Is the Gulf of Alaska cruise really that much better than an inside passage tour? Is the scenery really that different, or are most of the glaciers more or less the same? Flying in and out of Vancouver seems easier than returning through Anchorage, and cheaper too. Is an Alaska land tour really worth all the time traveling on bus or train? I'm an active person, and am afraid I'll get bored with all the sitting and looking out the window.
I'm just beginning my research for a cruise next summer and could use advice. Thanks.
Is it better to do the Gulf of Alaska? IMHO absolutely. The inside passage is beautiful but if you do not go all the way up to Seward you will have missed the best glacier viewing from the ship. It may sound unbelievable but you do not want to miss the sights north of the inside package.
We did the Gulf of Alaska last year, and from my point of view College Fjord and Glacier Bay were the definite higlights. We did enjoy the ports of call that are part of the Inside Passage - Juneau in particular because we went whale watching and then spent time at Mendenhall Glacier, and Ketchikan in particular because we did a sea & air (catamaran/floatplane) trip into Misty Fjords.
Having said that, if an Inside Passage only itinerary has glacier visits included (and (I believe most do), and if you are not going to spend time on what I consider to be mainland Alaska upon arrival in Anchorage, then an Inside Passage may suffice for you. It wouldn't for me because we found the things to do on the mainland very interesting and would not hesitate to go back to explore more of it, but again I think it's a matter of interests.
I am uncertain re the "Gulf of Alaska". We have made five trips to Alaska and the only
itineraries were those from the Inside Passage. Perhaps Sitka is considered to be in
the Gulf, but the Inside passage is the only way to see the major sites as well as the
glaciers. If you have the time and really want to "see" Alaska, the only way is by going
inland. There is much to see even above the Arctic Circle. Take a flight from Anc.to
Kotzebue and Nome---this is where the "real" Alaska is found. ENJOY
Inside Passage is the area around the SE panhandle portion - it includes places like Sitka, and Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan, and Haines and many other smaller ports. It may or may not go to Glacier Bay. So unless, the ship crosses the wide open Gulf of Alaska to Seward and visits places like College Fjord and Valdez, the itinerary is usually known as Inside Passage. Otherwise, it's known as the Gulf of Alaska itinerary. On the Gulf itinerary, ports of call normally associated with the Inside Passage will also be included. Hope this helps.
IMHO the best part of Alaska is Glacier Bay and above. Depending on the amount of time you have, you should consider renting a car out of Anchorage to see Denali National Park and the KenaI Peninsula. Last year we took our cruise on Princess, just to see Glacier Bay. The first time we saw it, it was gray and cloudy - last year the sun was out and it was beautiful. Check out "backman's alaska" in the photo gallery to get a taste of what we saw.
In my opinion, I would never consider a one way trip without at least 5 additional days interior touring. It is costly in time and money to get on/out of Anchorage and a bus ride does not do it for me (touring the interior ). All trips go to the inside passage, the one ways add College Fjords and sometimes Valdez. Consider going on your own interior, Alaska is no place to be stuck on a bus on a fixed time schedule,. it is very easy to go on your own for about half the price seeing twice as much. I also strongly feel that round trips are in no way "sloppy seconds", they offer an excellent experience and sometimes at considerable savings. If you don't have the time or money for at least a 12 day trip- do get to Alaska on a great round trip.