View Full Version : Alaskan cruise
01-10-2010, 11:15 AM
My mom turns 70 this year and we want to take her on an Alaskan Cruise. Anyone ever been on one? Best time of year to go? I've never been on a cruise so any info is appreciated.
01-10-2010, 12:39 PM
I've never been on a cruise there, but I did travel via ferry in the same areas.
The begining of June tends to have more mosquitos and they are huge. Seriously, we could hear them hitting our tent walls.
I'd go somewhere between mid-June and end of August. You'll have more daylight, which is a lot of course, earlier in the summer. That can be good or bad. It's very odd to always have light and it makes it easy to mess up a sleep schedule.
Personally, I loved Sitka. It is my favorite city.
I also enjoyed Scagway and Haines. Juneau was very crowded and I timed my visit to be there when cruise ships weren't :). But, there is a cool glacier that you can walk up to in Juneau and that was very neat.
Going through College Fjords or Glacier Bay should be on your list. I didn't go to Glacier Bay, but did College Fjords and it was very neat to see the glaciers and icebergs.
Seward has some easy hikes to do if they're up for that. If you have a chance to drive at all, the drive from Anchorage to Seward is very nice and has a ton of rest areas with things to see and do (hikes, boardwalks, etc).
In 2001, I got engaged at Mile Marker 110 on the Seward Highway :).
01-10-2010, 03:54 PM
I took my dad on a cruise to Alaska for his 70th bday. It was wonderful. They only run Alaska cruises in the summer (May - Sept?). July and August will probably have the best weather, and the highest prices....but still very affordable nowadays. Even during July and August there is a chance of rainy/chilly weather. So just plan to take layers. The nice thing about the Alaska cruise was that there wasn't a TON to see in each port...not like trying to do Rome in one day. So I found it to be a more leisurely pace. Also my dad has a gimpy knee, so we were able to find excursions with less walking. Loved the sea wildlife excursion, we saw lots of sea otters and humpback whales. As for itinerary, we went from Seward (outside of Anchorage) south through the inside passge to Vancouver. I would recommend either one way north to south or south to north because you'll see more than a roundtrip. I love cruising and I highly recommend it. Check out cruisecritic.com. There is a wealth of information on that site, reviews of specific cruises, even forums of people who are going on the exact cruise you are going on. I'm so excited for you!
01-10-2010, 07:57 PM
Go over to Cruisecritic.com and you will find ALL the information you ever wanted to know about cruising. What to bring, what excursions to book, which cruise line will be best for you etc.
01-10-2010, 11:14 PM
My mother and I went on one in 2007. It was fabulous. We went right away in June. Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan and Victoria were our ports. We left from Seattle.
I HIGHLY second visiting www.cruisecritic.com. There is a wealth of info there that I didn't know existed until I found it. It's like the BBB of cruising--everything you need to know, but don't know who to ask!
Alaskan cruises are generally geared towards an older crowd. Do not be limiited by the shore excurisions offered by the cruise. Visit cruisecritic and you'll hear about all of these great authentic real Alaskans running their own small businesses. The shore excursions from the cruise line will have you hearded like cattle and you'll never meet a native Alaskan. Never. Tons of college kids head up there in summer--not a single worker in any gift shop/tourist geared site is a year-round Alaskan. Not to get on a soapbox . . .
Also, do go on a shore excursion at every port. So much of what we think of as "Alaska" is NOT right off of the boat. Unlike cruising to the Carib, where you can just go hang on the beach, the beauty of Alaska is the nature, just out of town. Just walking around town will get you little nature at all. The eagles, bear, glaciers, etc are waiting just on the edge of the masses of other cruise passengers.
Bring quality rain gear and sturdy shoes. Read the guidebooks ahead of time and you'll know a lot about what you're seeing/doing. You won't get ripped off by the jewelry stores (run by the cruiselines, who box everything up in September, shut down and ship it all to the winter ports in the Carib.)
Really get to know the native cultures of Alaska. There stories and art are amazing. The big museum in Victoria is great for native art.
That said, I loved the cruise. It was amazingly beautiful and I feel lucky that I got to see Alaska, before a lot of it is gone. Seriously go. It's a great destination for multi-age groups.
I've cruised on 3 lines in Alaska - Princess, Royal Carribbean and Regency (now defunct). Highly recommend Royal Carribbean over Princess. My favorite cruise was the 7 night land tour combined with a 7 night cruise. Landtour takes you to Denali and you really see the land of Alaska that way. I did the landtour/cruise with both Princess and Royal Carribbean and think they were equivalent to each other. Princess has a hotel in Denali, but really not a big deal since Royal Carribbean puts you up right outside the park on a river that's very pretty in its own right.
Love love love Sitka. Many of the cruises do not go to Sitka anymore, and that's a shame.
With your mom turning 70 not sure if you are looking for more of the city tour or get out in nature and hike type excursions. You'll find both in most ports.
I've been to Juneau, Skagway, Sitka, Ketchikan, Anchorage and Fairbanks. Also recently did the roundtrip from Seattle like MmeSunny. Post if you have questions about those specific ports. We've done helicoptors, seaplanes, the Raptor Center in Sitka, rain forest hikes, jitney tours, Denali wildlife tour (natch), Mt. Roberts Tramm, Skagway train, Butchard (sp?) Gardens, and city tours galore. We didn't do any fishing, not our thing.
Seconding suggestion you do North-South cruise, not roundtrip.
Also - we did Husky Homestead out of Denali and had a blast. Dog lover heaven. Jeff King is quite a character.
The cruises in August can have limited views of the glaciers, depends if the waters are icing up already.
Weather wise it is going to be hotter than you expect. Layers are the key. Usually the coldest places are on the water (i.e. the ship with its breeze and any boat-based excursions). I truly don't remember any rain and I've gone in July and August.
eta: it might be best to book before Valentine's Day. But check cruisecritic, I'm sure they have info on when best to book. Cruising is wonderful even without a porthole (you really don't spend too much time in the room unless you have a little one that naps). Also, check the cruiseline website for info on the dinner dress codes and if they do "theme" nights.
eta: if you are taking little ones, check out the threads about kids clubs. DS (age 5 at the time) loved the Aquanuts program on RC.
01-12-2010, 08:49 PM
We went and my parents are about that age. We chose Celebrity b/c they cater to seniors. I'd recommend going through a travel agent as Celebrity reps were not always reliable and not guaranteed you'd get to speak with the same rep, once you booked.
We left from Vancouver, went to Juneau, Skagway, Keitchikan, Hubbard glaciers. It was good. Food was very good. Not much to do on the ship for younger folks, as they tend to cater to seniors. Some dancing, trivia games, shows every night, exercise room, spa, old movies, etc. They had some limited activities for kids.
I liked tripadvisor.com, some good advice. Overall, it was a good trip and my parents enjoyed it.
02-11-2010, 09:16 PM
Another recommendation for cruisecritic.com I think they're MUCH more useful than tripadvisor.
02-11-2010, 09:48 PM
We went on an Alaskan cruise, and it was spectacular. July is the right month, period. Late June or early August are ok, but July is your best bet. I agree that you really must leave the ship in every port, otherwise why bother going on an ALASKAN cruise? It will be light most of the time, sometimes very dusky, and positively gorgous. We went on Celebrity, and we thought the world of it. Also been on a Western Mediterranean cruise on Holland America and thought it didn't hold a candle to the location or the cruise line. Just our opinion.
You are definitely cattle in the excursions. But depending on what you want to see, that's not really so bad. But do check out all your excursion options, cuz alot of times folks don't realize that there are options outside the ones offered by the cruise line. Now, in certain places I'd go with ONLY the cruiseline (like Tunisia), but Alaska has so much to offer that you're doing yourself a disservice by not checking out the locally run options.
Do not under any circumstances miss out on Mendenhal Glacier in Juneau. It's a helicopter ride, it's expensive, but it was worth every last penny for us. You're standing on the ice age. It's just unbelievable. I still remember the smell of the glacier! Similarly, the very slow cruise into Glacier Bay is breathtaking.
These cruises are so cheap (as far as cruises go). We did a Vancouver to Anchorage deal, and we are so glad we did (rather than round trip). Skagway was wonderful, Valdez was ho hum. Big time boring. Not sure they still have that stop.
GO. Have a WONDERFUL time. It's hard to mess this one up regardless who you choose, just have a ball!
02-11-2010, 10:01 PM
May actually isn't a bad time to go. It's actually drier. The only downside is not all the animals will be out and about yet.
If your cruise goes to see the glaciers (like Glacier Bay), I highly recommend a balcony cabin. At least one. Cuz otherwise it can get too crowded in the public areas to get good photos and stuff (plus it can get really cold and windy out there). I prefer one way cruises cuz the round trip ones often omit a trip to one of the big glacier parks.
If you were thinking about getting a dSLR camera, now's the time to pull the trigger. If you already have one, pack an extra memory card. The scenery, animals, and especially the glaciers are absolutely breathtaking. I've been there twice. The 2nd time around, I got a balcony. It allowed me to setup and capture some amazing action/sequence shots of glaciers calving. Plus, during the wait, I could pop back into the cabin and warm up without losing my prime shooting spot.
02-11-2010, 11:43 PM
We took an Alaskan cruise thru Holland America, in late June/early July 05. It was Fabulous! First cruise experience- it was my parents, DH and I, and my bro- my parents are now in their mid sixties....
Our trip left out of Seattle- and we cruised up the outside of Vanc Island to Glacier Bay, then to Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan, Victoria BC and back to Seattle.
We took several excursions- our favorites were to the Raptor Center in Sitka, the Native American dancing, and a whale watching trip in Juneau! My bro and dad went on a fishing trip in Ketchican and my brother snagged a 30 lb salmon- so an expensive trip but memorable experience!
I cannot say enough great things about Holland America- if you are AAA members, you might see what deals there are. HA lines are smaller, but very personal- I think there were 1200 guests on board- I think the capacity was around 1400+- our boat was the Amsterdam. Food was great, everything was clean, it was great! Older crowd, but very peaceful- it's a trip to Alaska!!!
I remember seeing the Princess cruise liners- they had 2x the number of people and would take much longer to load and unload- something to keep in mind when you come into port!
Have a great time!
02-12-2010, 04:30 AM
Princess isn't that bad. Princess, and I think Holland, are the 800 lb gorillas in Alaska. They get the best docking berths, prime glacier viewing, have park rangers come aboard to give talks, etc. I'm just a cruise or 2 away from Platinum level. I don't mind the bigger ships. They tend to be newer and with more/nicer amenities. They're also pretty well designed so you don't really notice the crowds.
I've been on older, smaller ships. Not my cup of tea. Usually people fall into two camps. They either like the older, smaller ships, or they prefer the newer bigger ones.
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