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Best Cruise Lines/Ships for Cruising Alaska's Inner Passage

Best Cruise Lines/Ships for Cruising Alaska's Inner Passage

Old Mar 6th, 2013, 12:41 PM
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Best Cruise Lines/Ships for Cruising Alaska's Inner Passage

My family and I are starting to consider possibly doing a cruise along Alaska's Inner Passage this summer. We would appreciate any recommendations for cruise lines or particular ships. We are a family of four; our kids are aged 18 and 15. We would also appreciate suggestions on what to do during a short pre-cruise or post-cruise period in Alaska.
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Old Mar 6th, 2013, 12:55 PM
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Many of the large cruise lines seem to make similar stops, but some have license to go into Glacier Bay and some go go Hubbard Glacier. There are smaller, and generally more expensive ships that have less glitz and more nature along the way.

You will need to get off the ship and do some exploring along the way. The cruise lines have tours at every stop. Many of these are very expensive and some can be done very easily on your own as there are people at every dock selling tours, usually for less than the ship.

Before or after, I would want to go to Denali and take the park service bus trip into the park.
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Old Mar 6th, 2013, 01:00 PM
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I suggest you go to the www.cruisecritic.com site for an absolute myriad of 'recommendations' regarding ships from both professional travel writers as well as former passengers.

Just be aware that every reviewer has a different perspective; some seem reasonable and some will seem absolutely absurd.
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Old Mar 6th, 2013, 01:57 PM
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With children, I'd suggest looking into the MV Explorer, the ship that does those "Semester At Sea" programs. It doesn't always sail the Inside Passage to Alaska. Highly educational and spends the most time onshore with some of the best onshore programs.

You want to know how long the ship is going to be docked at each port. Every hour that the ship is docked costs the shipline money, so many of these cruise ships give you at most half a day onshore. A quick dash into all those shops, then out again, and back onboard to continue onward. You also want to look into what activities the ship provides for teenagers.

Every stop has its own fascination and history, so the more time you can spend onshore, the better.

The rest of the cruise lines generally engage in some sort of imitation Las Vegas shows to keep their passengers happy. Plenty of food and booze. We know of a couple who have been cruising the Inside Passage 26 or 36 or however many times and they hardly ever set foot on land. They just go for the food and drink and entertainment.

You probably want to avoid Princess Cruises, which is more for the elderly. Food, not so great. At the other end is Carnival Cruises, which is for the young set, but really, really for drinking - one glass for each hair on a man's chest, that sort of thing.

Royal Caribbean is a bit more sedate and also attracts a cross-generational group. This would probably be the best fit for your family apart from the MV Explorer.

There are also the Holland American ships with its 'dam ships, the "Rotterdam", the "Amsterdam" etc, and the Celebrity ships which are a bit more "hoity-toity" (though not the hoitest-toitest by far).

If any in your family is prone to seasickness, then it's best to stick with these larger ships and not take any of the smaller ships.

Hope this helps a bit.
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Old Mar 6th, 2013, 02:35 PM
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This will be a fabulous vacation for your family. My husband and I are visiting Alaska for the first time this summer. We decided to do a land tour instead of a cruise but I did look into cruising and hope to do that in the future. It is definitely the best way to see SE Alaska.

It seems to me that the best itineraries with the best scenery are the cruises that go one way between Vancouver and Alaska and visit Glacier Bay. Not every cruiseline has access to Glacier Bay and for me that would be a must do. I believe Princess, Holland America and a few NCL ships have that access.

Pre and post cruising can be done in Vancouver/in the Kenai Peninsula, visiting Seward and Whittier/and Denali. All the forums seem to recommend planning your own land tour, rather than booking through the cruiseline.

Car rentals are very expensive in Alaska. If you fly into Anchorage, renting downtown rather than the airport can save some money and you are able to return the car to the airport when you depart.
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Old Mar 11th, 2013, 05:50 PM
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Thanks to everyone for your comments so far! I particularly appreciate the comments about particular cruise lines -- we've only done a single cruise before, so we're not very familiar with the market niche or clientele of the various cruise lines.
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Old Mar 11th, 2013, 05:59 PM
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And here's another question: is there any reason to prefer southbound to northbound cruises, or vice versa?
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Old Mar 11th, 2013, 07:58 PM
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An initial decision is whether to do a round trip/return cruise from Seattle or Vancouver, or a one-way trip between Vancouver and Seward or Whittier in Alaska. (There are no one-way cruises between Seattle and Alaska due to federal maritime law.)

The round trips from Seattle generally travel to the west of Vancouver Island - i.e. on open ocean - in at least one direction. They return to the Inside Passage north of the island, but you miss quite a lot of lovely scenery in the process. Both the round trips and one-ways from (to) Vancouver pass to the east (inside) of Vancouver Island.

The one-way trips, either northbound or southbound, cross the Gulf of Alaska, usually at night. The Gulf is very big water, and things can rock and roll a bit.

Traveling on a one-way cruise affords you the opportunity to visit Southcentral and Interior Alaska (Anchorage, Kenai Peninsula, Prince William Sound, Denali, etc.) before or after the cruise. The round trip cruises only travel as far as Southeast Alaska (the "panhandle") within the 7-night cruise period. (The one-ways are also 7 nights.) On the other hand, you're there, so it's typical to travel around Southcentral/Interior Alaska in conjunction with the one-way cruises, requiring more time, and also necessitating hotel and air arrangements, leading to a higher overall cost.

So it's kind of a "strategic" choice.
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Old Mar 11th, 2013, 08:02 PM
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Lindblad sales from Juneau to Sitka so much more of an Alaskan experience the whole time.
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Old Mar 11th, 2013, 08:46 PM
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We went with Celebrity Cruise Line- it was very nice- no particular complaints. We booked all of our excursions through the cruise line as it was just less hassle and we knew we had it all lined up before hand. However, many excursions can be booked through private vendors who will be lined up outside the cruse line.

We flew to Anchorage, did a couple of days on our own in Homer and then joined the tour.
The kids will like Husky Homestead in the Denali area- presentation on how the sled dogs are trained - and you get to hold the puppies. I thought it was very interesting!!

A whale watch trip for sure. We saw the humpbacks doing "bubble net feeding." YouTube that for a visual- it was amazing to see.!!

I like the train ride at Skagway but not sure teenagers would love that- maybe they should try a kayak trip.
We did a float plane trip with a landing on a remote fiord
We did a Denali Park tour- I thought very interesting. Had a grizzly feeding right outside my window on the bus- had limited views of the mountain.
Cousin did a bear viewing excursion and loved it- $600/day is more than I could afford however, I understand if the flights are not completely booked the day before tour, you can book for 1/2 price- she did that out of Homer.
Instead of doing a tour to Mendenhall Glacier- we just took a bus- easy to do, less expensive .

In Talkeetna we did a raft trip- fun- sounds like something teenagers would like- very cute town. We were there on the 4th of Jul.

We loved the Homer area- we did our trip the end of June-first week of July
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Old Mar 13th, 2013, 07:15 AM
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Off course it all depends on time AND budget...

When I think ab. a 2 weeks vacation and 2 more days for possible flights, I could advice to start with the cruise -depart from Vancouver- to Seward/Alaska and add a one week trip with an RV.
We did the cruise as suggested here after and it was great in any possible way!
"The Radiance of the Seas" is a floating 5* juwel with fantastic crew and where food is outstanding!
The beauty of the Inside Passage is also the fact that it is endless, mystic and large. The ports are well chosen and worth a visit, excursions are in all sort of cat. and f.i. Juneau - Capital of Alaska- is quite interesting, specially because one only can get there by plane or ship...
I could give you some interesting advice for booking, as well for the ship, excursions...


For the post-cruise I would suggest to make a choice between doing a part of Alaska, or touring and trying to see as much as possible, so that you would have an idea, may be for a later and longer vacation.

Are you looking for something unforgetable and willing to spend the money...go to the bears...
We stayed 2 days (2011). Words can't explain the joy; the magical feeling!
We have been there with our daughters and the memorable experience got us closer than ever before...


Anyway, Alaska is big and planning is crucial, but if you would like to go and do the cruise, don't wait much longer or you will be to late...

Hope this was helpfull. If you would like anymore help/information, don't hesitate to ask!
BTW, cruise will cost ab. $7.200 (cabin with 4)

Have a nice day.
Rudy (4.08PM)
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Old Mar 14th, 2013, 06:57 PM
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Thanks for the comments. I would be interested in any advice about booking -- I was wondering whether you should book now (for an August trip), or wait until May when the cruise lines might start to cut their rates substantially to fill any unoccupied berths?
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Old Mar 15th, 2013, 04:12 AM
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I have been getting all sorts of emails about Alaska cruise discounts since I had originally planned to do a cruise this summer in Alaska. I would contact an agent now and see what is available. I also encourage you to read the posts on www.cruisecritic.com . Lots of cruising information there.

A cruise is really the best way to see SE Alaska. You use your ship to get to the ports and then you need to take the excursions. These tours, I would definitely book on my own--not through the cruiseline.

After a cruise, many people seem to enjoy a week driving and staying on the Kenai Peninsula and Denali. After researching, we have decided not to cruise this year and spend 2 weeks travelling around this area. We would still love to take an Alaska cruise someday.

I also notice some info here that I disagree with. Princess Cruises is a very good line for Alaska. They go to Glacier Bay--this would be a priority for me. So does Holland America and one ship in the Norwegian line.

The greatest cruises in my opinion are the small ships that are mentioned here but they are out of our price range.
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