Alaska Cruise Recommendations - Help

Old Feb 10th, 2012, 08:41 AM
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Alaska Cruise Recommendations - Help

We are a mid 50's couple who travel quite a bit, but have never done a cruise. We're in the initial steps of planning an Alaskan cruise in June of 2013. Is May too risky weather wise?
There seem to be lot of options, so could use some assistance.
First of all, is there a big difference between departing out of Seattle, Vancouver or Whitter also weighing airline fares into the equation?
Norwegian seems to be the cruise line of choice. Any opinions on this or particualar Norwegian ships?
Lastly is the routing. Our primary interest is viewing of wildlife, glaciers and nature in general. Excursions are not a priority as we have driven part of the Alaska interior.
Balcony room will be a must. What is the best avenue to obtain the lowest rates? Travel agent or suggested websites? Can you do that much better with packages?
Any other suggestions or information you can offer will be appreciated.
Thanks in advance
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Old Feb 10th, 2012, 11:04 AM
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We cruised with NCL and enjoyed its laid-back approach compated to other lines we had used for other cruises. We departed from Seattle because we live here. Vancouver is such a fun place to visit that I would lean heavily toward departing from there.

Weather in Southeast Alaska is always a guessing game, with those guessing low clouds and drizzle winning most of the time. However, there can be glorious days...I learned to fly in Juneau and you can't do that without fairly good weather.
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Old Feb 10th, 2012, 11:36 AM
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I don't know why you say NCL is the cruise line of choice. We traveled with Princess and were very satisfied with the ship and the route. I've never read of anyone being disappointed.

The best forum for cruise forums is

Very friendly people who can answer any question you have about cruising.
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Old Feb 10th, 2012, 01:40 PM
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Agree with Connie that you check CruiseCritic.

We cruised Princess from Vancouver in August and had wonderful weather. We flew SW into Seattle and a Princess bus took us to Vancouver for a nominal fee. (The SW tix was frequent flier, so couldn't pass it up).

Relaxed atmosphere, not really dressed up on board at all. I planned all of our shore excursions using recommendations from Cruise Critic. We did helicopter landing on a glacier, whale watching cruise, railway sightseeing and bear watching. All are memorable and, though expensive, I wouldnt trade for anything.

You will love Alaska, and I agree that sitting on your balcony coming into a town is a real treat.
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Old Feb 10th, 2012, 01:59 PM
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We have done several warm-water cruises and then did Princess one-way Whittier-Vancouver. Alaska cruise atmosphere on ship is totally different than warmer cruises - it is laid back, people are much less interested in alcohol, wardrobes and partying - they want to see Alaska. As an example, we were looking for a bar on-board to buy our just-21 year old son a drink - and at mignight everything was closing down.

The excursions thing is tough - there really is nothing in most port towns except t-shirt shops and jewelery stores. So if you are comfortable sitting on the ship or just wandering thru these type shops, you will be fine without buying other excursions - which admittedly are quite expensive whether done thru cruiseline or independently.

We cruised over the summer solstice and it never got 100% dark - so we could see scenery float by 24 hours/day.
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Old Feb 10th, 2012, 03:08 PM
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We did a Princess cruise last summer in early June. We chose the one way from Vancouver that goes into Glacier Bay. To me, seeing Glacier Bay was a big priority, and that influenced my choice of cruise line and itinerary.

My understanding about the cruises from Seattle, is they are mostly roundtrip, and don't get as far up the coast as the one way, or roundtrips from Vancouver. The further north you go, the better the scenery, so that is a big reason for choosing Vancouver.
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Old Feb 10th, 2012, 04:27 PM
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We did a last minute cruise (booked and sailed one month later July 2010) on Holland America and got a really good deal on the price. They had the good deals last summer too. This was our first cruise and we were surprised how much we loved it. We want to go again! We drove to Vancouver so don't know if a package deal would be good or not.

We did a 7 night round trip out of Vancouver to Alaska because it went to the ports I wanted to go to verses the ports out of Seattle. Look at the ports and decide where you want to go. Because we got such a good deal on a balcony we did three excursions and still saved money.

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Old Feb 10th, 2012, 04:56 PM
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One major consideration is that due to US maritime law, all the cruises out of Seattle are round-trips which only get as far as SE Alaska (Skagway is the farthest port typically.) Departing from Vancouver, one can do round-trips or one-way trips, terminating in Whittier or Seward (or v.v.) The Seattle routes usually travel to the west of Vancouver Island (i.e. open ocean) on at least one direction, whereas the Vancouver departures usually follow the "inside passage" all the way - i.e. to the east of Vancouver Island.

In general airfares are cheaper to Seattle, often by an amount that still allows for the cost of surface transport between Seattle and Vancouver (train, bus, rental car). However flying in/out of Seattle often adds a full day in terms of time commitment, and also an extra night or two, so those costs need to be evaluated as well.

Both Seattle and Vancouver offer much to visitors before or after their cruises; on the other hand with a rental car, a one-way cruise can be part of a much more extensive vacation in Alaska, for those who take the one-way option to or from Vancouver.

Hope this is helpful.
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Old Feb 11th, 2012, 07:44 AM
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I sailed round trip out of Seattle in late August, 2009 on Holland America. We loved it. Glacier Bay is spectacular! We had great weather and a wonderful cruise. We stopped in Juneau, Sitka (lovely town), Ketchikan and Victoria, BC. I would take this cruise again iin a heartbeat. The service on Holland America was excellent and I can highly recommend.
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Old Feb 11th, 2012, 08:26 AM
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We've done only one Alaska cruise and it was with the Semester at Sea ship, the MV Explorer.

It was a wonderful cruise because there were many educational seminars/talks specific to each port that we were going to as well as on the general history/biology/botany/etc of Alaska.

The MV Explorer also spent more time in each port than the other cruise ships. Rates for docking were charged by the hour, so the larger cruise ships tended to stay for only half a day while the MV Explorer would dock for an entire day at most of the ports.

The MV Explorer also tended to dock at the shoreline piers instead of out in the bays/Sound where, again, it was cheaper for the cruise line but it meant that the passengers had to be ferried back and forth by Zodiacs.

The shore excursions were also tailored to be educational ones rather than just taking an excursion for fun.

The kids loved it and they learnt so much.

I don't know if the MV Explorer will be sailing to Alaska during the time of your trip. If it is not, then I suggest that you look for a cruise ship that is more focused on giving some educational information and also try and gauge how much time the ship will be spending in each port. Some ports are more fun to explore, other ports are better for excursions. Look into cruise ships that will provide you with what you are interested in in terms of excursions or just wandering around taking in the local sights.

Hope this helps a bit.
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Old Feb 11th, 2012, 08:46 AM
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We did a cruise from Vancouver to Seward on Celebrity last summer. I should add that we decided that we were not cruise people, but found Alaska wonderful.

If you are not going to do excursions with the cruise line, be aware that there are plenty of opportunities to do things on your own. Do a little research on each port and find out what there is to do in each place. For example there are city busses that go out to Mendenhall glacier from Juno regularly and quite inexpensively. It is a short trip and you could spend as much or little time there as you wish. In Skagway there was a little bus that went from the dock to several places around town for $5 for all day. We used it to go out and see the gold dredge and did a tour there for $20 (my brother paid at least twice as much to take the trip with the cruise ship)

Be prepared for rain/drizzle.

We did not see much wildlife from the ship, a few whales, some sea birds, but had to get off to see Bears and eagles (near Mendenhall glacier).

We did take the land tour and saw lots of wildlife in Denali, moose, bears, dall sheep, eagles, ets.

Have a great trip.
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Old Feb 11th, 2012, 10:35 AM
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For a complete list and cruising details of all the lines (21) and all the cruiseships (45) in the Alaska trade this year, visit Pages within the website include ports of call, shore excursions, cruisetours, family cruising, cruising Alaska by ferry, weather, hours of daylight, and much more.
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Old Feb 11th, 2012, 07:43 PM
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I agree that Glacier Bay is an important consideration. Not all ships go there.
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