3 questions: Travel agents , whalewatching and inside cabin
A high school friend and I are getting together for a cruise in 2009. I was thinking of using Vacationstogo.com or something like that but after reading this forum not sure it's such a good idea. I live in a small town with no travel agent. Closest is at least 75 miles away. Should I use A TA from online? If so, suggestions?
Whalewatching: I really want to see the humpbacks. Is there better times of year or place to whalewatch for humpbacks as opposed to orcas?
Is oceanview room really the way to go? Some say you don't spend much time in your room and then other's say they spend a lot of time on balcony. don't think we can afford balcony. Thanks so much for your help and I love this forum!
I would choose a good cruise travel agent, you can check and contact the one that does a lot of our CM group cruises, just go into the group cruise section. She does a wonderful job and is easy to get in contact with in case of questions or problems.
Both the Humpbacks and Orca's are in Alaska during the summer to feed before they head out in the fall. We went with Capt. Larry in Juneau for whale watching and then booked an excursion through the cruiseline in Victoria to see the ORca's. We did see both, but more Orca's, we were just lucky.
I would also suggest booking a balcony for cruising in Alaska, you just don't want to miss a thing.
Unfortunately many agents haven't even been to Alaska, so, since you are on this board, I suggest you educate yourself and then determine what kind of trip you are looking for. A good start is your library, Alaska By Cruiseship can offer you plenty of information. As for booking, I go based on price. There can be big differences between booking agents, so it pays to compare and shop around, IF you can do some of this yourself?
You will need to decide what your priority for cabin is? Many rave about their balconies and for good reason. But for me, travel is about volume and bargains. I do suggest, IF your higher cabin costs are going to cut back on the touring funds, you may want to consider the less costly cabin. Touring is a big part of Alaska experience and for me, you get only half a trip without it. Many ships have excellent deck viewing space that can be superior to the limited direction of a cabin view.
Humpbacks are viewable all Alaska cruise season. Whale watch hot spots are Hoonah and Juneau, so book your tours there. IF you are interested and willing to invest considerable time out on a front deck, you can also see some from your ship. Necessary are a good pair of wide angle binoculars, and knowing your route and areas.
Thanks Karen and Donna for your help and advice. I think what we are definitely wanting an oceanview room, hoping for upgrade. I definitely want to see the humpbacks and we both would love to see other wildlife like moose and bear, etc. we both want to take the excursing offering the train ride. And Glacier Bay sounds like a must. Does that sound like too much to hope for? Would you recommend I use a travel agent or would I be better off with something like vacationstogo.com? And should I get started booking now or try for last minute deals? We are not set on a specific time we have to go as long as we have like a month's notice for taking leave from work. Thanks so much for your help. I am so happy I found this forum. I have been researching this for months. I will get that book from our library too, thanks.
Are you looking at a one way cruise and land touring?? Otherwise you are not going to see moose. And bears will require a costly fly in tour out of Ketchikan or Juneau-IF you are not interior touring, and needing to be cruising after begining of July.
If you can add another week, consider a one way cruise and get yourself to Denali Park for at least 2 nights, BEST wildlife bargain in all of Alaska!! Take the shuttle bus to at least Eielson.
As for booking, As I mention, compare rates and book based on price, if you don't need "hand holding". Especially if you get a booking agent who doesn't charge or has low cancelation fees, it is no harm in booking now and keep looking. There can be good last minute deals, and I have been one to take advantage of them, but keep track of pricing trends and see what is going on now and through next year. If you have a couple weeks and need air, you may want to block out your time now with a flight purchase, rarely do prices go down with short date purchases.
We plan on doing the 7 day interior cruise R/T from Seattle and were planning on May or September. I will have to go another time to do the cruisetour. My friend cannot afford that right now. Looks like we can't do it all. She really wanted to see the wildlife. Next time I go I want to do a cruisetour and go on the train and stop in Denali but that will probably be a while cuz I want to go to Hawaii next!
Hi Linda: we did a r/t out of Seattle Sept 2007. First day at sea was a little rough, but smooth sailing for the rest of the cruise. Days were in the 60 to 70 degree range. Drizzle off and on, so if you go in September, pack a waterproof jacket, as well as something warmer for cruising Tracey Arm. We did the helicopter/glacier walk in Skagway. Totally awesome!
I've cruised both out of Seattle and Vancouver....Vancouver wins hands down, if you can go from there I'd do that. In fact I really don't care to cruise out of Seattle again.. I didn't realize that so much of that cruise would not be an inside passage, but outside far away from land, where from Vancouver is just beautiful.
I post over and over that the least scenic sailing itinerary is round trip Seattle. Vancouver is definately superior. However, if your priority is wildlife, before the third week of May, you can get plenty of humpback viewing on a round trip Seattle.
Getting between Seattle and Vancouver is simple. You do need to arrive at least a day early however. There is Amtrak, cruise contracted buses, Quick Shuttle and one way rental cars. IF you want a rental car, you need downtown Vancouver, and NOT the airport. Avis, Budget, Alamo, National and Hertz all have offices. I have rented from the all except Hertz and all were easily walkable to Canada Place, if you have no mobility limitations. Drop off luggage prior.
Be sure to schedule any flights after 4pm from Seattle. There is just too much unpredictability in the border crossings to do much earlier. Allow at least 4-5 hours if driving yourself.
So if we plan end of May, no humpbacks? What about September? Picking May or September because of price.
NO humpbacks- migrating. Certainly you can see humpbacks. Definately consider a tour, far superior viewing compared to, from any cruiseship.
Be aware that Sept. has the worse potential weather of the entire cruise season, past the first days of Sept. Also dusk by 7pm, and more chance of rain. Always, my earlier trips have been better. I no longer go mid Sept. They used to give away these cruises, but now, the discounts are not significant.