should i go on a cruise to Alaska on my honeymoon
November 21, 2007 11:02 PM   Subscribe

Should I go on a cruise to Alaska on my honeymoon?

I just got engaged this past saturday. (yay!) And the wedding will probably at the end of May, so I have to start planning the honeymoon if I want to find some good deals.

I've always wanted to take a cruise to Alaska, but I'm not sure if it's a good idea or not. My boyfriend and I had previously though about going on a Hawaiian cruise, but since I've already been on one, I thought maybe we'd like to take the Alaska cruise, then a whole week at some beautiful hotel in one of the Hawaiian islands.

I'm thinking about one of these Princess Cruises. (but could consider another line if the dates match)

I don't really know what I'm asking, but since I've read some of the reviews on and, mostly I want some Mefi to tell me their own experience and see if they recommend it or not. For the record, both my boyfriend and I love to look at nature and we would certainly appreciate the glaciers and sea and stuff, although we're not the adventurous/sporty type.
posted by CrazyLemonade to Travel & Transportation around Alaska (22 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
My aunt went on an Alaskan cruise and said it was one of the best experiences of her life (and she's been all over the world).
posted by amyms at 11:18 PM on November 21, 2007

congratulations CrazyLemonade on your engagement!

now, what specifically worries you about a cruise to Alaska? could you elaborate on this a little bit before we get too deep into the discussion? Are you worried about weather? departure logistics? something else entirely?

why the hesitation?
posted by seawallrunner at 11:37 PM on November 21, 2007

For what it's worth, back in 2003 I went on a cruise up to SE Alaska by myself. If you go before Memorial Day, the cruises are far cheaper. I had lived in Ketchikan briefly in 1996, and I wanted to get back that way, but see more, and do it as cheaply as possible.

As a suggestion, if you do go, try and get an "obstructed view" room. It is the same cost as an inside room, but has a window with a lifeboat in the way. Since you'll likely spend most of your time outside the room, this will let you save money, but still have natural light in the mornings.

Having priced out a cruise vs. taking the Alaska Marine Highway System, the cruise is cheaper, as you can get 10 days of travel, lodging, and and food for around $600/person (double occupancy). I would just suggest taking some time once you reach Anchorage (presuming a northbound cruise) to rent a car and do some traveling on your own. Or, just grab a ferry from Seward back to other towns you may wish to visit.

Being on the ship itself in SE Alaska is almost like being in a hotel with mountains moving around it. The water is pretty calm, and the scenery is wonderful. The only big thing to worry about is rain, as the Tongass National Forest, where you will spend most of the cruise, is a temperate rain forest.

I found that I rather enjoyed simply grabbing my backpack at each port and just wandering around. There is plenty to see without paying extra for the various sidetrips (excursions) offered by the cruise company. The only excursion I'd recommend is the train trip in Skagway, because that town doesn't really have much in the town itself beyond some hiking, and a train ride up into the mountains would have been pretty nice.

Oh, also, take the train from Seward to Anchorage if it is available. You'll see a lot more, as the train line winds through the mountains, as opposed to the roads which are constructed in a bit more accessible areas.

Finally, if you'd like to see some photos of the trip I went on, via Princess Cruises, on the Coral Princess ship, which was brand new at the time, take a look here.

If you have any more specific questions, just let me know...
posted by c0nsumer at 11:38 PM on November 21, 2007

I highly recommend an Alaskan cruise as a honeymoon, actually.

I've been cruising to Alaska twice, and can also recommend Princess' Mt McKinley/Denali extra three day add-on package (and we didn't even cruise Princess, we just tagged along with them for the trip to Denali) because it goes deep into Alaska and strays off the well-traveled coast a wee bit.

If you can fly into Vancouver, it adds a little more time in Alaska itself (depends on where the line starts, Seattle or Vancouver). Plus, Vancouver's a *nice* place to start out in, gets you in the mood very well. I recommend any cruise that gets you through College Fjord, fyi.

The coastline of Alaska/BC is beautiful, the towns are by turns twee (Haines) and stunning (Ketchikan), and you have both time to think/have mad sex (while cruising) and time to enjoy the views (excursions/port days).

I'm not *that* sporty either (wouldn't go camping there, no thanks), but the glaciers = worth every penny, and the forest/wilderness is also amazing. A cruise is perfect for the 'likes nature, doesn't love it' type: you can hike as much or as little as you want, and there's still culture up there, too ;)

Everyone I know who's done the Alaska cruise, whatever line, has enjoyed and recommended the experience. If you have any further questions, there are communities upon communities for this stuff and I can get ahold of some should you so desire, or try to dredge up some of my own memories.

P.S. Congratulations!
posted by librarylis at 12:14 AM on November 22, 2007

I recommend Italy or France, but mostly Italy. Live it up! You can't beat Europe in the Spring.
posted by wsg at 12:21 AM on November 22, 2007

Congratulations on the engagement!

We cruised the West Coast of Canada/Alaska for our honeymoon back in Sept 2005 - it was a fantastic experience, and is much recommended!

We departed Vancouver on the MS Volendam, and stopped on in Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan with excursions at each; a Klondike gold-rush railway was entertaining, a floatplane and boat journey through the misty fjords was amazing, and a several-hour trek across a glacier (after being deposited via helicopter) was totally awesome.

We didn't have any real problems with bad weather (there was one rough-ish night as we passed the north end of Vancouver Island and were no longer sheltered) but it wasn't as bad as other ferries that I've been on.

The cruise itself was a total eye-opener - so much to do and see, and food and drink everywhere at whatever time you want!

Some of the meals were reasonably formal affairs, but nothing particularly stuffy; we had to choose in advance the type of table we wanted for meals - we opted to have a six-seater (just the two of us would have been lonely, four is risky if you hate the other couple, so six seemed like a good compromise) and had an absolute blast with the other two couples.

We were fortunate to be upgraded to a room with a balcony, which really made the trip even more special - being able to hop outside to see the scenery without having to make yourself fully presentable was great. Make sure when booking that you let them know it's a honeymoon (you may need your marriage certificate/license) and see what happens - different cruise lines have different rules; I think that ours was a 2-class increase in room within the same "band" that you pick (sounds complicated, but makes sense when you look at the room plans for the ship!)

Drop me a note if you'd like any more information; there's a bunch of photos tagged "honeymoon" on Flickr if you're interested (link in profile).
posted by Chunder at 2:37 AM on November 22, 2007

Just had a feeling of deja vu after writing that, and remembered that someone asked a similar question last year... may be some more useful information and links there.
posted by Chunder at 2:48 AM on November 22, 2007

I recently did an Alaskan cruise with my wife, two kids (1 yo and 4 yo), and my parents.

We had a great time. After a LOT of research, we went on Royal Caribbean, on the Radiance of the Sea, from Vancouver to Seward (one-way).

I think it would be a lot of fun for a honeymoon-- just a few things to point out:

1. You absolutely must plan on going on lots of excursions. Some of of the ports of call are just fun to walk around, others are really only there for the sole purpose of having a place for the cruise ships to dock. (Icy Strait Point, in particular). We did a glacier helicopter tour (OH MY GOD was that great, but expensive), a whale watch, a rail tour... but I wish we had done more.

2. If I were doing again, I would combine with a trip to Denali once you get to Seward. Cruising is fun, but I felt that I was missing seeing a lot of Alaska because we didn't go into the interior.

3. The earlier you go, the cheaper it is. We went on the second time that cruise had taken place that year, in mid-May. It's great to spend less money, and it is less crowded, but you might run into situations where excursions are not available because it is still too cold/too icy/etc. One of the things we were really looking forward was cruising the Hubbard glacier, but there was too much ice in the water for us ot get that close. With your timing (late May), it might be perfect.

Congratulations, and good luck!
posted by gregvr at 3:03 AM on November 22, 2007

I've been twice, both times on Celebrity. The scenery is spectacular, and a cruise is a great way to see it. Unless you're seriously trying to save money, do not take c0nsumer's advice re: obstructed view cabins. Get a balcony if you can. Some of my favorite moments were sitting on my balcony, just watching the mountains go by. (And you're on your honeymoon; of course you'll want to spend a lot of time in your cabin!) The second time we went we had an aft cabin on Celebrity Infinity, (aft meaning on the rear end of the ship), so we had a 180 degree view from the balcony. It costs more, but totally worth it. But those cabins sell out fast; contact your travel agent now if you want one.
posted by Daily Alice at 3:23 AM on November 22, 2007

Let me put in a word for the cruise lines that operate smaller ships -- we went on a family trip on Glacier Bay Cruiselines, whose boats hold about 100 people and can nose into places the big ships can't. It was terrific and I highly recommend it. (It seems that the company's been sold since we went on our trip, though, so don't take this as a recommendation for any particular vendor.)
posted by escabeche at 5:53 AM on November 22, 2007

FWIW, we just went to Alaska on the Norwegian Sun and did not love it, but a lot of the problems were very specific to the ship's crew, so I'd suggest avoiding that particular vessel.

The other reason we didn't really love it was that we (my parents and I) have all lived in Northern British Columbia for many years, and traveled extensively there. Alaskan scenery just wasn't sufficiently different from taking the ferry up the BC coast, or visiting the Columbia Icefields for it to feel superspecial to us -- but that's probably a condition that's relatively unique to people like us, who have those experiences. Most people on the boat were constantly floored by the scenery.

We did really love our shore excursions, especially the one where we visited a dog sledding camp. Unlike many Caribbean cruises, where you could just get off the boat and take a taxi to the beach, in Alaska, shore excursions are pretty much mandatory. A lot of the stops are in grotty little towns that have nothing but bad shopping to offer outside of the excursions. So when planning your budget, look very carefully at the shore excursion list for your itinerary and get at least a rough idea of which ones you'd like to take. A hundred dollars per person per port day would be on the low end of Alaska shore excursion prices--you can manage cheaper, but not without long hours in port with not much to do. You can also manage much, much more expensive--there are a lot of flying trips that are upwards of $300 per person.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:04 AM on November 22, 2007

Mrs. schustafa and I went on an Alaskan cruise this past summer and had a *great* time. You say that you love to look at nature; there are plenty of shore excursions that will afford you the opportunity to see some great wildlife (being from the east coast, we were astonished at how common bald eagles are).

We weren't on our honeymoon, but we met a couple from Long Island who were, and they seemed to really enjoy the honeymoon aspect of it. It's really easy to make it romantic or adventurous, to your taste.

For the record, we sailed with Celebrity (aboard the Mercury) and the crew was fantastic.
posted by schustafa at 7:12 AM on November 22, 2007

Echoing Daily Alice - balconies are great for exactly those reasons. If you do go looking for a balcony and are on a large ship there may be places where the ship "kicks out" and gets bigger (this is true on some of the celebrity ships). The balconies for those rooms look like little triangles on the diagram of the ship and are quite a bit bigger than a standard balcony with a better view for no additional cost.
posted by true at 7:25 AM on November 22, 2007

I have never been on an Alaskan cruise, but as someone who grew up in SE Alaska I'll just chime for half a second. Because of the massive growth in the tourist industry, the "downtown" parts of many SE Alaskan towns are a complete joke. Horrible curio shops, Diamonds International outlets, 5 ugly t-shirts for a dollar. Juneau, where I grew up, is especially bad. So, my recommendation generally, when you disembark from the ship, is to have some ideas about cool excursions, quick walks/hikes, interesting historical places to check out (museums, etc). Obviously, the cruise line will have many options to sell you. If you are interested in particular info about Juneau, you can mefi-mail me.

Just take care not to end up wandering with the herd through the tacky money-traps. Otherwise, you may love the cruise and the scenery from the ship, but you'll think, "man, those Alaskan towns really suck," which would be a shame.

Congratulations! If you decide to go on the cruise, I'm sure you'll love it. Despite living decades in Alaska, the beauty of the place still awes me on a regular basis.
posted by otolith at 8:31 AM on November 22, 2007

Alaska is gorgeous, and I hope to travel there again someday.

I dated a guy who grew up there, however, and both he and his family were really against the cruise lines. They isolate you from the local population and, more importantly, the local economy -- you're taking up a big environmental footprint without really giving back, emotionally or financially, to the local community (except, as otolith points out, to non-local-owned tchotke shops).

I know when I lived in Venice, I detested the cruises for exactly the same reasons; they seemed to dump off insanely large loads of tourists uninterested in participating in the local culture onto a historic city that then had to absorb them as they crowded tourist-only shops and cafes and public spaces and as the boats churned out pollution and caused environmental damage in the fragile lagoon.

I don't know enough about Alaska specifically to know if there are local, smaller cruise lines that would avoid some of these problems. But I would definitely feel unethical taking one of the larger international cruise lines into such an environmentally fragile area, and I would feel creepy about traveling to a place and not contributing to the local economy.

Obviously, my ethics do not need to be your ethics, and as I said, Alaska is stunning and I do hope you find a way to travel there in a way that's comfortable and right for you. Best wishes on the wedding, honeymoon, and marriage!
posted by occhiblu at 8:59 AM on November 22, 2007

Friends recently went with these people and were thrilled. They said the boat could go place the large ones couldn't even come close to.
posted by haikuku at 10:51 AM on November 22, 2007

Juneau . . . is especially bad.

This is misleading. Only South Franklin Street is bad; further into downtown (only a few blocks away from the cruise ship docks) is the "real" Juneau used year-round by locals.

For example, the "historic" Red Dog Saloon's current building was built new from the foundation-up in the late 80s. Total tourist trap crap. But, a block and a half away is the Alaskan Bar & Hotel which is a historic building and has been a bar/hotel since the mining days. The real deal.

Skagway, on the other hand, is basically just a tourist trap.
posted by D.C. at 12:50 PM on November 22, 2007


if you like the thought of alaska and the canadian coastline, then why not go and do something in a similar climate that's even less usual (at least for americans)?

consider the norwegian hurtigruten ships. these are ferries-postal ships-cruise liners that travel up and down the coast of norway. the fjords up there are absolutely amazing (think being on a ship inside the grand canyon looking up if said gc looked like alaska or northern oregon).

there are a million websites/photos/trip reports about these guys on the web. here's the wikipedia entry and a bunch of flickr shots.

bonus point: you are on the european continent, making stopping by a bunch of other places very convenient.
posted by krautland at 12:50 PM on November 22, 2007

post scriptum: since the hurtigruten are ferries, you can step off and spend time wherever you want and resume your trip. huge difference to the floating casinos others mentioned here.
posted by krautland at 12:54 PM on November 22, 2007

Response by poster: Wow, I hadn't been able to get online until right now, and I'm happy to see a lot of good answers. I'll have to read them carefully again in a few days, when I go talk to some travel agent.

Like I'd said, I wasn't really sure about what I was asking, but basically I guess I wanted to know if Alaska was really worth the trip (I'm from Mexico) and if the cruise wasn't going to be full of retired couples and such. I do love the fact that the cruises either begin or end in Vancouver, since I fell in love with the city 3 years ago on my semester as an international exchange student.

Thanks to those who talk about the excursions and those who offered pics, I'll definetly take a look at them and maybe MefiMail you later on.

Aaaah! Now I can't wait to go! (I'll have to convince my boyfriend [wait, fiancé] first.)

PS: To those suggesting Europe, thanks but no thanks. The old continent isn't really in our plans for the honeymoon, but definetly for some future summer...
posted by CrazyLemonade at 5:40 PM on November 22, 2007

As a Southeast Alaska resident, I can concur what a few others have said. If you want a really special experience, try the smaller cruise ships if you can afford them. Most of the large cruise ships guide you to experiencing tour packages and shops that they actually own or are paid to promote and discourage you from trying anything local. Often, you never get past the strip of jewelry shops owned by Princess Tours before you are exhausted. The small ships seem to have a great atmosphere. I work in a gift shop on the weekends and, I have to say, some of my happiest and most interesting customers are the independent travelers and those off of small ships.

That said, SE Alaska is totally awesome no matter what. It is incredibly beautiful and, if you don't mind the rain, a recreational paradise! If you have the time, take a train out of Anchorage into the interior which is a different biome entirely. Plus, taking a train is cool, yah?

If you do decide to cruise to AK, send me a note and I can help you find some fun things to do in Juneau.
posted by Foam Pants at 2:57 AM on November 27, 2007

Response by poster: Coming back to the thread (it's been 5 months since my wedding) to say that we took the Alaska cruise and we LOVED it. We were on Princess Cruises, Vancouver to Whittier. Everything was kind of slow since there were a lot of people over 60 and 70 years old on the ship, so we pretty much kept to ourselves the whole week (we're in our late 20s).

I found out that "discount shopping" is a big deal in the ports, but my husband and I never had the curiosity for it so we spent our time on the shore excursions. I greatly recommend the "Glacier trek" on Juneau, and kayaking on Ketchikan if you get good weather (we had an exceptionally sunny day, since apparently it rains there all the time). Also, Glacier Bay is the most awesome place I've ever been in.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 9:33 AM on October 31, 2008

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