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Alaskan Cruise

Posted by demicent (My Page) on
Tue, Jan 17, 06 at 9:55

We've been invited on an Alaskan cruise.

Any advice that will help us plan the trip? I have never cruised before. Can you recommend a cruise line? Is it wise to request a stateroom on the side of the ship with the scenery out the window if it's a one way jaunt? Is a balcony worth it? Can you recommend a good travel forum to read? What's the best way to snag discounts?


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RE: Alaskan Cruise

demicent, we have been on quite a few cruises - it is one of our favorite ways to vacation. The Alaskan cruise is one of the best we have been on.

Yes, do get an outside cabin (state room) - it is a definite plus - though you will find that you tend to spend most of the day outside of your cabin and so the views from within the cabin are not critical by any means. The balcony is nice - but it does add to the cost so you need to weigh that factor.

The cruise line would depend on whether you will have any children with you and also your age group. Some cruise lines have more programs for children and for the younger crowd.

We purchased our tickets the last time from Costco's travel service. Basically they offered us a discount of approximately 8% on the price. They also offered good advice on the location of the cabin that we should select, etc. The more flexible you are with regard to cruise dates the better the deal that you will receive.

You will be asked - among other questions - whether you would like to be seated for dinner with a larger or smaller group. We have always chosen a large group since it offered us an opportunity to meet other people. Now there is a risk in that you would hope that you will end up with fun, compatible dinner companions. We have been very lucky and have always had some great company in every cruise with the exception of one ... a whole other story!!

If cruising is something that appeals to you then you will love the Alaskan cruise.


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RE: Alaskan Cruise

I've never been on a cruise, but I've done a bit of research recently because our neighbors wanted us to go on a cruise to Alaska with them. (We've decided not to go.)

I found good info at:
http://www.cruisemates.com/articles/ports/alaska/
http://www.cruisemates.com/articles/before/Kuki-Basics.cfm
http://www.cruisemates.com/articles/before/cost.cfm
http://www.portpromotions.com/
http://cruises2alaska.com/

I can't recommend a cruise line, but there are tons of reviews online at sites like tripadvisor.com. Search Google groups too. There are newsgroups just for cruising.

As far as which side of the ship, personally I wouldn't worry about it too much, unless you really don't want to be outdoors. You'll get the best views (I would imagine) from standing on the deck of the ship, along with all the other passengers. Getting a balcony is a personal decision. I wouldn't spend the money, but if you're claustrophobic it may be worth it for you.

Alaska is such a beautiful place! I've seen lots of photos (my MIL was on a cruise) and I really want to go. I just don't think going on a cruise is the thing for us. Too many people, too much food, and not enough opportunity to see most of the state. Maybe one day we'll drive up and spend a few weeks.

By the way, take lots of warm clothes! It will most likely be cold, windy, and raining (yes, even in July). And don't forget your binoculars and a couple of cameras.

Sorry I can't be of more help!


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RE: Alaskan Cruise

My friends (family of 5) sailed on the Sapphire Princess last summer and raved about it. They are seasoned cruisers, so their opinion means a lot.

You say you've been invited. Does that mean you get to pick the ship? There will probably be lots of families on board no matter which cruise line you choose since it is summer time. I think one of the major differences is the shore excursions - some cruise lines have their own trains to take you inland for land experiences.

On the subject of balconies, I wonder if it will be too cool to expect that you will spend any amount of time sitting outside. A bit different in the Carribbean.....

A few more websites:
cruisereviews.com
cruisecritic.com

I get great deals from my local cruise travel agent. And good service to boot. Don't buy trip insurance through them or the cruise line. You can do much better on your own. And insurance is cheap and well worth it.


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RE: Alaskan Cruise

Oh, what an opportunity. My DD, SIL and I did a cruisetour in Alaska last June, we loved it. We sailed on the Island Princess and were very pleased. You can find out a lot of really good information on the www.cruisecritic.com site. They have a forum for most cruise lines as well as a forum for most destination, including Alaska, you will get so much great information. I got our trip through our Insurance company (USAA), unless you are a member, that won't help you much.

I would suggest getting a cabin with a balcony, there's stuff to see on both sides of the ship when you are cuising, so that's not as important as being able to look out the door. I had an inside cabin, my kids had an outside cabin, and I felt claustrophobic.

Have a wonderful trip.

Here is a link that might be useful: Alaska pictures


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RE: Alaskan Cruise

I have been on many cruises, and Alaska was my favorite!
We went on Celebrity Cuise Lines. Celebrity is always very nice.

We arranged a land tour through Celebrity before our cruise. We flew to Anchorage 4 or 5 days before the cruise and they took us by train to Denali National Park (great!) and Fairbanks. Then we flew back to Anchorage and boarded the ship.
Definitely get an outside room- the views are beautiful, but I would skip the balcony. It's not like a tropical cruise, where you will sit outside for long. You will want to take excursions at each port- helicopter to a glacier!!! It is wonderful!
You can go salmon fishing, pan for gold, take tours, shop, etc.
You will cruise by a calving glacier (we stopped at Hubbard Glacier), and the whole ship will be on deck to watch and listen.

We went in July, and the weather was nice- 70s.
If you go in August, you can see the salmon swimming upstream.

Alaska is so beatiful. Bring a camera and binoculars to see animals. We saw moose, bald eagles, caribou, and bear. There were lots of animals at Denali.

I like to request the late seating for dinners on a cruise. The late dinner is usually 8pm. The early dinner is 6pm, and cuts into the day's activities, since you are out all day touring.
The cruise has shows at night, plus discos, art auctions, casino, and midnight buffets. There are a million choices of activities, and you're never bored.
I agree that sitting with a big group for dinner is fun. We would all compare notes on the day's activities. Sometimes you really luck out and meet some new friends!

You will love Alaska!


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RE: Alaskan Cruise

Wow, thanks for the great information!

We were invited by my BIL and SIL. They don't get around too well physically, so thought a cruise would be a good solution. My DH has always wanted to cruise Alaska. I suppose we'll have to plan fairly tame land excursions due to physical limitations, but that's fine with me.

We have free rein in helping with the planning. We hadn't really planned on spending the $$$ on travel at this point, (I want a remodeled kitchen!) but it will likely be one of the last opportunities for the four of us to spend time together like this, so we're going to try and do it this year.

Again, great information, folks! You guys are wonderful.


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RE: Alaskan Cruise

demi,
I used to sell cruises. These opinions are based on info from about 10 years ago, but I can't imagine it's changed all that much.

The best overall mainstream cruise line in Alaska is Princess. Holland America is a close second. Both have excellent food and service and have been doing Alaska for a long time. I would go on either. Newer to the game are Celebrity, Royal Caribbean and Norweigan. Of those, I would go on Celebrity if I could get a great deal. Royal Caribbean is great in the Caribbean, but I'm just not sure about Alaska, so you'll have to ask someone else. But I would avoid Norwegian. The service is spotty and so is the food - - some love it, some hate it.

Try to do the helicopter ride to the glacier if you can. People rave about that. Princess has a train ride if I recall as well that people really like. But the best part is sitting on deck, watching the world go by.

As for staterooms, you'll pay a premium for a balcony. And you'll likely have a better view from the deck, so I would forego the balcony. I would probably go for an outside (with a window) cabin on a guarantee basis. This means that you pay a low rate and they guarantee at least an outside cabin, but you could end up on a high deck or a low deck, or anywhere on the ship. It's a gamble, i.e. you could end up on the bottom deck near the elevators, but it's usually the cheapest way to go. And once in a while someone with a guarantee gets a really good upgrade.

As far as which side of the ship, well, it depends on how much time you think you'll be in the cabin. Most people really only sleep in their cabins, so this would not normally be an issue unless you spring for a balcony, in which case I'd definitely discuss which side of the ship you should be on with your travel agent.

And as for time of year - - you can get great rates in Spring, and the good thing about that time of year is baby animals. But bring lots of warm clothes if you go early in the season. I wouldn't go in the fall - - no benefit that I know of to the end of the season.

Good luck, and have fun! Wish I was going . . .


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RE: Alaskan Cruise

We've been on a few cruises and our all time favorite is Alaska. Liked it so much we've been twice!

A room with a window is nice. As paige says - you won't be guaranteed a spectacular view but the window *does* make the stateroom feel a little larger. If anyone is your group is claustrophobic, a window is a very good idea! I really wouldn't spend the $$ on a balcony for an Alaskan cruise. The weather could be nice but could also be chilly. When the ship is moving it's windy outdoors so spending a lot of time on the balcony isn't likely. As others have mentioned, you'll find most of the time in your room is spent sleeping/napping or getting ready for a meal!

Be sure to mention to cruiseline if your BIL and SIL have limited mobility. There may be staterooms that are more suited to them. I know the ships have some rooms that are handicapped accessible.

The land tours thing to me is a very personal preference. Many times DH and I split up and did separate land tours. When you determine which cruiseline you plan to use, you'll get an information packet listing the various tours available. There are tours available for ALL mobility levels so if you and DH wish to go one way and have BIL and SIL go another you should all be fine. There are generally cruise personel and landtour personel available to help people out if need be. Just strolling though the towns is fun as well.

Meal time is another of those personal preferences. We've always chosen the late seating then went to the late show - generally with table mates who become friends! I rarely made it up in time for dining room breakfast so I always ordered room service the night before ;-) At least on Princess I think breakfast and lunch is open seating. You only have to select early or late seating for dinner. NEVER EVER worry about missing a meal ;-) There are a number of restaurants and buffets operating at all times so if you miss a dining room seating (or they aren't serving anything that sounds good) you just choose another place to eat.

If you like to read, take a book you wouldn't mind leaving behind. Many ships have a small library and some passenger leave books they've finished for others. It's a good way to lighten your load for the trip home!

Even if you never get motion sickness, pack a small packet of dramamine. Just in case ;-)

As for time of year, we did discover one downside of going late in the year. For many of the small ports, the cruises docking IS their business. On our 2nd Alaska cruise we were on the last trip of the season and apparently the last for all cruiselines that year. Many of the small local shops, business and land tours had already closed for the year. If you do plan a fall cruise, just try to avoid the last one.

Honestly the best thing about a cruise vacation for us is choice! There is a variety of events and meal places/meal times to please everyone in your group.

I just know you'll have a wonderful time. The beauty there is truly breathtaking.


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RE: Alaskan Cruise

I use fodors.com for travel info; the forums are very active and they have a forum for each type of travel and each big country or area.

Their search engine is excellent and pulls out a lot of info.
Registering is easy.

Here is a link that might be useful: cruise forum


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RE: Alaskan Cruise

I have only been on one cruise and that was in Alaska. I decided that I am not a cruise person, but that said, I would repeat the Alaskan cruise in a heartbeat. There is nothing to compare to being in front of a glacier when it calves (splits off). The sight and sound is unbelievable. My favorite excursion was the helicopter ride landing on a glacier. Again, beyond description. Before I went, I obsessively checked out all the excursions and the safety record of the various helicopter companies (I guess one doesn't become TKO by chance!) so I was confident in my selection.

We sailed with Holland America (S.S. Statendam) one way down the inside passage. We went in late May 2000. I'm "cutting and pasting" a trip report I sent to someone from one of the message boards I had visited before my trip. I wish I could remember which one it was, but alas, my memory just isn't what it used to be! If there is anything else you'd like to know, I'll dig up my stuff from the trip and try to help you out.

Here it is:

Well Karl, I'm back! Where to start... Now first of
all, remember this was my first cruise so I have
nothing to compare to. I was however traveling with
friends who have been on five other cruises...

The ship is beautiful, with many lovely common rooms.
The staterooms seemed quite spacious to me. I had an
outside cabin on the main deck. I really enjoyed
having the window! The Crow's Nest was gorgeous.
From there you have a 365 degree view. We often had a
pre-dinner drink there while soaking up the view.

The entertainment was good. I particularly enjoyed
the ventriloquist--he was incredible! I missed the
banjo player, but EVERYONE raved about him. I did not
play bingo or go to the casino. I did enjoy the
movies a few times and they provide popcorn! I
indulged myself with a massage--it was heavenly.

Glacier bay was wonderful. The glaciers are just
beyond words. Dress warm--in order to really
appreciate them you need to be outside and bundled up!
I hear it's the same in the summer. I had earmuffs,
gloves, heavy socks, warm boots and a very warm coat and I was quite comfortable. Many were unprepared however and
really couldn't be outside to enjoy the view. So much
of the glacier experience is the sound, which of
course you miss if you're viewing it from behind a
window!

Now the ports. Sitka is the most delightful city. I
walked around, hiked a bit in the park and visited the
Rapter Center which I thoroughly enjoyed. We did it
all on our own. It was about a 30 minute walk to the
center and we were happy for the exercise! We did not
go to the Russian dancers--those that did said they
were good. It is a very manageable town and you need
not sign up for the excursions on the ship if you want
to ride to these places. All arrangements can be
easily made in town for less money. Of course, we
were not there at the height of the season so I don't
know what it will be like in July. If you decide to
buy any of the Russian crafts (nesting eggs, lacquer
boxes, etc.), wait until you get back on ship if
they're advertising a sale on them that night. I
didn't believe it, but the ship's prices really were
significantly less expensive!

In Juneau we took the "Pilot's Choice" helicopter ride
and landed on two glaciers! It was absolutely the
highlight of my vacation. Others took the wildlife
cruise with Larry of Orca Enterprises (at my
suggestion, off the cruise list) and said it was
absolutely unbelievably wonderful (does that sound
enthusiastic enough?) You book that yourself when you
get off the boat. It cost $95. I was sorry I hadn't
arranged to do both. Dress warmly if you go.

In Ketchikan we did the Misty Fjords seaplane and
cruise. It's a 25 minute flight over beautiful
landscape, land in the fjord at a dock, catch a boat
and see the view from that angle. It was great, but I
wished the boat ride could have been shorter--the
whole adventure took 4 hours, 3 hours on the boat, and
it was a bit too long. I had done the national park
wildlife cruise in Seward (great) before departing so
I think I was a bit "boated out". The scenery was
breathtaking though.

Now the downside....I found the food to be average. I
don't eat meat, so I was limited to fish and pasta,
but it just wasn't anything to write home about.
Others said the beef entrees were consistently good,
but my friends felt it was the worse food they had
ever had on a cruise. If you like desserts, the
pastry chef is great--that's where most of my calories
came from! The mango sorbet was to die for! Maybe my
expectations were too high. I had been lead to
believe I'd be getting 5 star meals every night and
that was certainly not the case. I didn't starve mind
you, I just wasn't overly impressed.

I also found the service to be only okay. Examples:
despite the fact that our table of 6 asked for more
bread every night, it wasn't until the fifth night
that it was automatically brought. The servers never
introduced themselves (their names were on a card on
the table, but they never stated them themselves).
One afternoon in the Lido, I selected a dessert, but
before the server even picked it up, I realized it was
not chocolate, and changed my selection. He rolled
his eyes. Our wine consistently arrived midway
through dinner. My friend ordered a latte at the Java
Cafe right before 5 o'clock when they were about to
close--she was given it, but it was gently slammed
down on the counter, as if to make a statement.
Again, maybe I was expecting too much, this is the
type of service I receive at home regularly, but I
thought it would be different on the ship. Our room
steward however was efficient and pleasant. Our room
always looked great.

All in all, I really did have a great time, but I
think my bubble was burst regarding the quality of
food and service. It was only the second sailing of
the season, and obviously some of the crew is new (the
gentleman sent to bring us to our cabin didn't know
where it was!) so perhaps it will improve. I hope so.

Hopefully my comments were helpful and not too
negative. I'm sure you'll have a wonderful time.
Alaska is too gorgeous to do otherwise!

If you have any specific questions, please feel free
to e-mail me. As you can see, I'm still jet
lagged--it's nearly 2 am!

Good night,
Debbie


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RE: Alaskan Cruise

I'd like to comment on something paigect said about guarantee cabins. With your travelling compapnions' limited mobility, you will want to specify cabin #'s and you will probably want to be near them for convenience. This can't be assured in a guarantee situation.

Have your travel agent locate cabins near the elevator banks that take you to the dining rooms and the theaters if possible (however, these are often at opposite ends of the ships)since you are less likely to eat at the buffet. As some of these ships are gargantuan and require extensive walking, perhaps your first criteria will be a smaller ship!

Also, when looking at itineraries, check to make sure the ports do not require tendering. This is a difficult transfer from the ship to smaller boats and that can be hard for an elderly person to negotiate.


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RE: Alaskan Cruise

Well, happy news for us! We are booked on an Alaskan cruise for September.

We decided to go with the ship and itinerary that our family preferred. Since we get airfare for practically nothing (my sister gives me companion passes), we decided to splurge and get a large suite with a balcony.

I can't thank you all enough for the advice, and the links to forums and websites.


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