I'm planning on going to Alaska in May. This is my first time to Alaska. I'm going with 6 adults and 1 child (11). We want to do 11 days. Land tour and cruise. We are wondering if it is better to land first then the cruise? We are comming from CA and also don't know if it is better to fly into Canada or Alaska. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Also which is better inside passage or outside passage. We also want a cabin with balcony. Where is the some good places to book from. I'm new at all this.
Definately a northbound trip IF Denali Park is a priority for wildlife viewing (the most excellent area for this). You need an arrival there after June 1 for the shuttle system, or the end of May for the "tour" buses to get far enough into the park. BUT- in my opinion- group tours on a fixed schedule by bus are NOT ideal with a child and way too costly for what you get. Also consider going on your own with perhaps 2 rental cars. Would allow far more touring options and the ability to see what is YOUR interests. Head to your library and take out Alaska travel books, especially Foddor's Alaska and Frommer's Alaska. Also take a look at THE MILEPOST, a necessary reference for independent touring. IF you still want to go with a cruise tour- go for at least 7 days interior- any shorter has too much time in transit compared to what you have at the destination. For the wildlife- you need the Tundra Wilderness tour not the Natural History tours BUT if going BEFORE the last week in MAY ALL tours will essentially be the Natural History as the road isn't open. Be very very informed of what you are purchasing- I find descriptions vague- the rail is 8 hours Anchorage- Denali Park- so have 2 nights there. Via bus about 6 hours. Meals are extra except where listed on the land tour.
I recommend Princess. Fly into Fairbanks and start the cruisetour there. Finish with a southbound cruise to Vancouver. We have cruised Alaska 5 times ( with different cruise lines) and this was the best of them all.
I agree that you should fly into Fairbanks and do a southbound cruise. We did this and were very grateful. We were in Denali park until midnight and as a result by the time we got to the boat we were ready for a day at sea to get our energy back.