Familly Alaska cruise, questions and concerns

Old Feb 3rd, 2016, 08:24 AM
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Familly Alaska cruise, questions and concerns

I'm starting to try and plan for a trip to Alaska with my family at the beginning of July 2016.(7 of us: husband 3 older children and their GF/Husbands). I have never traveled much of anywhere so this will be my first real "trip". This is also our first "big" trip as a family. I'll be paying for the cruise and airfare for everyone so it will be pretty expensive for me (over $10,000). We are thinking of staying about a week ( since most of the cruises are that long) but we can stay an extra week if we needed more time. I was thinking of traveling from NY (we live in NY) to Seattle. It seemed like the cheapest way to get there as a few cruises sail from Seward. Flights are about $500 R/T I think. Is this the best way to get there? Should we fly into someplace else? Any recommendations on cruise lines? I started looking at Royal Carribien and Norweign Cruise Line. Are there excursions that are must sees? ones to stay away from that aren't worth the money? I'm trying to aviod as many "touristy expenses" where they over charge you because your part of the cruise. With many of the cruises your not in port for very long. Should we think about doing our own self guided land tour before or after the cruise to get a real feel for Alaska or to see as much as we can while we are there. There seems like a bunch of things to do there but it's hard to choose with so many options. Since it's so much money for me I want to make the best choices I can. Still nervous that I'm making the right choice of going to Alaska versus Ireland. That was another choice of travel at about $15,000. We've always wanted to go there but my family though it would be too much planning for a first trip out of the U.S. Is Alaska as amazing as others have said? Is it just it's natural beauty that it offers or is there more to it? Any opinions or thoughts would be greatly appreciated. Thank You.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2016, 09:01 AM
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DW and I are planning a trip to Alaska (our first) about a month ahead of you. Our plans are to fly from Seattle to Anchorage and rent a car. We will not be taking a cruise.
You could all fly to Anchorage from Seattle or someplace else and take the cruise southbound to Seattle after doing some exploration on your own in central Alaska.
If you know your dates, you can buy shuttle bus or tour bus tickets for a trip into Denali NP.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2016, 09:30 AM
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First, a couple of basics. There are two types of Alaska cruises, round trips and one-ways. Both are typically 7 days in length.

There are round trip cruises offered out of both Seattle and Vancouver BC, but due to US maritime law the only one-way cruises either start or end in Vancouver, ending or starting in either Seward or Whittier, Alaska, both a short distance from Anchorage.

So if you want to include any time on your own in Alaska before or after the cruise, only Vancouver departures or arrivals will work.

In addition, the round trip cruise itineraries are different from Seattle than from Vancouver. Seattle departures travel to the west of Vancouver Island on open ocean, and only begin traveling through the "Inside Passage" once past the island. Vancouver departures travel on sheltered waters on the east (inland) side of Vancouver Island and are therefore more scenic and less bumpy than their Seattle counterparts.

The one-way vs. round trip options have very big budget ramifications, especially for big groups. Generally speaking, "land" costs once you get off the ship in Alaska tend to be quite high. Hotels, rental cars, accommodation... it's all priced quite expensively, and you really need at least a week to see enough things in Southcentral or Interior Alaska to justify the added time and cost. It's a big place, after all. Typical "land" itineraries include Denali National Park and part of the Kenai Peninsula, often Kenai Fjords National Park, which each, while spectacular, bring on their own logistical challenges.

And, of course, it changes the airfare picture; you need to go to an "open-jaw" plan - fly into Vancouver, back from Anchorage, or vice-versa.

Still nervous that I'm making the right choice of going to Alaska versus Ireland. That was another choice of travel at about $15,000. We've always wanted to go there but my family though it would be too much planning for a first trip out of the U.S. Is Alaska as amazing as others have said? Is it just it's natural beauty that it offers or is there more to it?

Well of course there's more to it; Alaska is several times the size of Ireland with a tenth of the population. There's a rich history - Native Alaskan cultures, gold rush pioneers, you name it. But it's quite spread out and requires some effort to experience.

I can't tell you what to do; obviously Alaska v. Ireland is really apples and oranges. Dublin is closer to New York than Anchorage and takes less time to get to/from. There are no glaciers or totem poles or 10,000 foot-high mountains in Ireland, but there are no Gaelic speakers or castles in Alaska. Pick 'em.

What I'd probably suggest for a first timer would be to fly to Vancouver (Cathay Pacific's nonstop 777s from JFK are priced reasonably and it's one of the world's best airlines) and book a round-trip cruise from Vancouver. You'll get a great sampling of scenery and towns, and by choosing a round trip it will be cheaper and simpler than the one-way-plus-land itineraries. You unpack once, that's it.

If you want to spend an extra week, then Vancouver itself is a fabulous city, or you can head up to Whistler for more mountain scenery, or head south to Seattle or southwest to Olympic National Park for some amazing scenery - mountains, rocky coast, unique rain forests, vampires ... and have a terrific combination vacation, Alaska plus the best of the Northwest. You could do this before or after the cruise.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2016, 10:20 AM
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>>Is Alaska as amazing as others have said? Is it just it's natural beauty that it offers or is there more to it?>Are there excursions that are must sees? ones to stay away from that aren't worth the money? I'm trying to aviod as many "touristy expenses" where they over charge you because your part of the cruise. With many of the cruises your not in port for very long. >Should we think about doing our own self guided land tour before or after the cruise to get a real feel for Alaska or to see as much as we can while we are there. There seems like a bunch of things to do there but it's hard to choose with so many options. Since it's so much money for me I want to make the best choices I can.>Still nervous that I'm making the right choice of going to Alaska versus Ireland. That was another choice of travel at about $15,000. We've always wanted to go there but my family though it would be too much planning for a first trip out of the U.S.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2016, 10:35 AM
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I forgot to say, however, that your $10,000 budget for 7 isn't likely to be adequate for a cruise + land time, whether the land time is in Alaska or Vancouver/Lower 48. You need (probably) to budget at least $1000 per person for the cruise, and $500-$600 for airfare, so that puts you at $10K right off the bat. Hotels, cars, food etc. on land would be on top of that.

That would be another reason to look at a round-trip cruise over a one-way one; all your food is provided. You can save money on shore "excursions" by, for example, riding the city bus in Ketchikan to see the totem poles at Totem Bight park or in Saxman village, or rent a car in Skagway and drive up to Emerald Lake or the Robinson Roadhouse ghost town in the Yukon, rather than shelling out hundreds for the Yukon-White Pass train, stuff like that. Remember that for land time in Canada before or after, the current US > Canadian dollar exchange rate is very much in the US' favor.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2016, 11:18 AM
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You might find this thread by another poster here helpful for less expensive excursions.

http://www.fodors.com/community/crui...-the-cheap.cfm

We did a cruise with family from Vancouver and a land package after from the cruise line a couple of years ago and as I recall it was close to $10,000 for the two of us. We did most of the shore activities on our own which was fine.

I don't know if you could get some kind of a group discount if you worked with a travel agent who has pull.

I should mention that DH absolutely hated the cruise portion of the trip, not that anything was wrong with the ship. He just felt caged up and unable to go where he wanted, when he wanted and for how long he wanted. He did enjoy the trip up to Denali though. We won't be cruising again until he's too old to remember the trip.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2016, 11:38 AM
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>>DH absolutely hated the cruise portion of the trip, not that anything was wrong with the ship. He just felt caged up and unable to go where he wanted
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Old Feb 3rd, 2016, 01:19 PM
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Have you looked at Princess; they go to Glacier Bay, which I would definitely recommend.

Respectfully, and I understand that this is a very expensive undertaking, consider not skimping on excursions. We did all booked on our own, no cruiseline excursions. It has been 10 years, and we still talk about whale watching with Captain Marv, flighseeing to see the bears salmon feed, and helicopter trip landing on a glacier.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2016, 01:40 PM
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Your budget is very very tight for seven people.

While adding a land portion in Alaska would be terrific . . . I honestly don't think you can fit that into your budget. (A vehicle for 7 + luggage would cost a fortune as would food and accommodations)

So I'd take Gardyloo's suggestion of a Round trip cruise out of Vancouver . . . just for practicality/logistics/budget reasons.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2016, 02:13 PM
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But when you stand in front of mountains which rise from sea level directly to heights of 6,000 metres in Alaska you will be filled with awe.

That's exactly what my snowshoe guide in Beaver Creek said a couple of weekends ago.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2016, 04:17 PM
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Apparently you have two identical threads. I wrote the following this morning and posted it on the other thread. Having given your situation more thought, I suggest (if you can afford it) you take a 7-day cruise out of Seattle or Vancouver. I have cruised on Carnival and Princess. They are both good, but I preferred the food and service on Carnival. Cruises seem to make their money on gambling, shore excursions, and alcohol. I don't gamble, I buy shore excursions on shore, and the cost of alcohol doesn't bother me because I don't drink much. I think a cruise is ideal for a group of seven. No matter how diverse your food and entertainment preferences are, there will be something for everybody (you won't all have to agree on where to eat and what to do). Enjoy the scenery. Sailing into and out of Skagway is a great treat, and Tracy Arm Fjord is magnificent. Enjoy. Following is what I wrote earlier:

Alaska cruises are expensive. I don't believe you will be able to treat seven adults to round-trip flights from NYC and a 7-day cruise for $10,000 (unless, perhaps, you book inside cabins).

There are cruises that leave from and return to Seattle or Vancouver.

We took a Princess cruise from Seattle last year that went to Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, and cruised beautiful Tracy Arm Fjord. It was a very good experience.

We are now considering a cruise on Holland America that includes the places we visited on Princess plus the Inside Passage (both ways) and Glacier Bay.
It leaves from and returns to Vancouver, BC.

I have investigated flying to Anchorage and booking cruises from there and from nearby Seward. However, it is complicated to do and I did not find a savings when when considers how relaxing it is to be on a cruise ship where everybody is working overtime to give you a good experience.

HTtY

PS Ireland is a wonderful place to visit, too
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Old Feb 3rd, 2016, 04:27 PM
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Sorry - Ireland is NOT Bakersfield. Nothing against Alaska but IMHO Ireland is a fascinating country with incredible things to see and do.

Only you and your family can decide how you really want to spend your time and money.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2016, 05:21 PM
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I saw your post as I logged in to research information for a trip I'm planning; it caught my eye since I was part of an extended family cruise trip to Alaska several years ago, plus I went with family to Ireland. I'll share my own personal thoughts/experiences.

Both are worthwhile places to visit, and they ARE very different. We did the flight to Vancouver, cruise (on Royal Caribbean) through the Inside Passage, and the cruise line land portion afterward, so we were there for almost two weeks. It was very expensive, and you spend a LOT of time traveling. Of course you are traveling while on the cruise, but for the land portion you are constantly traveling as well. As others point out, there is much ground to cover. The highlights that stand out in my mind after the trip have more to do with the "extras" we decided to splurge on -- the helicopter flight to a glacier, the airplane flight over Denali, the salmon-fishing trip, the whale-watching tour -- than they do of the cruise itself or, frankly, of the ports in which we stopped. I do not want to offend anyone - Alaska is spectacular -- but the towns themselves are very basic (not scenic) and since they are cruise stops, overloaded with "touristy" stuff close to where the cruise ships dock. To get out of that (jewelry shops, etc.) environment you have to spend some money.

We LOVED LOVED LOVED Vancouver. We spent only 2 nights there before our cruise departed. I would go back to Vancouver for a vacation. We stayed in a hotel along the seawall and rode bikes through Stanley Park and it was fabulous. If you add time on your trip, I'd recommend Vancouver.

Which trip you take depends on the people going and their/your interests; but if you have always wanted to go to Ireland, don't be intimidated because it is in another country. It's a GREAT country, with scenic countryside, fun people, cities, lively pubs, history, music and I don't think it would be as expensive as Alaska for your group. I would like to go back to Ireland. My bottom line -- if you have always wanted to go to Ireland, go to Ireland!
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Old Feb 3rd, 2016, 06:29 PM
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Thank you so much to everyone who has replied. I really appreciate the responses and all the details you have given me to think about. It's so valuable to have insight from others who have been there versus a website review on a cruise line. Sorry it was tagged in the NY forum too, I thought I was supposed to since that's where we are traveling from. Still kind of torn as to where to go. I know the two places are very different just a little nervous to spend all that money which it's as easy to come by these days. My DH says we should take an RV trip around a national park and call it a day. Spend the money on something else like a new roof. (no fun)
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Old Feb 4th, 2016, 04:25 AM
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Yes, Alaska IS expensive, although you can save a lot of money by not taking the overpriced cruise excursions.

But Alaska is a one-in-a-lifetime experience. We have been travelling all over the world, but I can think only of one another trip that compared to Alaska, that was Namibia, also with breathtaking scenery and wildlife, albeit different.

As others have written, you will memorize your Alaska trip for the rest of your life - at least if you do a little more (or different) than just a cruise.
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