Honeymoon Discussions

Alaskan Cruise Help

nicnak22nicnak22 member
Seventh Anniversary 10 Comments Name Dropper 5 Love Its
edited December 2016 in Honeymoon Discussions
@CMGragain   I'm hoping you can help my husband and I are looking to plan a cruise to Alaska. I have pulled a few and was wondering if you could give you opinion. Any tips would be appreciated!

A little about us, we love to cruise (we got married on one) mostly the Caribbean though (Floridians). Celebrity and HAL tie for our favorite lines (no interest in Carnival). 

Re: Alaskan Cruise Help

  • What part of Alaska appeals to you the most?

    I notice that the cruises you list are all circle itineraries, which cruise up the panhandle and then return to home port.  This makes for a nice trip, but you only see a small portion of Alaska.

    Many people who want Alaska cruises do a seven day cruise plus a land tour that takes them to the interior of the state, near Denali National Park.  Princess and HAL both own private resorts and private railcars to transport passengers from the ship to the interior.  Food is not included at the resorts, and it is expensive, but everything in Alaska (except the fabulous scenery) is expensive.  A trip to an Alaskan grocery store is a shock.

    If you really want to see Alaska's beautiful natural wonders, then pay the money and do a cruise/land tour combination.  Since you have been to the Caribbean, you will be familiar with the cruise ports in the panhandle.  They have been very developed, and Diamonds International and "discount" jewelry stores are waiting for cruise passengers at each stop.  The same people who work the Caribbean in winter season are in Alaska for the summer, with the same merchandise.  You really need to spend the money on shore excursions like whale watching and glacier walking to get a memorable trip.

    My DH is a photography nut, so he loves Alaska, which is why we have done three cruises there.  If you get away from the touristy ports, you will see wonderful sights. Do learn about history before you go.  Skagway has a popular train trip that goes up towards the Yukon.  If it is raining, you won't enjoy it as much, and it rains a lot there.

    Do you have a regular travel agent who can advise you?  They should have some ideas.  Do not expect to see northern lights in the summer. 

    Feel free to ask any questions.
  • Thank you so much for your response!

    One of the itineraries I was looking at was southbound Anchorage to Vancouver (Holland or Celebrity can't remember) are those better? 

    We would LOVE LOVE to do the land tour but unfortunately for us while money isn't really an issue, time from work is ;(. I had no idea my husband was doing this so we already have a couple weeklong trips booked for 2017. 

    Im a shopper at home so I almost never shop when traveling. We are both much more interested in experiencing things we can't at home so I will definitely be researching more about each port. I would love to see whales and my in laws (they cruised to Alaska about 10yrs ago) recommended a helicopter or float plane tour. 

    I usually book things myself but I'm very familiar with the Caribbean and even Europe which wasn't a cruise I did myself. But, I am a planner and feel lost about Alaska. All I really know is it's beautiful and full of wildlife so I would be happy to talk to a specialist. 

    What ships have you been on to Alaska?
  • CMGragainCMGragain member
    10000 Comments 500 Love Its Fourth Anniversary 25 Answers
    edited December 2016
    We usually go Princess to Alaska.  They are the line that really invented the route and made it popular.  Every port will be chock full of huge cruise ships.

    One of the things you need to check out is if the ship actually goes in to Glacier Bay National Park.  It is restricted, so only a few ships get in.  Princess and HAL both pay a lot of taxes to Alaska, so I think they sometimes get preference.  You will need a warm jacket and gloves for that day.

    What do you mean, you usually book cruises by yourself?  Do you call the cruise line directly?  I know people do this, but I would NEVER!  Travel agents cost me nothing, since they are paid by the cruise line.  They usually have better prices than going directly to the cruise line.  If I have a problem, I call my travel agent immediately, and he calls the cruise line on behalf of his company.  If it is a big company, Like Vacations to Go, he gets their FULL attention!  If I call the cruise line myself, I usually get to talk to a phone operator, who may no little about the issue.  Since I am only one person, I don't have much clout.  I also get to pick my travel agent's brains for free. 

    We have used the same, super good agent from Vacations to Go for many years.  (You understand, ALL online travel sites are travel agencies.)  If you are interested in a nice talk with someone with great info, PM me, and I will pass on his contact information.  There is nothing in it for me.  I already get great rates.  Some people are newbies at travel consulting, so I like to recommend my guy who knows his stuff.  I want him to stay in business!

    I really like the itinerary from Anchorage to Vancouver.  It has more variety than just the panhandle rain forest.  I have done both.  Get transportation on the train to the port if you can.  Great fun!

    Early August is when the fireweed is in bloom, and it is so beautiful!
  • Thank you for your feedback. I will probably reach out to get your contact in the next few days. 

    I do book directly depending on the deals. I have found that booking through the cruise line with my agent (employed there) sometimes saves a few hundred per person (even compared to vacations to go).
  • CMGragainCMGragain member
    10000 Comments 500 Love Its Fourth Anniversary 25 Answers
    edited December 2016
    I usually get slightly better deals than the ones advertised on VTG's website.  Not special for me.  It's just a sales technique that is used to sweeten the pot.  Sort of like buying an electronic item:  you can pay retail from the manufacturer, or you can buy it cheaper on Amazon.
    Several times I have had issues with a cruise, and my agent has intervened at my request and solved the problem.
  • Cmg's advice is pretty spot on, but I'll add a few things as someone from Alaska who has worked in the tourism industry. 

    There are some shorter sea and land options. I think princess does one where the whole thing is just 10 days. Alaska is so big and so different that southeast is very very different from the interior. If you can somehow manage to swing it, I'd try to do it. Otherwise, going to anchorage will definitely show you a little more than just doing southeast. 

    Yes, there are a lot of generic gift shops and retailers at the ports, but you can also find ones that sell local items. Look for the Made in Alaska logo (google it). The use of it is regulated by the state, and most made in Alaska products (although not all) will have it. 

    I don't know how old you are or if you care, but Alaska cruisers tend to be retiree-age crossing Alaska off their bucket list. Nothing wrong with that, just if you're 20-somethings hoping to hang out with similarly aged people or have similarly aged people assigned to your table, the odds are pretty small. 

    Like Cmg said, you likely won't see the northern lights. You really ought to come in the winter if you want that. If you want to increase your chances, go early or late in the season. Alaska tourism season is generally May 15-Sept.15. If you ask, a lot of hotels (possible the ships as well, but I don't know) will put you on a list for a wake up call if the lights are spotted. Keep in mind, it's not a science. Basically, a security guard or someone will look up when they have to go outside a handful of times a night. Northern lights are finicky. They can be out for a few minutes or hours, and they fade in and out. So you could never get that call and then hear people talk about seeing them the next day. The hotel does not have someone to keep an eye out all night long. Also, just like stars, they're harder to see when there's ambient light, i.e. in a city. 

    Most if not all ports will have whale watching charter boats and all of them will have flight-seeing. Float planes will be more common and they're also definitely more of an Alaska thing than helos. 

    Pack rain gear (unless it's provided by the cruise line. I don't think it usually is) as southeast is notoriously rainy. Bring an umbrella if you want, but it will definitely mark you as an outsider. Alaskans just don't use umbrellas.

    Neither set of links is working for me. If there's one that goes to Sitka, I'd definitely choose that. Sitka is beautiful with a ton of history. It gets a decent amount of cruise ships, but not as many as, say, Ketchikan and Juneau, which get pretty much every single one. 
  • @lovesclimbing this is great information, thank you!!

    Would you recommend booking excursions on your own, not through the cruise line? Is there a port that you having a better chances of seeing wildlife on excursions?

    Im used to rain from being in Florida (also not an umbrella user) but im not used to cold and rain. My footwear consists of dress shoes and flip flop :) so I understand i need to layer but do you usually wear jeans and is there a type or brand of shoe that you recommend? 

    thanks again for any advice!!
  • lovesclimbinglovesclimbing member
    Seventh Anniversary 2500 Comments 500 Love Its First Answer
    edited December 2016
    nicnak22 said:
    @lovesclimbing this is great information, thank you!!

    Would you recommend booking excursions on your own, not through the cruise line? Is there a port that you having a better chances of seeing wildlife on excursions?

    Im used to rain from being in Florida (also not an umbrella user) but im not used to cold and rain. My footwear consists of dress shoes and flip flop :) so I understand i need to layer but do you usually wear jeans and is there a type or brand of shoe that you recommend? 

    thanks again for any advice!!
    You're welcome!

    I have never been on a cruise, but I would expect the price for booking excursions through a cruise would be slightly higher because they're taking a cut? Or maybe they'd be cheaper because the excursion provider and the cruise line work together? I really don't know, so I'd just price check. Find out what it is through the cruise line and then call the provider directly and get a quote. Maybe @CMGragain knows?

    Personally, I wear jeans pretty much exclusively, even on stuff like hikes. Or you could always wear outdoor pants like what they sell at REI. It depends on what you're doing. For flight seeing or hiking, I'd wear one of the above. For walking around town, whatever you normally wear for walking around. For shoes, you can probably get away with regular tennis shoes, although your feet might get a bit wet if it rains. If you have these already or want to buy I'd go with hiking boots, waterproof if possible. I don't really have a preferred brand. I've worn Merrel's but I'm probably going to try something else next time. They weren't bad, I just want some other features (higher ankles, more waterproofing, potentially partially leather) that they don't have. I probably wouldn't invest in or want to take up luggage space with full on rubber boots. 

    As for animals, I'm not super familiar with that in southeast because I've never done tourism things there. I've never done flight seeing or whale watching there with an actual excursion. In Sitka, I've been kayaking and seen otters and sea lions and birds and such. You could try browsing some forums on Alaska cruising. I've heard good things about whale watching in Seward and Whittier, but I don't know if the ones you're looking at go there or not. 

  • H and I never use a travel agent, we always book everything through the direct company. We always do our own airfare, pre/post accommodations and it is a toss for the excursions. If you book an excursion with the cruise company, they will wait for you if something gets delayed. If you book your own, you are on your own to get back to the ship in time. We have never had an issue because we are planners but I know people that have missed the boat as they were not paying attention.

    I've never done an Alaskan cruise but you may want to check out cruise critic for some additional opinions. There are forum boards that will have roll calls from previous years where people will post photos/itineraries and general experiences. I learned a bunch about my most recent river cruise through that channel.

  • CMGragainCMGragain member
    10000 Comments 500 Love Its Fourth Anniversary 25 Answers
    edited December 2016
    It is more expensive to book the cruise promoted excursions, but they guarantee not to leave you behind.  Some years ago, a helicopter tour stranded passengers on top of a glacier overnight!  Because they had booked through the cruise line, the passengers were taken care of by the company and returned to the ship.
    www.cruisecritic.com will have plenty of excursion advice if you want to risk it on your own.
  • Thanks for all the help! I booked a cruise today we decided to do the inside passage from Seattle on Celebrity. I was able to get a drink package and $300 onboard credit through the cruiseline and then an additional $250 through a travel agent since I had used them before.  I have tons of airline miles so flights are covered. Now, just need a hotel in Seattle which I have found that they are expensive. 
  • CMGragainCMGragain member
    10000 Comments 500 Love Its Fourth Anniversary 25 Answers
    edited January 2017
    Trip Advisor is the greatest when it comes to finding bargain hotels.  There will also be some recommended ones that are near your port on Cruise Critic. http://www.cruisecritic.com/hotels/hotelResults.cfm?departurePort=205

    Here is one that many cruisers use:https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g60878-d124264-Reviews-Four_Points_by_Sheraton_Downtown_Seattle_Center-Seattle_Washington.html

    Another good value with a great location:

    Your travel agent just might be able to get you a better deal.

    There are tons of decent hotels near Sea-Tac airport. including a nice Hampton Inn that would serve you a good breakfast.  Save your money by staying away from the expensive downtown area, and take public transportation or a cab to downtown for nightlife.

  • Just found this thread, as someone who was raised in Sitka I really recommend finding a cruise that stop there. I'm admittedly biased, but because Sitka is on the "outside", away from the main Inside Passage routes, only about one quarter of the cruise ships make the extra trip, so it's not nearly as crowded as some of the other ports. There are great options for activities in town and just about everything is within walking distance so it's easy to get around.

    I see you've already booked, just wanted to add my two cents for anyone who might plan something in the future. I hope you have an amazing time in Alaska! There are so many things to see that anywhere you go will be worth the visit!

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