2012, 10:33 AM
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 9,682
You will get a lot of help from most cruise lines in terms of planning excursions. As for food most lines seem to have slipped a bit in recent yrs. though if you are considering top tier lines like Regent and Silverseas you could always use a mass market line and dine in their specialy restaurants at a surcharge but still save plenty over the overall cost of the upper tier lines.

Celebrtiy has been considered the best of the mass market lines and I would asuggest going to www.cruisecritic.com to read their reviews as aell as any other review of the ships you narrow it down to.

Besides Regent and Silverseas also consider Seabourn and Oceania for upper tier cruising. You may want to browse their websites as they are and have been having a lot of specails like 2 for 1 fares, free air etc. though the free air has usually been for European cruises.

As many of the lines stop in similar places I do agree with Reme in terms of picking the line as one of your priorites as you state what you you expect or want from a ship. Some people prefer a ship just in terms of a means to get them to a particular place and others want more. Its like a car. For me I prefer to get there but with some style. cheers, Larry
jacketwatch is offline  
Jun 19th, 2012, 04:52 AM
Join Date: May 2012
Posts: 8
My aunt also went to Sitka, Alaska last year and she was really satisfied. She told me there was quite and calm, with awesome nature. She was so eloquently that I wanted to go there, but may be, in late summer.
antondavis is offline  
Jun 19th, 2012, 06:16 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 40
Thanks so much, everyone! This is all really helpful. Lots of great ideas and suggestions here, and I really appreciate it! Can't wait to lock in the trip now!
missbridgett is offline  
Jun 19th, 2012, 06:41 AM
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 9,682
OK! It will be beautuful. Just one thing to miss. Thats the reindeer sausage.
jacketwatch is offline  
Jun 19th, 2012, 11:22 AM
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 2,739
Larry, Reindeer sausage is a "do not" miss although I prefer a "steak" over the sausage. The reindeer meatballs, on the iother hand, could be dry if nmt prepared properly.

In terms of ports not to miss. There isn't really any. The Galcier Bay is a do not miss but it is not a "port".
Eschew is offline  
Jun 19th, 2012, 12:57 PM
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 9,682
Well then all I can say is I wish you could have had mine. "Gamey" is an understatement.
jacketwatch is offline  
Jun 21st, 2012, 07:26 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 40
This is all so helpful (and exciting) - I can't thank you all enough!!

New question - I'm hearing that Glacier Bay is fab. Seems that Glacier Bay and Tracy Arm are perhaps the best/most scenic glacier stops? Are Hubbard and the "Inside Passage" not really that special?

I ask b/c we are now thinking Regent and SilverSeas, while quality, might be over our age range (true? not true?). We worry about excursions being geared to an older crowd and minimal younger activities on board (we could be wrong here). Seabourn and Oceana don't have options available. So wondering if maybe the next tier down - Celebrity or HAL - would be good. BUT the celebrity itinerary we were considering doesn't include either Glacier Bay OR Tracy Arm (but DOES include inside passage and Hubbard). Are we missing the boat if we don't see glacier bay or tracy?

We had hoped to combine the cruise with a Denali stay so we have to go either in or out of Seward or Anchorage (i think) and we are having a bit of trouble finding those ports with these top two glacier spots...

So I guess two questions:
1) Are Celebrity and/or HAL nice? Is one better than the other?
2) Glacier Bay and Tracy Arm are MUSTS, yes? Hubbard and Inside Passage alone are not quite as stellar as we'd like?

Thank you!!
missbridgett is offline  
Jun 21st, 2012, 08:02 AM
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 9,682
I haven't been to GB but we did cruise thru TA and lets just say I am so glad we did not miss it!

Alaska cruises in general tend to have more senior clientele on board.

Excursions are the best part of an Alaskan cruise so pick what you want to do the most. They can be sedate like bus tours or quite active like riding a dog sled so its really up to you. The more active the excursion the less likely it is to attract seniors I would think.

I am not sure what you are looking for onboard but all ships have a fitness center and probably aerobics or other active ventures so check the ships website or call to see what they do offer.

Both X and HAL are very nice. HAL just won an award for Alaskan tourism. See below.


Please ask away!!
jacketwatch is offline  
Jun 21st, 2012, 04:24 PM
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 2,739
Glacier Bay, Inside Passage, Tarcy Arm, they are all spectacular. Here is a bit of info you may want to know.

Glacier Bay is a National Park and the cruise lines have to apply (and bid) on permits to cruise inside Galcier Bay National Park. (The Park Ranger will board the ship and set up shop at the open deck during the cruise through the park.)

The Natioanl Park has set a quoto and a limit on number of ships per day taht is allowed to sail through there, as well as the ships have to meet certian enviromental requirements.

As far as I know, Princess and HAL holds the majority of the permits for years and continue to do so. Combined, they probably held more than 75% of the quotas. Other permit holders included Disney (and NCL?) but I don't beleive Celebrity or RCL held any permits (that's why they don't cruise Glacier Bay, and they can't). That also explain why ships that cruise through Glacier Bay is slightly more expensive, though not by very much.

Persoanlly, I would say Glacier Bay is a "must" if you have never been there. But that's me. The view is spectacular, Be forewarn that it will be cold, it will be breezy, dress warm inclduing ear muffs, gloves and heavier jackets.

As to Tracy Arm, depending on the time and weather, you have a roughly 1/3 chance of not getting there. (Some may say 50-50.) The biggest compliant we often heard about Tracy Arm is that the captain decide that it was too risky and ended up going elsewhere.

HAL, Celebrity, and Princess are all very similar. Age of passenegrs should not be a concern. You won't notice the kids much even with many family on board as it is summer holiday season.

However, the size of the ships may be a conern for you. All those mass amrket ships holds well over 2000 passeneger each while the Regent and SilverSeas etc holds considerable less. Pricness used to have a small ship that cruise though Alaska with only 700 passenegers. I think they don't do it any more.

Although there maybe 2000+ passengers on those big boats, I seldom find them too crowded, except at certain time or place, which you can avoid if you wish. Sometimes, crowd could be fun.

One suggestion I can give you is to "search" this forum for Alaska and see what other people had asked and what the answers were through the past few years here. It is quite uncanny that everyone ask the same questions and gets almoat the same answer. Searching through the forum will let you be more specific on your questions.

BudgetQueen is probably the one who's been to Alaska the most. I think she cruises to Alaska every year, sometime multiple times in a year.

I have only cruise through Alaska a few times, but learning something new every time.

You will probably be too busy during day light hours enjoying the scenery that you won't have time to do much of anything else. day light hours are longer as you go further north.

Most ships have a naturlist onboard and make sure you tune in to him/her as much as you can. Attend the talks and lectures and find out what are the time the ship is sailing through where, so you can be at the right place at the right time.

Here is a bit of shameless self promotion: below is a link to pictures I have posted on the web on Alaska. Feel free to browse, leave comemnt or download.

Eschew is offline  
Jun 25th, 2012, 12:54 PM
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 1
I have used World's Leading Cruise Lines for a few trips and they have been pain free for me. They have a great variety of ports in Alaska too!

TomPug is offline  
Jun 25th, 2012, 02:13 PM
Join Date: Aug 2009
Posts: 14
I think the difference between Regent and SS is the cabin size. The standard cabin on Regent is 300 sq ft. The bathrooms are HUGE, with a glass shower and separate tub. Regent is not at all stuffy. There are no formal nights, which you will not miss in Alaska. You will then have room for your lined raincoats! Having been on all the major cruiselines, I believe the extra bucks for Regent are well worth it.
Marcheline is offline  
Related Topics
Original Poster
Last Post
United States
Jul 2nd, 2019 10:56 PM
Dec 18th, 2009 12:21 PM
Nov 6th, 2008 07:00 AM
Mar 22nd, 2006 04:50 AM
United States
Feb 2nd, 2006 05:20 AM

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 04:48 PM.