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Old October 7th, 2004, 08:45 AM
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Default What's the best cruiseline sailing to Alaska??

My parents are wanting to plan their 1st cruise ever and they want to go to Alaska since they have never been. Since they have never been on a cruise before ever they really don't have any expectations except to have a great time. I have only cruised in the caribbean on Royal Caribbean so that is my cruiseline of choice. However, royal caribbean does not have as many choices of itenerary to Alaska compared to other lines such as Holland America, Princess or Celebrity.....Any experienced alaska cruisers that have sailed on the various cruise lines have any preference or pros and cons on the different cruiselines that go to Alaska??? They are wanting to do a northbound from Vancouver and do a cruise tour to Denali National Park after the cruise. Any insight on this would be appreciated....

Thanks

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Old October 7th, 2004, 04:01 PM
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Default Re: What's the best cruiseline sailing to Alaska??

We had a wonderful Alaska cruise on Celebrity's Infinity 2 years ago, although we went round trip from Vancouver which I loved, we just flew directly into Vancouver and had a few hours in the afternoon to walk around town. I did write a review with pictures at the bottom:

Infinity in Alaska

I know there are quite a few good choices for cruising in Alaska, hope you find the right one for your parents.

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Old October 7th, 2004, 07:38 PM
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Default Re: What's the best cruiseline sailing to Alaska??

I would suggest choosing itinerary instead of cruise line. And IMHO Glacier Bay is a must. Not all lines go to Glacier Bay and if a line does go, not every one of their ships go there.

This will narrow your choice greatly I think. And as a second choice College Fjord. I think all north and southbound cruises visit there but maybe not so check.

The scenery is incredible in those spots.

I would also suggest departing from Vancouver. Again, I don't know if the one way trips use Seattle but the scenery's a bit better in the southern end of the trip from Vancouver.

I think my suggestions narrow you down to Princess and HAL. Maybe RCCL too. Celebrity doesn't go to Glacier bay and I think that NCL only does round trips and not one-way trips.
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Old October 7th, 2004, 07:50 PM
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Default Re: Re: What's the best cruiseline sailing to Alaska??

We got to visit Hubbard Glacier, I was very impressed with this stop, just amazing!

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Old October 7th, 2004, 10:14 PM
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Default Re: What's the best cruiseline sailing to Alaska??

Hubbar Glacier is incredible and certainly not a bad visit. But we did like Glacier bay better. There is no wrong choice and Celebrity is a great line.
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Old October 7th, 2004, 10:37 PM
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Default Re: What's the best cruiseline sailing to Alaska??

I feel that any of the lines or ports would be great. I have done Hubbard Glacier and Glacier Bay and from what I experienced both are equally wonderful. Vancouver is a lovely city, but Seattle was much easier to fly into and out. 2003= Vancouver on Statendam 2004=Seattle on Oosterdam. I have visited Juneau and Ketchikan twice, and Skagway and Sitka once. All are "must see" in my book.
My advice is consider what you like and go for the best price. Do you love trains? Skagway's White Pass Railroad is one of the best. Are you interested in Russian Culture? Then by all means see Sitka.
I don't see how one cruiseline can be "better" for every taste!
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Old October 8th, 2004, 06:36 AM
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Default Re: What's the best cruiseline sailing to Alaska??

Hello...We too are just about to book an Alaska cruise for the first time at the end of August, 2005. We have cruised 13-times to date, but never to Alaska, and I must say, it has taken plenty of time and research to figure out what would be best for our personal tastes. So many choices.

Even though we've love Royal Caribbean, they are not able to cruise to Glacier Bay or College Fjords and those are two places that we feel our must sees, at least for us. Holland America and Princess both do those routes, but we prefer Princess over Holland America. At this point I think we will do the Island Princess and will be doing a cruise tour, which is for 12-days and 11 nights. It will a sourthern route versus a northern route and begins in Fairbanks and ends in Vancouver. The land tour is first, then the cruise. We decided not to begin in Seattle because it did not appear that the ship visited as many areas because it has such a long distance from Seatlle and back.

Believe me, we are not experienced with Alaska cruising. I am only describing what we have decided upon based on my research and personal choice. Everyone has different tastes and I'm sure you do to.

Best of luck whatever decision you make, but from what friends and others have told us, you cannot go wrong with Princess.

Dave
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Old October 8th, 2004, 09:11 AM
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Default Re: What's the best cruiseline sailing to Alaska??

For clairfication- NO one way ships sail from Seattle, they all sail from Vancouver. My opinion only. I do not sail any one way without College fjord and Seward is way superior to Whittier. BUT way too many just pass through- don't be one of them the touring opportunities are just excellent. Frankly a 12 cruisetour package is NOT enough time. What you do not realize that a lot of this is IN TRANSIT. Ideally you need AT LEAST a 7 day add on with an extra day on your own with a rental car at either Fairbanks or Anchorage- you see VERY little of these cities otherwise. There is a LOT not disclosed with cruisetours, so do plenty of homework and KNOW what you are purchasing- many people do not. Things to consider- scheduled group point to point travel in Alaska is far from ideal. You miss everything in between. No meals unless specified- budget 50% more than at home for a cushion. Realize that the "tours" in Denali Park only get a little more than HALF way into the park. A distance I would never consider, my min. is via Shuttle to at least Eielson mile 66. IT make NO sense to book this your self on a cruisetour- you have already paid for the more costly "tour". With Princess- understand where you are- the McKinley Princess is out in the middle of no where- 50 miles from the nearest town- Talkeetna and 100 miles from the Denali Park Entrance. Forte is the McKinley views which are rare. The Kenai Princess is best for fishing interests. Copper River- again out in the middle of nowhere- few activities- best is a flight to see the Kennicott mines, but never a place I would be without a car. You will ofter see descriptions of the tours as "exhausting, always on the go, etc" This is because they are not planned right. I go on my own- my descriptions are never this and I clearly see and do twice as much for half the cost. Just be well aware of what you are purchasing.
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Old October 8th, 2004, 10:43 AM
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Default Re: What's the best cruiseline sailing to Alaska??

I would listen to Karen16. We did and had a wonderful time. Rented a car in Anchorage and did our own thing. Stayed at the Denali River Cabins just south of the Park entrance. Wonderful to hear the rushing water as you drift off to sleep. Went into Denali Park on the shuttle as far as Eielson Center - saw most of the wildlife toward the Eielson Center. The bus driver was wonderful - funny and informative. For instance do you know why the blond grizzly bears have blue markings on their hind ends? From sitting in the blueberry patches when they are feeding. They really do have blue bottoms. The road from Anchorage to Denali is fine. We had no problems. I went on a tour once and I will NEVER go on another tour. I hate being told where to go and what to do constantly. Unless you have some medical reason why you could not do the drive I would definitely avoid the tours and just rent a car. You can't get lost. There is only one major road north and one major road south from Anchorage. On the way back to Anchorage we decided to go to the Alaska State Fair. Couldn't have done that on a tour. I think I am in tune with Jimmy Buffett. I don't want that much organization in my life. Thank you Karen16. Your advice is right on!
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Old October 8th, 2004, 02:41 PM
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Default Re: What's the best cruiseline sailing to Alaska??

We did our first cruise this past summer to Alaska, with a 7 day land tour attached.
We used Holland America and had a wonderful time. I agree with other remarks posted about doing your own land portion, if you are willing to plan ahead. This was our first organized land tour, and we would do our own land portion next time. But, I must say that most of our tour group were older then we were and were quite content to be on the organized tour. We went on our own to Wonder Lake at Denali, Spent an entire day doing our own thing in Fairbanks at the end of our tour, and for the most part didn't feel to confined to the "tour". It depends how your parents travel, and if they want to do their own planning. Holland America ships are smaller than Princess, which we find a plus. Hope this helps.
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Old October 9th, 2004, 04:57 PM
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Default Re: Re: What's the best cruiseline sailing to Alaska??

Hi - I'm the parent that wants to cruise to Alaska that Stuart wrote about. I'm most interested in your experience while in Alaska. We were considering a cruise tour until reading your posting. "Doing your own thing" in Alaska sounds great! Would you recommend making all of your hotel reservations prior to arrival - or - take your chances on finding accommodations? I really prefer going and seeing what I want when I want, but have been "burned" a few times because of limited hotel accomodations.

How did you go about setting up your travel itinerray while on land? What cities / sites did you visit? How many days were you on land - how many would your recommend? How many days would you recommend on ship? What time of year did you travel?

Can I assume Visa cards are widely accepted in Alaska, or are travelers checks better?

Sorry for all of the questions - excited about going!!!!!!!!!
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Old October 9th, 2004, 07:27 PM
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Default Re: What's the best cruiseline sailing to Alaska??

Garrett,
My husband & I just booked on HAL's Statendam for May 24th for an 11 day land/cruise tour. We decided to do the land tour first & then the cruise (Southbound). We will be flying into Anchorage (1 day) & then going to Danali (2 days) before traveling to Seward (1 day) to start the cruise (7 days). We will be visiting Juneau, Sitka, Ketchican, Hubbard Glacier, & Skagway; to disembark in Vancover. I also am unsure about some of the excursions & am researching & listening to those that have gone before us. Like you, I was wondering about credit cards & how frequently they are used & which ones do most businesses take (Amex?). I've heard both ways of booking them & am not sure whether to do it myself of book through the ship! Any suggestions? We found when we went to the Carribean that the excursions were quite a bit more expensive to book through the ship, it was less costly to visit the web site & book there. Is this also true of Alaska? We've heard great things about Denali & the Wilderness Tour, I also would like to try the White Pass RR in Skagway, Whale watching with Captain Larry in Juneau, Sea otter & Wildlife Quest/Raptor Center in Sitka & of course DH "really" wants to fly in a "float plane & circle McKinley in Denali. Has anyone had any other really great excursions to share? Clothes will be a totally different post.................I could ask a million questions about them. I'm hearing casual is pretty much all that is worn, my TA even said she didn't get out of jeans, the entire time (she just went in July) except for dinner at night! Is this pretty common? Thanks for any suggestion! Cathy

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Old October 9th, 2004, 07:53 PM
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Default Re: What's the best cruiseline sailing to Alaska??

I am a many time visitor. It is simple to go on your own interior Alaska, planning is easy based on your interests. What makes this so is only ONE road, so you go as far as you wish and ALWAYS have lodging reservations in place before you go. Lodging is "hidden" and you could end up easily sleeping in your car. Ideally you need 7 additional days. The above poster's choices are less than ideal- time of year- significant- the Park Road of Denali Park is not open to Eielson - mile 66 until June 1, my recommendation is to always plan a Denali trip after that, also it's too short, there are 2 days of the 4 with significant hours in transit- like the entire day. Hopefully they have touring plans in Seward- just excellent opportunities. BUT if this is a travel day from Denali Park?? They are 9 hours on a bus and then no touring in Seward. The "great things" heard about the Tundra tour would only be from TA or other traveler's not familiar with Denali Park. Clearly the Shuttle buses are superior for the options of getting farther into the park and the best bargain around for wildlife.

As for a start to plan on your own. Read the cruiseline brochures- see what is of interest. From there easy to plan. Anchorage- spend time here- consider at least 1 night, 1 night Talkeetna, 2 nights Denali park, 2 nights Fairbanks, travel day -back to Anchorage with an overnight. If you can and you sail out of Seward, at least 2 days/ 1 night there. Request each area's visitor guides, take a look at www.toursaver.com can yeild big savings on high dollar excursions. Take time to see and do different activities. Don't spend all your time on the road- pushing your driving to get to the "next" hotel. Understand FULLY the vast distances and more important the "distractions" along the entire way. Better is a smaller area and more time rather than vast distances and no time. Do what is right for you. Factually- going on your own is a better bargain especially if fine tuned for you.
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Old October 9th, 2004, 08:46 PM
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Default Re: What's the best cruiseline sailing to Alaska??

Karen,
Actually we picked the date because it was early in the season. We live in a "sunny" state & the thought of snow & cold weather sounds like heaven. I'm a little dissapointed about the availability of the road into Eielson, as I had been told it would open on May 20th. Some of our days will be spent traveling, but it will be beautiful scenery & I'm looking forward to it. I guess "different strokes for different folks" apply here. This will be all new to us & we can't wait to experience it. I am taking your advice on the excursions & will be booking them directly. Our next trip may be a little different, but by then we will be a little more "seasoned". Thanks for the info! Cathy

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Old October 10th, 2004, 09:05 AM
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Default Re: What's the best cruiseline sailing to Alaska??

The Park Road into Denal Park STARTS opening mid May from mile 1. You would be FAR better to switch your order with coming NORTH on your dates and then the land portion AFTER. There is NO snow end of May interior Alaska where you are going, but nice snow covered mts. in Skagway and maybe heading down to Seward. It certainly isn't all scenic traveling either - in fact a lot of repeating trees. Your most scenic portion is Anchorage-Seward. Can be kind of boring heading north especially if McKinley isn't viewable and done in one trip- better to split it up. My experience only- research and make the best choices for you- but as I said above- consider switching your routing. As for "cold". Not likely that either unless 50 is cold for you. But all sailings of the glacier are cold all season. You certainly will need a wide range of attire, but nothing more than a light jacket- if that, interior Alaska end of May.
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Old October 13th, 2004, 01:35 PM
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Default Re: Re: What's the best cruiseline sailing to Alaska??

Have you been to both Glacier Bay and Hubbard Bay, is one better then the other?
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Old October 13th, 2004, 06:49 PM
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Default Re: What's the best cruiseline sailing to Alaska??

Hello J Willis.! I have been to both Glacier Bay and Hubbard Glacier and I loved them both and feel that most anyone else would too. Is one better? In my opinion....NO. Some say that Hubbard is second fiddle to Glacier Bay, but I sure didn't see things that way. A lot may depend on the weather? Both days at both places the weather was overcast which makes the ice blue but I couldn't see the mountain-tops.
If i were booking again I would treat Hubbard and Glacier Bay as equal and look at other critria such as price.
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Old October 13th, 2004, 09:04 PM
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Default Re: Re: What's the best cruiseline sailing to Alaska??

Dave P:
I was in the same situation you find yourself in now; wondering about RCCL vs Princess and other cruise lines to Alaska. My husband and I have taken approximately 31 cruises and RCCL has been our favorite cruise line (we're Diamond members with them) and a year ago we decided to go to Alaska this summer. I was ready to book a cruise with Royal Caribbean and my travel agent advised me that she could get us a better price with Princess (we've been with Princess for about 5 or 6 cruises) and she suggested the same itinerary you're thinking of taking; the 5 day land tour and 7 days on the Island Princess, Southern Route, leaving from Fairbanks and ending in Vancouver. We took that cruise this past August and it was everything that we had hoped it would be. We had a fabulous time and it was our first time to Alaska. We took all the tours we wanted (even though they were expensive) because we didn't know if we would go on another Alaskan cruise or not (although I would love to go with the rest of my family). RCCL is still my favorite cruise line; but we're going on Princess again in December on the Caribbean Princess. I've taken both cruise lines to Hawaii and we enjoyed RCCL a lot more than the Princess cruise we two years ago, to Hawaii. We're going back to Hawaii with RCCL next year. I think both RCCL and Princess would be a great cruise line to Alaska; but like our travel agent advised us....Princess has been going there longer and they did seem to have everything organized on our land tour and when we got to the Island Princess. I really can't think of anything that could have been improved, except for the smoke that we encountered when we got to Fairbanks from the forest fires. Any questions about our Alaska trip, feel free to ask.........Happy Cruising....Buddy
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Old October 14th, 2004, 02:33 AM
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Default Re: What's the best cruiseline sailing to Alaska??

Yes I have been to all 3 glacier areas now sailed on the inside passage and clearly Glacier Bay is my preference. It is a very scenic sailing day with Park Service commentary and the viewing of several glaciers. Hubbard is larger but the sailing areas is less, more in and out of the Bay. Hubbard and the twin Sawyers have a habit of being iced out early season, not allowing close access, not known to occur in Glacier Bay- but these glaciers overall are more active. Toss up indeed- any trip will be a compromise- look at all the factors.
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Old November 7th, 2004, 07:44 PM
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Default Re: What's the best cruiseline sailing to Alaska??

I have sailed both Holland America in August and Carnival in June. While Holland America was a truly elegant cruising experience, we went late in the season and saw virtually no wildlife, which was a major disappointment. I had taken four previous cruises on Carnival, but was still very pleasantly supprised by my cruising experience on the Carnival Spirit. Less stuffy in attitude aboard ship, we still saw everything in port we wanted to see as well as sailing in the fjords. Because we went in early June, we saw more eagles and whales than we could count. I believe that virtually any of the cruise lines will take you to the major ports and give you the opportunity of taking the excusions that interest you.
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Old November 8th, 2004, 04:52 PM
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Default Re: What's the best cruiseline sailing to Alaska??

For clairfication- for ANY wildlife viewing tours are necessary. Cruise brochures are greatly enhanced. Chance sightings are extremely rare and brief. August is excellent for wildlife viewing and my most prefered travel time there.
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Old November 8th, 2004, 10:14 PM
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Default Re: What's the best cruiseline sailing to Alaska??

Karen,
We heard that August is a dice roll as far as the weather is concerned. Any truth to that?
Also, we were told it's best to do the land portion first then the cruise. They say it's a great way to relax after all the driving and hiking, etc. What's your take?

Most importantly, we will be traveling with our 6 year old daughter. In your opinion, are there any cruise lines that do a better job with kids in Alaska. We cruise the Carribean every year, but have no experiance with Alaska. Any good excursions, etc. that would be great for a kid that age?

Thanks in advance for your help!

Smitty
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Old November 9th, 2004, 07:04 AM
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Default Re: What's the best cruiseline sailing to Alaska??

Alaska is a dice roll all season and any agent who tells you otherwise hasn't been there. August is superior to Sept. for decent daylight which is important. Hopefully you are NOT considering a cruisetour for your interior travel? And touring on your own with either a RV or rental car?? With proper PLANNING- the interior tour should be just as relaxing as the cruise. The BIG problems come with poorly planned cruisetours and independent travelers who just don't factor in the vast distances and underestimate time. Go for as long as you can afford and be conservative on your plans. Ideally you need at least a 7 day add on. My kids have sailed 4 different lines to Alaska- all have decent kid's programs- frankly- plan for the adults- looking at ports, time in ports, glacier, route, PRICE. Look over a shore excursion list and narrow down your interests. There are just too many excellent tours to recommend and I have probably been on over 100.
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Old November 10th, 2004, 02:28 PM
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Default Re: What's the best cruiseline sailing to Alaska??

I would not recommend Princess out of Seattle. Diamond and Sapphire are too big for Alaska. We were on Diamond (May 04) in Tracy Arm which is fantastic, but we did not get to see the glacier, because the ship was too big to manuever through the ice bergs. We are going again in May, one way out of Vancouver. I second the motion that itenerary is more important than the ship in most cases. We will fly to Seattle and transfer to Vancouver for embarkation. I figure with a smaller ship in Glacier Bay and College Fiord on the itenerary, I will see a glacier this trip. I know May is not prime for wildlife, but sunny weather, no mosquitos, and limited numbers of children make up for it..
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Old November 10th, 2004, 03:14 PM
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Default Re: Re: What's the best cruiseline sailing to Alaska??

I have toured Alaska twice, both times with an extra week on our own for denali and other things. I toured with Statendam in late May-early June and with Summit in late Aug-early June. As Karen describes, and at her urging, we had to move our cruise back one week from our first plans in order to get into denali. We also had to do more backtracking in order to see some of Seward, Anc, go to denali as late as we could before our cruise on June 2nd. It all worked out, as we saw Kenai Fjords NP in Seward, denali for two days on shuttle, with second day to Eielson, saw grizzlies, wolf, caribou, eagle, sheep, but no Mt McKinley. We had great cruise on Statendam, whalewatching with Cap Larry in Juneau, Misty Fjords with Island Wings, and bus tours in Sitka.

On the Summit, which we picked for long port days plus stop at Icy Strait Pt, we sailed on Sep 3rd and had more rain and more sun for our trip. We did denali first on this trip, with one 11hr day to Wonder Lake, where we saw grizzlies, and all the rest but no Mtn. It was very smokey and hard to see in the early morning and cleared up some in afternoon. Saw moose right outside the park on two nights. Went to Homer for two nites, and Seward for one before dashing back to Summit. Took bear watching tour to Katmai NP and spent day with coastal brown bears. Fantastic. Cap Larry whalewatching in Juneau in rain storm, but still saw lots of whales. Misty Fjords with Southeast Av, denali summit flight from Talkeetna, both of these with Tour saver coupon. The Great One is just that when it is clear. The other highlight of our trip was ISP and whalewatching thru Celebrity. Saw more whales on this tour on nice sunny day than we have seen on all the previous tours we have been on in Cabo, Maui, and Juneau. I have also been on Rhapsody, and Carnival, but I think for Alaska, a smaller ship and finding the itinerary you like best is way to go. As Karen said, get visitor guides for Alaska, for each port, Anc, and Frommer's Alaska book for good background and basics.
I have posted a few pictures from our trip if you want to see a sample.

http://community.webshots.com/user/jq4653
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Old November 10th, 2004, 04:53 PM
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This is a test. Kuki says this will give you the link. Hope it works.

http://community.webshots.com/user/jq4653
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Old November 10th, 2004, 05:14 PM
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Default Re: Re: What's the best cruiseline sailing to Alaska??

Way to Go JQ,
It works and also very nice pics :-)

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Old November 16th, 2004, 06:29 AM
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Default Re: Re: What's the best cruiseline sailing to Alaska??

James, This whole thread has been so informational.

How did you transfer to Vancouver from Seattle? Any information would be appreciated.
Thank you
Susan
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Old November 16th, 2004, 01:25 PM
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Default Re: What's the best cruiseline sailing to Alaska??

Transfers- Vancouver Seattle. Cruiselines will run a bus, also independent bus- http://www.quickcoach.com/ Amtrak runs a once daily train early morning- rest of runs are buses, but add at least $30+++ for cabs. Once way car rentals- National , Budget, Avis, Hertz all offer one way rental cars- You will want Seatac and DOWNTOWN Vancouver drop offs/pick ups, not the airport. Easy walk to Canada Place from any of them without luggage or mobility limitations. All of these with the possible exception of the cruiseline bus will need a day before arrival if flights aren't in before mid morning.
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Old November 16th, 2004, 06:02 PM
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Default Re: What's the best cruiseline sailing to Alaska??

We have not decided on how we will transfer yet. There are buses from Seatac to Vancouver and we may just take the bus. But we also have heard about the train and ther ferry.. If the timing is right, we may take the ferry.
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