We have cruised 3 times, all to warm "tropical" climates. Would like to try something different, so we are thinking about Alaska. Problem is I KNOW NOTHING !! Figured you nice folks would help out. Looking to sell in either July or August of 2002. What is the weather like ? Any advice on type of sailings (northbound, southbound ?) Also, what is the best port to sail from and keep airfare reasonable ? We will be flying from Indiana ? Are the balconys worth the price ? Better to book early or wait for the best deals ? I have also found the last minute deals to the Caribbean to be great, but don't know if that's a great idea for Alaska. Any advice would be greatly appreciate !!!
For myself I prefer the northbound trip. I have always sailed back to back in Alaska so I have sailed both directions. We have always provided our own transportation to Vancouver where we sailed from Once by train the last time we flew into Seattle and took the Quick Shuttle to Vancouver. We always arrive a day or two before we cruise. We do back to back because we do not have to do all the tours in one day when in port plus the fact that we love the scenery of the Inside Passage and to see the glaciers. If I ever booked a balcony it would be in Alaska. When in the fjords looking at the glaciers they will turn the ship so your balcony will face the glaciers at some point. The weather can vary every day. You can have it warm one minute and cool and rainy the next than warm again. Each port has similarities but they are also very different. Alaska is my favorite place to cruise and I will cruise there as often as possible.
For summer, there are more deals to Alaska (there are even great deals in advance) because if you take a hard look at it, there are barely any ships in the Caribbean during the summer (carnival has three for seven day cruises, HAL has one, Princess has one, RCI has three, Celebrity has one). Now look at Alaska (Princess has five, HAL has five or six, RCI has three, Celebrity has two and Carnival has one). More ships means more space and better prices.
If you can afford it take a north or southbound as opposed to the inside passage mainly because of the cruise through the College Fjord in Prince William Sound. Great scenery.
Call my TA Cruise Connections at 1-800-661-WAVE. They are located in Vancouver and specialize in Alaska cruises. Best prices anywhere because they buy cabins in bulk and the popular ships!
July and August are the best months to cruise Alaska. Next year there may be more restrictions on which ships travel which Bays (recent legislation). Princess, and HAL have the best reputations and experience with both land and sea tours. Royal Caribbean (families ++) and Celebrity (food & service++) have some beautiful ships and great itineraries. Flying into Seatle then either taking a land transfer or flying to Vancouver is recommended. Do plan at least one pre-night stay. Vancouver is a lovely city. The sooner you book a balcony cabin the better you will feel. It was our first balcony and it was great. We cruised in June, Father's day and temperatures were good 70's but you will always get some rain. 2002 Itineraries should be out, so start shopping. I would book the air independently as well as the hotel. You will save a lot of money. You can always change your mind before final payment is due. Get at least 3 cruise quotes before you buy. Try orbitz.com, expedia.com, travelocity.com, etc for great airfare buys. We only had time to do a 7 night round trip but enjoyed it a lot.
We have cruised and toured in Alaska several different months, but we really
prefer May--the beginning of the season. Our rationale is the "white"mountains
in May. If you want to see beautiful snow covered mountains and spectacular
glaciers, we recommend May. If you want to tour inland however, the later months
are possibly better. If you want to avoid the younger generation, go before schools
close. In any event you will ENJOY
We are just back from a land-sea tour through Radisson on the Mariner. I would never do Alaska without a balcony!! That was our favorite place to be -- we went to see the scenery, not the casino. I don't know about next year's prices, but when we were looking to book, Mariner was the best buy if you want a balcony. Other ships have lower prices, but when you add on extras for balcony, tipping, incidentals, all of which were included with Mariner, we felt we got a good bargain. We booked early and I kept wondering if we would have done better to wait for a bargain, but with Mariner it was so popular, prices never dropped any more than we got when we booked last year -- we had early discount plus ship credit.
We chose to fly to Anchorage and do land tour first -- that way we had more energy at the beginning, and really appreciated the slower pace when the cruise began. Weather was 60's most of the time -- except when you get close to the Glaciers, it gets colder sitting on that balcony. We did have rain three days our of 13, but even then it wasn't too cold to get around in our rain jackets.
As to when to go, they told us wild flowers were brilliant earlier in the season. Salmon run is later -- we got there for salmon fishing derbys in every port.
I am not a big traveler, but I kept looking for air fares and could not do better than we got booking air with cruise. You are booking two one-ways when you do the trip all the way to Anchorage.