Author Topic: Alaska Cruises  (Read 9238 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Snooks

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 2359
Alaska Cruises
« on: January 08, 2012, 01:20:11 PM »
I've got it into my head that we should go on a cruise to Alaska for our 5th wedding anniversary in 2014 (I'm a planner!).  I've never been on a cruise before so I have no idea which cruise lines are good and which ones to avoid.  Has anyone been to Alaska on a cruise (or is from there)?  Any must sees/don't bother withs?

Angel B.

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 312
Re: Alaska Cruises
« Reply #1 on: January 08, 2012, 01:42:11 PM »
My family went on a cruise to Alaska a long time ago(2000 or so). My parents used Holland America Line, and loved it.
My greatest treasure is love beyond measure.
-Il barbiere di Siviglia

gramma dishes

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 7944
Re: Alaska Cruises
« Reply #2 on: January 08, 2012, 01:45:15 PM »
I have been on an Alaskan cruise with Cruise West.  (year 2002)

Their fleet is made up of very small (comparatively) liners.  Definitely not deluxe, but comfortable enough.  Their main 'claim to fame' is that they can get into much tinier spaces than their huge counterparts and therefore can take you into more intimate-with-nature settings and into ports too small to allow the big cruise ships.

You should know that these cruise ships lack some of the fancy amenities that the bigger ones have.  Basically the food is superb -- and plentiful.  You can sit wherever you like, with whomever you like in their dining room.  There are also snack foods available between meals that frankly are meal enough sometimes on their own!  But there is no entertainment at all other than for that provided by the crew and sometimes (in our case) by the passengers themselves. 

I would highly recommend it to anyone who really wants to see the natural beauty of Alaska and to explore some of the various small towns along the route.  I would NOT recommend it for someone who wants to be highly catered to, amused and entertained constantly, and/or wants swimming pools on board and some of the other amenities taken for granted among the "Luxury" cruise lines.

Interestingly, the prices are not dissimilar to those of the bigger ships.  So it isn't a money saver.  Which kind of cruise is "right" for you depends on what you want to experience.  For us, it was just perfect.   ;D

SisJackson

  • Wear Sunscreen!
  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1421
Re: Alaska Cruises
« Reply #3 on: January 08, 2012, 01:55:48 PM »
I've done two - one on Royal Caribbean and one on Celebrity.  The first time I did a bunch of ship excursions to various points of interest and while they were great, I had much more fun on the second trip, just exploring the cities on foot, using a map on a cell phone (since it's in the US, there was no charge for data usage like there would be at many cruise destinations.)  We ate lunch at places recommended on Yelp and did a couple of touristy things within walking distance, except for when we hopped a bus to Alaskan Brewery in Juneau for a tour and tasting.

On the trip where we did excursions, the ones our group loved best were "flightseeing" (from a float plane or helicopter) wildlife tours (where you get to see otter, whale, or bear - guaranteed or your money back) the sled dog experience (meet the dogs, ride a sled, play with the puppies if there are any) and the bald eagle preserve.

As I do with all potential cruisers, I highly recommend signing up for cruisecritic.com forums where you can get answers about particular ports of call, cruise lines, cruising in general, and a pile of other topics.

Layla Miller

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 2685
  • I know stuff.
Re: Alaska Cruises
« Reply #4 on: January 08, 2012, 02:22:07 PM »
DH and I went on an Alaskan cruise for our honeymoon through Norwegian, and I can highly recommend them.  I liked them partly for their Freestyle cruising style (no shared/assigned tables or set mealtimes, among other things) and partly for their Chocoholic Buffet!  :D
I searched for nothing on the Internet and got 175,000,000 hits.

Thipu1

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 6609
Re: Alaska Cruises
« Reply #5 on: January 08, 2012, 02:33:48 PM »
We've had two Alaska cruises.   One was a coastal Cruise only.  The combined the coastal cruise with an inland railroad tour and two nights in Denali.  both were done with Holland America.

Like other posters, I would strongly advise visiting cruise critics.com before making any arrangements.  The folks there are kind and very helpful.

Here are a few suggestions from our experiences. 

1) If possible, arrange to take your cruise from north to south.  On that route, you will see glaciers from the first day.  That's nice.  As you go south, the glaciers become more impressive.  Then, you begin to encounter towns.  As you go south, the towns become larger and more interesting. 
 
2) You might want to keep your camera ready at all times.  Anything can show up when you least expect it.  On our first Alaska cruise we were taking a stroll around the deck after dinner on a formal night.  Mr. Thipu's was wearing his tux and I was wearing a black dress with a gold shawl.  As we were walking we enjoyed the company of a half dozen orca playing alondside the ship.  Appropriately, they were also wearing black and white formal attire.

3). An Alaska cruise is not restful.  Because the ships follow an inside route, the shore is almost always in sight.  There will always be people at the rail with binoculars, zoom lenses on their cameras and sighting diaries in hand.  It's not unusual to go for drink before dinner and hear passengers comparing their daily sightings.

There's a lot to consider before booking an Alaska cruise.  Cruise critic is a great help in many ways. 





 

gramma dishes

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 7944
Re: Alaska Cruises
« Reply #6 on: January 08, 2012, 02:56:05 PM »
Well ... now I'm totally embarrassed.   :-[

I actually went on a Google search to try to find the name of the specific ship we traveled on and low and behold!  Apparently Cruise West shut down its operations in 2010 for "restructuring" and is no longer operating under that name. 

buvezdevin

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1458
Re: Alaska Cruises
« Reply #7 on: January 08, 2012, 03:38:15 PM »
We cruised Alaska on Royal Caribbean, a land sea combo which included Denali in July, 2010.  While I was looking forward to the experience, it was so much more enthralling than I had anticipated.  Of the various people I know who have cruised Alaska, I have yet to hear that anyone did not find it amazing.

There are quite a few lines, various tours, and I am sure you will enjoy doing the research to find a tour which best meets your interests and preferences, so the one recommendation I will share is to book an itinerary which includes Glacier Bay (full day).  I think most cruises do, but I know not all do.  This was particularly a day on our cruise which I had expected to enjoy, but we and a number of others considered it one of, and possibly the most magical of the sights - and that's high praise given the wealth of spectacular sights.
Never refuse to do a kindness unless the act would work great injury to yourself, and never refuse to take a drink -- under any circumstances.
Mark Twain

Snooks

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 2359
Re: Alaska Cruises
« Reply #8 on: January 08, 2012, 03:45:39 PM »
Thanks for all the feedback, I'll head over to Cruise Critic but I tend to get overwhelmed with information so I thought I'd try here first and you haven't disappointed me!  I'll make sure to find one with Glacier Bay.  I love the sound of the sled dog experience so I'll keep that in mind.  We're in the UK so we're hoping to do a round trip from Seattle and have some time there before the cruise.  We did Yosemite, Sequoia and King's Canyon in 2011 and Bryce, Monument Valley and Zion in 2005 so I'm hoping for a similar type of holiday with lots of natural beauty but lots to do too.

mrs_deb

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 871
  • I didn't expect THAT to happen!
Re: Alaska Cruises
« Reply #9 on: January 08, 2012, 05:29:58 PM »
Mr_Deb and I are taking his parents on an Alaska cruisetour this late May, with Princess.  We had heard that Princess was the tops for cruisetours.  Whether that's true or not, every single person I've ever spoken with about cruises has said that Alaska was the very best cruise they ever took, so I'm pretty excited.  It's 10 days - 7 cruise and 3 land.  Lodges and trains and such like.

Check this Frommers page:

http://www.frommers.com/destinations/alaska/0210024436.html

If you are going to spend some time in Seattle before/after, be sure to catch a Mariners game!

Sharnita

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 21353
Re: Alaska Cruises
« Reply #10 on: January 08, 2012, 05:41:17 PM »
My parents did a cruise that included a train/bus trip through Alaska as well as the cruise.  I think they enjoyed both equally and would recommend the combination if at all possible.

chmac

  • Jr. Member
  • *
  • Posts: 95
Re: Alaska Cruises
« Reply #11 on: January 08, 2012, 06:26:18 PM »
we did an Alaskan cruise with Norwegian a few years ago, had lots of fun.  Just make sure your room isn't 3 floors up directly over the nightly entertainment or you'll get the music booming through your room.  (Although they didn't go too late).  I really enjoyed the train ride in Skagway, up along the old gold rush trail.  Beautiful scenery.  The old cemetery also looked interesting but just saw it in passing.  Our tour went from Vancouver, south to north and then looped back.  I almost wish we had done 7 days out and flown back, or started north and headed down rather than doing a loop.  Didn't get as far north as Sitka, that sounds interesting.  The nice thing about Norwegian is that they were one of the only ships to dock near Wrangell, so it was much less busy and touristy, got to walk around town and visit with the locals, interesting little museum.  Stopped at Ketchikam, Juneau, Skagway and Wrangell. Ketchikam was very busy and touristy but good history, interesting heritage center. Did the gold mine tour at Juneau, there were only 3 of us on the tour since everyone else went whale watching, so we got a great personal tour and my young son got to see all the heavy equipment he ever wanted!  Great food on the ship, no set time or place to eat, which meant you didn't have to be in the dining room at a set time at a set table.  The draw back was that on the last night, when everyone wanted to eat in the dining room, the line up was out the door and up the stairs, we ended up at the more casual buffet.  But, the chocolate buffet was pretty good!

Tierrainney

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 925
  • Where the swans winter
Re: Alaska Cruises
« Reply #12 on: January 08, 2012, 06:43:01 PM »
We did an Alaska cruise in 2003 on Radison, that is now Regency cruise ships. It was a smaller ship that some of the enormous ones, but not so small as one of the ones mentioned up thread. You needed a pass port for this one, as it had stops in Canada. Some times we did scheduled shore excursions and sometimes we didn't. IN Victoria, Canada, we did not have a planned excursion, but a horse drawn trolley came to the docks and we were able to purchase tickets. We were the only people to do so, so we got the fun of a private ride without the price. The only disappointing one was the glacer raft ride. I was expecting "white water" and it wasn't anything close. The guide, however, was very funny, so it still fun, just not what I had expected.
Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball.

Sharnita

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 21353
Re: Alaska Cruises
« Reply #13 on: January 08, 2012, 07:10:00 PM »
came back to say my mom said their trip was through Princess, with a guided land tour first.

Thipu1

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 6609
Re: Alaska Cruises
« Reply #14 on: January 09, 2012, 09:37:09 AM »
Most all of the lines that cruise Alaska are good but each one has certain distinctions.

The cabins on Holland America tend to be a bit larger but the passengers tend to be quite elderly.  A few years ago, we were on a Holland America cruise to Hawaii on which five passengers died of natural causes.  Possibly because people tend to be of such an advanced age, the food, while good, tends to be somewhat bland.

Princess tends to be more lively, the passengers are younger and the food is more seasoned. I have yet to have a pasta on Princess that was less than remarkable.  However, the cabins are smaller.

All lines offer a wide variety of shore excursions with the level of exertion needed indicated.  You can book these before boarding or any time during the cruise.  Cruise Critic is a good place to talk to people who have taken shore excursions because the tours vary greatly in quality. Also, with other cruise critic people, we've been able to arrange independent shore excursions for about half what the ship charges. 

One thing to be careful of on Alaska cruises is the distinct possibility of salmon burnout.  Most fish on cruise ships comes aboard frozen.  In Alaska, ships will often take on fresh salmon every day.