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Alaska Cruise Recommendations Needed
Posted by: mjgkramer
Date: January 21, 2013 10:45AM
Wife is pressing me to do on an Alaska cruise for our 50th anniversary on May 31. I would appreciate suggestions on which cruise line to consider (and which to avoid), how many days, whether May is a good time weather wise, side trips, or anything else you can think of. We live in Texas so would like a package that includes air from here to the departure port, which I would assume to be Seattle. Although she can walk, she does have mobility problems due to peripheral neuropathy.

Thanks in advance.
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Re: Alaska Cruise Recommendations Needed
Posted by: samintx
Date: January 21, 2013 10:57AM
Don't choose a "cruise" line. Go with the small ship like Lindblad or National Geo...or you may find other small ships. They go closer and up the inlets. I will not go on the Cruise ships like Nordwegian etc. You get a fuller experience with the two I've mentioned.
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Re: Alaska Cruise Recommendations Needed
Posted by: Ken Sp.
Date: January 21, 2013 10:58AM
The most active cruises are those that do the inside passage. You can leave from Seattle, and they're one week long.
Everyone has good and bad stories from any of the cruise lines. If you stick with the major cruise lines, you should be fine.
You may want to check prices flying into both Seattle and San Francisco. Flying into San Francisco, you can get a Princess Cruise it is actually 10 days that does the exact same thing, sometimes for about the same price.
If you are at all into flowers, I highly recommend a excursion in Victoria, to Butchart Gardens. I have no great affinity to flowers, but it was amazing. On the way there you can stop by butterfly garden which has some incredible butterflies and moths.
Since most cruise ships are quite long, with challenged mobility, maybe a wheelchair or scooter would be best on board. These are available for rental at the cruise ship dock.
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Re: Alaska Cruise Recommendations Needed
Posted by: Z
Date: January 21, 2013 11:11AM
I'll caution that I haven't done a cruise, but I do live in Alaska and have had some acquaintenances take cruises.

The most important tip that I've been told: If you're planning on both a land-portion and a cruise-portion of the trip, make certain to do the land portion of the trip first. Otherwise you're likely to encounter trip fatigue and not really be able to fully appreciate the land portion of the trip.

What would you (she) like to see?

You'll be toward the beginning of the tourist season, which starts on Memorial Day, so temperatures will still be cool. Otherwise, late may / early june is a nice time of year. The colorful annual / perennial flora will still be smaller as you get further north into AK, though should be hugenormous in the Victorial BC area as noted by Ken Sp.
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Re: Alaska Cruise Recommendations Needed
Posted by: RoadToad
Date: January 21, 2013 11:15AM
I cruised the inside passage on Holland America. Loved it! My only regret is not taking the White Pass train excursion from Skagway.




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Re: Alaska Cruise Recommendations Needed
Posted by: STL
Date: January 21, 2013 11:21AM
More likely you'll embark to Alaska from Vancouver.
Seattle is possible but their are more cruise choices out of Vancouver.
If airfares are much better to Seattle it may be cost effective to consider the bus transportation from SEATAC to the Vancouver cruise port offered by almost all cruise lines.

Our line was Holland America(HA) - Highly recommended. 1st class food, service and ship. Passenger to crew ratio about 2:1. To date it is our only cruise.

HA, as most cruise lines, offer sea only or combo land & sea tours. All sea portions include some days of porting. Land portions are accomplished via combo of train and bus.

Ours tour in early August 2010 was a land & sea tour starting in Anchorage then to Denali, Fairbanks and East into Canada and through the Yukon, eventually boarding our ship in Skagway for 4 nights. Weather was fine. On the ship we spent a day at sea in Glacier Bay National Park, a day ported in Ketchikan and a day at sea eventually disembarking in Vancouver. Afterwards we wished we'd done a day or two more on the ship.

A May cruise will probably yield good weather. The prices peak at the height of the season, which I remember as June and July. So May isn't peak but the weather should be warm enough to not be an issue.

Have fun.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/21/2013 11:23AM by STL.
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Re: Alaska Cruise Recommendations Needed
Posted by: Will Collier
Date: January 21, 2013 11:21AM
We took a Holland America ship (along with my wife's entire extended family) from Anchorage to Vancouver several years ago. Very nice as these things go, although we really aren't "cruise people." Alaska was fantastic, and it was convenient to have a hotel that moved with us (even though it's a very, very tiny room).

We went in August and had close to perfect weather. My sister used to live in Anchorage, she says it's still pretty cold (at least relative to the South, where we grew up) in May. I would definitely advise a one-way cruise, that way you get more stops and less wasted boat time.
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Re: Alaska Cruise Recommendations Needed
Posted by: mjgkramer
Date: January 21, 2013 11:21AM
Thanks for all the responses so far. Wife is an ex biology teacher so likes nature and animals as do I. I am a fairly serious photographer so will look forward to taking pictures of scenery and creatures.
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Re: Alaska Cruise Recommendations Needed
Posted by: Lemon Drop
Date: January 21, 2013 11:25AM
Quote
mjgkramer
Wife is pressing me to do on an Alaska cruise for our 50th anniversary on May 31. I would appreciate suggestions on which cruise line to consider (and which to avoid), how many days, whether May is a good time weather wise, side trips, or anything else you can think of. We live in Texas so would like a package that includes air from here to the departure port, which I would assume to be Seattle. Although she can walk, she does have mobility problems due to peripheral neuropathy.

Thanks in advance.

Congratulations on your upcoming 50th!

This site has a rundown of the major lines operating Seattle to Alaska cruises, just for some comparisons.
[www.alaskacruises.com]

You can also depart from Vancouver BC, maybe add a day or two in Victoria, which is very lovely in spring. One advantage to that is that you can be inland for the entire trip and avoid rough seas you sometimes find between Seattle and Vancouver.
There are different itineraries, so be sure the cruise you select is going to see the things you really want to see.
Enjoy!!
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Re: Alaska Cruise Recommendations Needed
Posted by: Lemon Drop
Date: January 21, 2013 11:38AM
About the season:
July and August are peak because the weather is warmest - but - crowds are the worst, mosquitoes can be bad and pricest are highest and availability lowest (some summer cruises are probably already sold out.)

I think mid-late June is good, longer days, smaller crowds, wildlife viewing is at peaks (if you're into that) though weather is a little cooler.
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Re: Alaska Cruise Recommendations Needed
Posted by: mjgkramer
Date: January 21, 2013 11:47AM
The reason I am concerned about the weather is, having lived in the Netherlands for three years, that we learned that May is one of the worst months to tour Europe as it is still cold and skies are gray. My parents visit at that time which turned out to be a bad choice.

We have visited Butchart Gardens back in the 1980s but could stand seeing it again. Living in the Netherlands in the mid 1990s we gained a real appreciation for flowers. Their jewel is Keukenhof Gardens, which we visited several times.
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Re: Alaska Cruise Recommendations Needed
Posted by: Acer
Date: January 21, 2013 11:51AM
My brother takes a ferry for his Alaska vacations. Yes, it's a ferry, but it has comfortable cabins for vacation travel available as well. Don't know much more about it, except that he loves it. He's more of a roll-your-own traveler than a cruise-ship-package person.

[www.alaskaferry.com]
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Re: Alaska Cruise Recommendations Needed
Posted by: Lemon Drop
Date: January 21, 2013 11:58AM
Quote
mjgkramer
The reason I am concerned about the weather is, having lived in the Netherlands for three years, that we learned that May is one of the worst months to tour Europe as it is still cold and skies are gray. My parents visit at that time which turned out to be a bad choice.

We have visited Butchart Gardens back in the 1980s but could stand seeing it again. Living in the Netherlands in the mid 1990s we gained a real appreciation for flowers. Their jewel is Keukenhof Gardens, which we visited several times.

[www.travelalaska.com]

Weather is Alaska varies pretty wildly by region, but if you're sticking to the inside passage, you're generally going to get 45-60 F as temps in late spring or summer.
On the West coast of the US May is often nicer than June because of "June gloom," which brings fog, rain and cooler days.
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Re: Alaska Cruise Recommendations Needed
Posted by: samintx
Date: January 21, 2013 11:59AM
Try to go to Denali. I don't like Holland or Norweigan because too many people. I prefer the super (no extra cost) learning experience and access of the small boat trips. Lindblad and others have excellent nightly and daily lectures. I also like the ability to go in Zodiacs to see animals and get closer to shore to observe without bothering the animals.

It isn't a matter that the big cruises are not good or first class it is a matter of fewer people and more concentrated study and excursion.
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Re: Alaska Cruise Recommendations Needed
Posted by: archipirata
Date: January 21, 2013 12:31PM
Did one a few years ago. Inside passage was beautiful. The three other highlights were Hubbard glacier/Glacier Bay, small boat trip through Misty Fijords National Monument, and whale watching in Juneau bay. These were the three most stunning, awe inspiring natural things I have seen and they were all on one trip. I have been whale watching in Maine, Calif. and Alaska and Alaska blows the others away.



Athens, OH
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Re: Alaska Cruise Recommendations Needed
Posted by: Z
Date: January 21, 2013 12:42PM
One resource site I'd recommend - www.alaskatravelgram.com
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Re: Alaska Cruise Recommendations Needed
Posted by: mjgkramer
Date: January 21, 2013 12:44PM
Hadn't thought of ferries. We have been on two long ferry rides, one a three hour trip from New Zealand's North Island to South Island (and back), the other from Rotterdam to Kingston on Hull (UK). The latter was 11 hours each way so I think it qualified as a short cruise!
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Re: Alaska Cruise Recommendations Needed
Posted by: thermarest
Date: January 21, 2013 12:50PM
The ferries are fine and probably cheaper, but they don't pull into places specifically for scenery and animal viewing, etc. I'd second the recommendation for a smaller boat, though I assume the cost would be far more.
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Re: Alaska Cruise Recommendations Needed
Posted by: billb
Date: January 21, 2013 01:25PM
Celebrity and HA tend to have an older crowd on board. This will of course vary with time of year (kids out of school) and then departure port .
The Constellation, Silhouette, Solstice and Equinox are very handicap/wheelchair access capable and friendly.

Was going to do Alaska or Hawaii this year but I think we're going to just do a repositioning to Seattle instead. London or Rome to NY or Fla in the Fall.



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Re: Alaska Cruise Recommendations Needed
Posted by: numbered
Date: January 21, 2013 01:50PM
As to the ferries, I have done the Alaska Marine Highway (leaves from Bellingham, WA) and there is regular service from Prince Rupert, BC (not really accessible for tourists.) The Marine Highway is fun in the roll-your-own kinda way, but the "staterooms" are cabins with bunks. Food service is a cafeteria line. And the system makes runs on a tight schedule.

Lots of passengers don't get rooms, but camp instead. The "solarium" fills with sleeping bags and people bring their own food. We had people pitching tents on the deck.

It is used by folks taking their vehicles in state, and by folks making a loop with their RV. (The Alaska Highway and Marine Highway.)

I loved the trip, but it is not a cruise in the sense most people mean. It is more like a floating youth hostel.
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Re: Alaska Cruise Recommendations Needed
Posted by: Ombligo
Date: January 21, 2013 02:30PM
It was mentioned above but I'm going to repeat it.. Look at Lindblad.

They are the partnered with National Geographic and given both your wife's biology background and your photo interest, you would love it. I have two very close friends that work for Lindblad, one (Tom) is the senior expedition leader for the line. The man is a walking encyclopedia and is truly fascinating. He has been just about everywhere in the world.

Lindblad is not a giant 3000 passenger cruise ship that takes over an entire city when it docks. They don't have local yahoos acting as the experts on land tours. Instead you will get college educated (many with Master's or doctorates) experts taking small group where the cruisers don't ever go. The ships only have a 100 or so on board and the food, etc.. is top notch.

Will you get a cruise for $700pp? no, more like 10X that amount. But you'll get something really special for your 50th.



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Re: Alaska Cruise Recommendations Needed
Posted by: graylocks
Date: January 21, 2013 02:43PM
Quote
Lemon Drop
I think mid-late June is good, longer days, smaller crowds, wildlife viewing is at peaks (if you're into that) though weather is a little cooler.

I had a wonderful Inside Passage cruise from Vancouver the week of the summer solstice many moons ago.



"Success isn't about how much money you make. It is about the difference you make in people's lives."--Michelle Obama
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Re: Alaska Cruise Recommendations Needed
Posted by: testcase
Date: January 21, 2013 02:45PM
Several friends have taken Alaskan cruises in recent years. They've all raved about how wonderful the cruises are. As stated, the large boats don't go deep into fiords. Those who didn't take the land excursions portions were sorry they didn't. Five days apparently isn't enough to see everything. This is likely to be a once in a lifetime event. Spend the time and money to do it up right. Your wife is worth it.
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Re: Alaska Cruise Recommendations Needed
Posted by: Z
Date: January 21, 2013 03:06PM
Quote
testcase
Five days apparently isn't enough to see everything.

Heh. Yes. Lots to see in five days if you wanted to see it all. ;)

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Re: Alaska Cruise Recommendations Needed
Posted by: richorlin
Date: January 21, 2013 09:58PM
Quote
RoadToad
I cruised the inside passage on Holland America. Loved it! My only regret is not taking the White Pass train excursion from Skagway.

We also took the Holland America Inland Passage Cruise out of Vancouver. Fantastic seven days. AND we took the White Pass train in Skagway. Great trip. I normally hate cruises, but this was worth it. We went on the last voyage for the year out of Vancouver in September 2011.

If you go, take the helicopter trip to the glaciers. Fantastic!!! Amazing!!!



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/21/2013 10:00PM by richorlin.
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Re: Alaska Cruise Recommendations Needed
Posted by: Mike Johnson
Date: January 21, 2013 10:02PM
Before you do anything else, you should bookmark [boards.cruisecritic.com]

We've taken three cruises, all on Norwegian (the Pearl, the Sun, and the Star). We liked them fine, certainly well enough that we haven't tried another cruise line. Two were Alaska cruises; the second of those we brought along my mom & dad, my brother & his family, and my sister and her family. We all had a great time. I like Norwegian's Freestyle cruising -- you eat dinner when and where you feel like it. Of course, if we weren't taking our son, that might not matter so much. Personally, I never minded being on a big ship. A big chunk of shipboard time you're sleeping or near enough to it.

May seems early. But we did a June cruise in Alaska and the weather was lovely. It was also cheap. The Inside Passage is amazing. Get a room with a balcony if you can afford it -- I'd rather be on a big ship with my own balcony than on a boutique cruise with a porthole or no window.

Choosing your excursions is crucial. We booked a small boat tour that went up the Tracy Fjord to a glacier that was calving. Those kinds of things you need to book well in advance. People who try to RSVP for those things when they get on the boat are sorely disappointed.

You don't have to book your excursions through the cruise line. I like to fish, but I want the charter to myself, so I booked those excursions directly. In Haines, we rented a car and drove up into the Yukon. We also rented a car in Juneau to explore the environs.

There are two big benefits to booking excursions through the cruise line: first, if you're delayed the ship won't leave port without you. (And if it does, they'll get you back on board at their expense.) Two, the cancellation policy is typically forgiving, often requiring only 24 hours for a refund on NCL.

My wife has mobility problems, too; I wouldn't hesitate to book another cruise. It's not uncommon to see shipboard employees physically carry a passenger on or off the ship. When we took the whole family, we bought a collapsible wheelchair for my dad, and had no problems on board. The crew is adept at accommodating disabilities. That's going to be just as true for the small cruise lines, I'm sure.

If you book the airfare on your own, be sure to arrive in Seattle or Vancouver a full day before the cruise leaves. People miss their cruises when their flight is delayed, unless they book a package through the cruise line. You might save enough money by booking them separately to pay for a couple nights in Seattle or Vancouver, which can be lovely.

The most important advice I can offer is this: don't let anybody dissuade you from taking a cruise, or doing it on one of the gargantuan cruise ships.
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Re: Alaska Cruise Recommendations Needed
Posted by: Carm
Date: January 22, 2013 02:02AM
Took a 7 day Princess Cruise from Vancouver. Went in the Summer. It was a great trip. Arrived a day early in Vancouver to make sure we didnt have any airline issues

Make sure you go to Glacier Park. It is beautiful. As for the train trip. It didnt interest me, so we didnt go.
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Re: Alaska Cruise Recommendations Needed
Posted by: Will Collier
Date: January 22, 2013 11:03AM
Quote
richorlin
Quote
RoadToad
I cruised the inside passage on Holland America. Loved it! My only regret is not taking the White Pass train excursion from Skagway.

If you go, take the helicopter trip to the glaciers. Fantastic!!! Amazing!!!

Ditto this. Expensive, but worth every penny.
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Re: Alaska Cruise Recommendations Needed
Posted by: FrankMorales
Date: February 05, 2014 07:14AM
There are array of cruise lines available for Alaska, however it might be tough for you to select the best one among them. Personally I explored the long coastline of Alaska on amazing Kosher cruise which provides excellent services to their customers at reasonable price. But as there are lots of other cruise lines too I cannot say which one will be good, since I haven’t experience them yet.
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