General Question

josie's avatar

What is the best Alaska cruise?

Asked by josie (27686points) May 16th, 2017

GF would like to take an Alaskan cruise.
She’s from the Middle East, has had it to here with sand, and has no interest in the tropics. Come to think of it, I have had about enough of sand myself.
Personally, I would rather go hunting and fishing in Alaska.
But she puts up with me, plus I am trying to find peace in my life.
Might be good for me.
If you have done it, or heard about it, what is a good one to research

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8 Answers

Tropical_Willie's avatar

I’ve done research also have a couple of friends that have or will be going.

They all booked the year before for exterior/view cabins.

The got combo package with train trip too.

One that went two years ago used Norwegian Cruise Lines.The other is going in late July this year used Princess.

Rarebear's avatar

They all go to the same places, more or less. When we did it we tacked on a second trip. We were going to go to the Kenai peninsula, but a volcano eruption kept us from going. We went to Denali, came back, and then went on the cruise. Landed in Vancouver or Seattle. Can’t remember which. It’s fun.

filmfann's avatar

It depends on what she wants to see.
You can take excursions inland, which is great for seeing bears.
Most cruises don’t go even as far as Anchorage.

janbb's avatar

I’ve always heard that the smaller (more expensive) ships are much better for Alaska. The big cruise ships only go into ports for a day and you pay extra for the excursions while the small ships go further up in to the fjords and you see more. Plus you don’t spend half the day getting on and off the boat. I also would go for a cruise and land package.

Rarebear's avatar

@filmfann Actually, what I meant by Anchorage is I flew into Anchorage and then went to the port which is about an hour west. You’re right, they don’t go to anchorage.

JLeslie's avatar

I LOVED my Alaskan cruise. I took Holland America from the Vancouver port. Vancouver is super wonderful also. If you have the time you might want to spend a couple of days there before the cruise sets sail.

The cruise I took went through the inside passage.

Whichever cruise you pick, I recommend one of the stops be Glacier Bay.

Also, the whale watching In Juneau was unbelievable. We might have hit a lucky day, but the whales were everywhere.

My cruise was a week long, but some cruises have a few days train ride also. I’ve heard mixed reviews on that. Not to be confused with a 3 hour round trip train ride I did where you go through the mountains, and it’s the train people looking for gold used many years ago. We also went horseback riding.

It was great.

If you want to go hunting that might influence which part of the state is best to visit? I have no idea. You could spend a few days in Alaska off the cruise too. I know a few people boarded the cruise on our first stop I think? If there is space I think you can join the cruiseship at various ports. You would have to call the cruise line directly to see about that if you think your interested.

I highly recommend a cruise that has open seating for dinner so you aren’t locked into a time. Some people like the lock in, because then you sit with the same people every night. I like the variety of meeting new people, and at times we had a table just to ourselves also.

Book it! I really think you’ll enjoy it. Try to go in June or early to mid July. The inside passage is in a temperate rainforest, so it rains quite a bit. We had a drizzle only one day, the rest were beautiful and sunny.

rojo's avatar

@josie a couple of thoughts.

We took a trip where we rented a van and camped out for two weeks in Alaska and followed it up with a cruise back down the coast to Seattle. Two weeks of fending for yourself topped off with a week of pampering and overeating. Icing on a cake.

As someone else mentioned (@Tropical_Willie) you can get a combo land/sea tour through the cruise lines. These are tightly scheduled, you will not be able to customize what you do, where you go or how long you stay. You go where they say you will and when they say you will.

If you choose to do a southbound trip be sure to end up in the US (Seattle) and not in Vancouver. Getting over the border back into the US has been a time consuming royal pain in the ass both times we have done it. If you do choose a cruise that ends up in Canada, pay the extra to fly back from there. A couple of years ago it cost a little over an additional $100.00 per person to fly from Vancouver over Seattle but in retrospect would have been well worth it.

Northbound trips give you the choice of either leaving from Seattle or Vancouver. It is cheaper to fly to Seattle and you can rent a car or take the train to Vancouver. Crossing the border this way means being prepared to wave at the border guards as you whip across. Or you can just fly into Vancouver for a little extra.

Round trip cruises give you the advantage of returning to the same port and make booking air passage a little simpler. The downside is that you actually spend less time in Alaska, Seattle itineraries require a stop in Canada to meet U.S. regulations, round trip sailings often only visit three ports in Alaska and offer one day of scenic cruising, whereas one-way sailings might visit four Alaska ports in a week and/or offer two days of scenic cruising . The other thing is it limits you if you want to spend time doing some land exploring in Alaska.

The cruises we took left out of Seward (this is the small town south of Anchorage). We took the early morning train from Anchorage to Seward. A very rewarding experience. My wife enjoyed the comraderie on the train (many or most of the passengers are also going on the cruise) and I spent almost the entire time in the area between cars taking photos of the countryside starting with the sunrise and the mists rising off the many bodies of water, the mountains shedding their shroud of clouds and the small towns and villages you pass through. I was half frozen by the time we got to Seward but the resulting photographs were worth it.

Get an outside cabin so you can sit on your balcony on your journey and choose the side based on whether you are going northward (starboard) or southward (port). You want to be on the side with a landward view. Although to be fair you will be in the Inside Passage so there will be land on both sides most of the time so don’t stress if you cannot get the side you want. Also, my wife does not feel the need for a balcony; she is content with an outside view.

If you get the opportunity go to Homer. It is a quaint little drinking village with a fishing problem. I have a photo of a bumper sticker on a rusty truck (in Alaska this is redundant) that says “Homer – We’re here because we are not all here”. You can probably only do this if you spend time ashore as well as cruise.

While the big cruise lines do take you to view glaciers it is a much more rewarding experience to take a smaller vessel if you can work it into the schedule. We used a company called Stan Stevens Glacier and Wildlife Cruises out of Valdez to view the Colombia Glacier. They were very attentive and informative. I would probably have enjoyed a smaller vessel but the one they had was only about half full (or half empty, I don’t recall which) and as it was a six hour trip it was nice to have the wandering room. There are many other companies out there. The main thing is to get on a smaller vessel and more up close and personal with the glacier.

Some of the ports can be somewhat limited in what you can do just wandering around and your time will be limited in many cases so think seriously about getting on an excursion. Whale watching, wildlife tours, plane rides, train rides, historic tours, halibut fishing trips etc.

Shore excursions will be slightly more expensive than if you set them up yourself through local land based companies (the same ones the ship uses) BUT if you book through the ship and the excursion is late getting back they will wait. The same courtesy is not given to independent tours; if you are late finding a way back onto the ship is your problem and usually entails getting to the next port of call somehow. The ship will emphasize this in an attempt to get you to use their services. That being said, most independent tours are well aware that their livelihood depends on positive feedback and will make sure you are back in plenty of time to make your departure.

Skagway has a pretty good brewery toward the end of the main street. Their Blue Top Porter is passable and if they have any left try their Spruce Tip Ale but it is seasonal and supplies are limited.

If you don’t do the open seating as @JLeslie suggests, and I prefer not to, then get the late seating. This gives you time to enjoy your stops, get back to the ship, maybe grab a snack at 5 pm and still be hungry at the 8:30 dinner slot. We prefer to have the more formal setup because, for us, part of the enjoyment is coming together with the same people each evening and discussing our days events and getting to come to know them better over the course of the cruise. We prefer this to sitting with strangers at dinner each day; you can do that at breakfast and lunch.

I believe that, while everyone has their favorites, most of your bigger cruise lines are comparable in price, comforts, foods, safety, etc. They even have very similar itineraries. So the thing to do is find the one with the best price that goes to the places you want to see.

It is worth your time and you will both enjoy it. Let us know how it goes.

JLeslie's avatar

By the way, before I picked my shore excursions I youtubed them to get an idea.

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