Thoughts about an Alaskan cruise?
April 25, 2006 4:34 PM   Subscribe

My wife and I want to go on an Alaskan cruise in the latter part of August. We have a couple questions: Is that a good time to go? Next, could we do a week long cruise for under $4000 (airfare to the Northwest included) on a non-sardinish cruise liner? Any thoughts or recommendations would also be appreciated. Thanks!
posted by narebuc to Travel & Transportation around Alaska (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
airfare to the Northwest included
your starting point is...?
posted by whatzit at 4:38 PM on April 25, 2006

Response by poster: Ooops -- thanks whatzit -- beginning in the New York or Philadelphia area.
posted by narebuc at 4:50 PM on April 25, 2006

Through the Panama Canal, or around the cape?
posted by pg at 4:52 PM on April 25, 2006

Response by poster: Panama canal - for an Alaskan cruise? Yikes. I think we just want to go from Seattle/Vancouver up and back from Alaska for a bit. I guess I should have just asked if anyone has gone on such a cruise and which one to recommend.
posted by narebuc at 4:57 PM on April 25, 2006

I've done 3 Alaskan cruises - on Holland America, Princess, and the Song of Flower. If you don't want sardinish, you definitely want Holland America. Plus it was the best of all three service-wise.

Because an Alaskan cruise is all about the scenery (not really the ports of call) you must get an outside cabin. No use being in an inside cabin with no window when you're trying to spot glaciers and puffins.

A quick search on Holland America's website showed a 7 day cruise, embarking and debarking both in Seattle, a large outside cabin, end of August/beginning of Sept, and return airfare included from Philadelphia at around $1800 per person.

Oh, and yes, late August is a great time to go! Glaciers will be a little more prone to melting and causing those huge crashes that you see on postcards. (At least that was my experience between going in June and August.)
posted by meerkatty at 5:04 PM on April 25, 2006

I agree with everything meerkatty said. My wife and I went on an Alaskan cruise in August of 2004, and had an outside cabin. It was my first cruise, and was fun as it could possibly be (meaning I didn't really care for it, but that was because of the nature of cruises themselves). Enjoy!
posted by jdroth at 5:10 PM on April 25, 2006

Sorry lame joke.
I went on the Seabourne Pride several years ago, had a reasonably good time. Alaska is an extremely beautiful place.
posted by pg at 5:14 PM on April 25, 2006

I went on Holland America about 2 years ago. They are the only line that goes to Glacier Bay. It's worth going on Holland America to see the glaciers calve. However, it is known for its elderly clientele and the food, shows and amenities are in keeping with that. (I know someone whose husband is a captain for Holland America -- they live onboard -- and she admits it is the "geriatric line"). We had a good time, though, and it was worth it for the Glacier Bay trip. I wouldn't go on Holland America otherwise, even though the rooms are bigger.
posted by acoutu at 5:19 PM on April 25, 2006

Yeah, more Alaskan Cruise experiences would be good. My wife and I are considering it.
posted by xmutex at 5:46 PM on April 25, 2006

though it's more expensive, a small ship can actually maneuver through much more interesting territory and get much closer to glaciers and such. there's an extensive list of lines serving alaska here.

lindblad in particular, though not cheap, is excellent, with naturalists and geologists on board to help show you the highlights of the region. very antithetical to the traditional "geriatric cruise" experience too, which is nice.
posted by judith at 5:54 PM on April 25, 2006

Since most go of the cruises go only north or south and not round trip my parents did something great last year....

They went north on one-- got off, came back south bound on another. They got 7 extra days for less than the flight would have cost.

If you do get a oceanview or suite try to make sure you are on the "right" side of the boat depending whether north or south bound cruise.

You could probably with airfare and cruise and port charges do 2 weeks (one up- one back) for about 2500 a piece with one way having a balcony.

With out a balcony my parents did the Celebrity Mercury one way - and a new Holland America ship the other from Boston for about 1500 a piece with flight.

The excusions are really expensive - even when you arrange yourself. So if you did go cheapo on the the cabin you could go a bit more nuts with excursions... I hear the port towns are all the same-- horrible little gift shops.

Sorry for the long post--

Have a great time if you go.

This These 2 will be about 2K with a balcony one way.

Mon Sep 4 Vancouver, Canada 4:30pm
Tue Sep 5 At Sea
Wed Sep 6 Ketchikan, AK 6:30am 2:00pm
Thu Sep 7 Juneau, AK 8:00am 9:00pm
Fri Sep 8 Skagway, AK 7:00am 8:30pm
Sat Sep 9 Glacier Bay National Park, AK (Cruising) 6:00am 3:00pm
Sun Sep 10 College Fjord, AK (Cruising) 5:30pm 8:30pm
Mon Sep 11 Whittier, AK 12:30am

Mon Sep 11 Whittier, AK 9:30pm
Tue Sep 12 College Fjord, AK (Cruising) 6:00am 9:00am
Wed Sep 13 Glacier Bay National Park, AK (Cruising) 10:30am 8:30pm
Thu Sep 14 Skagway, AK 5:30am 8:00pm
Fri Sep 15 Juneau, AK 6:30am 4:00pm
Sat Sep 16 Ketchikan, AK 10:00am 6:00pm
Sun Sep 17 At Sea
Mon Sep 18 Vancouver, Canada 7:30am
posted by beccaj at 6:11 PM on April 25, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses everyone. I hope this question will be the definitive AskMefi Alaskan cruise thread. Strangely my wife seems to have been right that we might want to save such a trip for when we're older! Given that elderly people tend to flock to warmer climates, I wonder if it's just cruises they like to go on then....
posted by narebuc at 6:13 PM on April 25, 2006

As an alternative, you can ride the Alaska Marine Highway Ferry System. You could use the extra money that you save to stay over in different ports of call and take exciting side trips.
posted by Staggering Jack at 6:27 PM on April 25, 2006

My parents went on this Tauck Tour (I believe) of Alaska. I can't remember what month they went. They loved it. Smaller boat, more casual atmosphere.
I went on a camping tour of Alaska in mid-August, and I wish we would have gone earlier. You are getting towards the end of season and it's already getting cold. (I am a SoCal girl, so "cold" may not mean the same thing to me as it does to you.)
posted by clh at 6:30 PM on April 25, 2006

As an alternative, you can ride the Alaska Marine Highway Ferry System.

I know this question is about cruises, but I have been on the AMHS three times, once in February and twice over Christmas and thought it was one of the finest vacations I have ever been on. You go up and back in a week but can hop off and back on as Staggering Jack says which is sort of a neat way to see Alaska. Very no frills and not for everyone, but worth knowing about. Email me if you'd like more info. My pictures from the trips are here, here and here.
posted by jessamyn at 6:44 PM on April 25, 2006

It's been a few years, but I went with my grandmother on a Princess cruise to Alaska. (Her idea, her choice of ship, her nickel.) It was late August, absolutely gorgeous, and cold as heck. Though I'm not a fan of cruises, I think it was a fantastic way to see that part of the world.

Ditto on the dreariness of the port towns, though the mining museum in Ketchikan was interesting. I did take one excursion, a whale-watching tour boat near Juneau. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I can't recommend it highly enough. Orcas, Humpbacks, dolphins, Bald Eagles...

The ship was very nice and felt spacious. No one sat outside, because it was so cold. My only serious complaint (and this is totally off-subject) was that Baywatch was filming an episode during the cruise, so a part of the ship was closed every day for filming, which got annoying. Plus, seeing David Hasselhof in a bathrobe at the spa is something I could have lived without. I nearly had to gouge out my eyes.
posted by shifafa at 8:13 PM on April 25, 2006

We took a Holland America cruise from Vancouver through Alaska (Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan) for our honeymoon last September... totally amazing!

The ship was the Volendam; the staff and service was fantastic, the food was incredible - and the excursions, although expensive, were better than we could have imagined. If we hadn't gone on the excursions, then I strongly suspect that we'd have been rather bored.

In our late 20s, we were by far the youngest on the ship (apart from a few children who were along with their parents) - although this didn't cause us any problems; we chose to have a dining table of 6, and sat with two couples from Australia - and had an absolute blast! It would have been really boring if we'd been sitting on our own, or with one other couple.

The main thing that made the trip was that our cabin got upgraded (because of the honeymoon) - so we had a balcony. It made a massive difference, as when you're travelling through scenic areas first thing in the morning (Tracy Arm and places like that) you don't have to rush to get up, clean, dressed, etc. - just throw on your dressing gown, pop onto the balcony, gawp and take photos... and then dive back into the warmth of the bed! :-)

All in all it was a fantastic experience, and one that was well worth doing... but only if you can afford to splash out on a decent cabin, and some top-notch excursions.

If you want to check out some more details, we kept a running livejournal of our cruise... yes, the ship even has an internet suite!
posted by Chunder at 1:54 AM on April 26, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks again for the great responses all. My wife is not a MeFier but when I send her threads like this one she sees why I am.

We're still sort of newlyweds....I wonder if they'll upgrade us for that?
posted by narebuc at 8:57 AM on April 26, 2006

My Mom and I did a southbound Princess Cruise last summer at the end of August and the weather was perfect. We had to bundle up a little, but everything was still in bloom and we missed the mosquitos, which was a big plus! We flew to Fairbanks so I could see where I was born and then did the land tour down to the ship. I was the youngest person on the land tour by about 30 years (I'm 30) and the youngest person on the cruise by about 20 years or so. (Honeymooning couples and children excepted.) We had an inside cabin and had no problem seeing everything by going out on the deck.

For me the excursions were the only thing that helped me keep my sanity. I got to bike for 10 miles, see the Mendenhall Glacier, and then go drink beer in Juneau. In Ketchikan I did sea kyaking. And in Skagway we did a hike and raft trip. These kept me energized and let me feel like I was getting to see at least a tiny bit of the country instead of milling around from one overpriced shop to another with a billion other passengers, which is all there is to do in many of the smaller towns if you don't do an excursion.
posted by MsMolly at 9:39 AM on April 26, 2006

narebuc: They never asked to see our wedding certificate - although perhaps the holdings hands all the time, and the sparkly rings were enough to convince them?

Make sure that you mention it when booking, and see what happens...
posted by Chunder at 3:00 AM on April 27, 2006

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