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-   -   Help me pick the right cruise line (http://www.cruisemates.com/forum/alaska/360809-help-me-pick-right-cruise-line.html)

thefreedmans January 29th, 2009 12:53 PM

Help me pick the right cruise line
 
I have started researching - but am so overwhelmed with all the options I can't even get started... If you could help me narrow it down it would be greatly appreciated.

We will be cruising for the first time as a family to Alaska this summer. I have children ages 11, 7 & 3. They are all excellent travelers. I want a cruise ship that has kids activities - but I don't want a kids cruise (i.e. Disney). I also want activities like cooking, art, sports, outdoor activities, not video game rooms and movies (okay sometimes, but not for all the time on the ship). We want GOOD food and a nice dining setting (my kids are little gourmets and very well behaved).

A smaller ship would be preferable as well. Most of all we want to make the most of our cruise and really enjoy the scenery on shore excursions.

Thank you in advance.

Donna January 29th, 2009 05:29 PM

Be sure to look at Princess, they do have a good kids program. Cruised Star Princess in Alaska last summer, lots of families with kids onboard, good ports and it was a Princess cruise. I noticed when researching Alaska, they seem to have more ship up there and different itinaries..

PeterC January 30th, 2009 02:00 PM

Assuming school's out there will be plenty of other kids on any Alaskan cruise for the kids to interact with. We sailed HAL, NCL, Celebrity and all 3 had excellant kids programs with many activities. For ship size HAL Zaandam was the smallest of the 3 and there was no crowded feeling at all.

Yes, there are video gaming and movies. There are also basketball courts, ping pong, swimming, golf nets and/or golf simulators.

We enjoyed the food on all 3 lines in the main dining rooms, including NCL which seems to get panned a lot on these sites.

On our 3 cruises they had none of the pool games that warm weather cruises seem to have....bellyflop contests, etc. That was a plus for us. :)

silver_cloud February 4th, 2009 10:49 AM

We're looking at Alaska too in August but have one teen. What ships would be best for a 16 year old that will want to hang with his "kind".

thanks, mary

Rev22:17 February 5th, 2009 09:06 PM

Re: Help me pick the right cruise line
 
Jules,

Quote:

Originally Posted by You
I have started researching - but am so overwhelmed with all the options I can't even get started... If you could help me narrow it down it would be greatly appreciated.

We will be cruising for the first time as a family to Alaska this summer. I have children ages 11, 7 & 3. They are all excellent travelers. I want a cruise ship that has kids activities - but I don't want a kids cruise (i.e. Disney). I also want activities like cooking, art, sports, outdoor activities, not video game rooms and movies (okay sometimes, but not for all the time on the ship). We want GOOD food and a nice dining setting (my kids are little gourmets and very well behaved).

A smaller ship would be preferable as well. Most of all we want to make the most of our cruise and really enjoy the scenery on shore excursions.

Thank you in advance.

First, I think that your best option is to stick with the major cruise lines. All of the major lines have solid programs for children of all ages, staffed by professional youth and teen counsellors, while the ship is at sea, as well as a great variety of activities for adults.

Second, all of the major cruise lines offer the same set of three standard itineraries -- (1) "Inside Passage" (round trip out of either Vancouver or Seattle), (2) "Gulf of Alaska Northbound" (from Vancouver to either Seward or Whittier), and (3) "Gulf of Alaska Southbound" (from either Seward or Whittier to Vancouver) -- each of which is seven (7) nights in duration. The details of these three itineraries vary somewhat from line to line, but you will find that all of the offerings call at three of the four major ports of call along the inside passage (Ketchikan, Juneau, Sitka, and Skagway) and visit to one of the major glacier areas (Hubbard Glacier, Glacier Bay, and College Fjord). Some of the variations offer a second day of glacier viewing while others stop at a minor port of call (which must be a Canadian port on cruises that operate out of Seattle) instead. There are a few longer itineraries, but these are generally either repositioning cruises at the start or the end of the season, which typically operate between either San Diego or Los Angeles and Vancouver, or cruises that operate "round trip" out of San Francisco, with additional stops in Oregon and Washington rather than in Alaska.

The bottom line here is that the major differentiator between the major cruise lines is the personality and style of each cruise line and the passengers that it tends to draw rather than the specifics of one itinerary over another.

>> If you have found a cruise line that you really like, I recommend sticking with the same cruise line.

>> If you are planning your first cruise, I recommend picking up a guide to cruise lines and cruise ships (all of the major series of travel guides -- Berlitz, Fodor's, Frommer's, Complete Idiot's Guide, Sterns, etc. -- have them), reading the descriptions of the various lines to determine which line seems like the best fit, and going with it.

Based upon your description of your family, I think that Celebrity would be a good choice for you. If your children really are well-behaved little gormets, they will be welcome and they will really appreciate Celebrity's cuisine. Celebrity's children's program offers excellent activities for all ages run by professional staff, and Celebrity also offers an excellent variety of programs for adults, too.

As to choice of itinerary, I strongly recoomend the "Gulf of Alaska Northbound" itinerary. On this itinerary, Celebrity pulls into the port of Seward -- and I highly recommend the "Grandview Rail Transfer" between Seward and Anchorage because the scenery along this stretch of the Alaska Railroad is really awesome. Be sure to plan to spend at least a few days in Anchorage, too -- the downtown area imminently walkable and quite safe, and it has many unique attractions, shops that carry products that you won't find in the "lower forty-eight," and outstanding restaurants. If you rent a car there, the area offers excellent day trips as well. The possibilities include a day at Mount Alyeska Resort, a day boat cruise to College Fjord (which affords "close-up" viewing of the glaciers and wildlife there), and a drive up to Talkeetna for spectacular views of Mount McKinley, the world's tallest mountain, and lunch at the Latitude 62 Inn (but be sure to check the weather forecast for the valley before setting out on this one because you won't have a good view on a cloudy or foggy day). If you have more time, you can continue beyond Talkeetna to Denali National Park and even Fairbanks, but be sure to reserve your hotels in advance if you wish to do this.

Finally, if you "really want to enjoy the scenery on shore excursions," be sure to take a ride on the White Pass & Yukon Route when your ship pulls into Skagway.

BTW, note that I have avoided recommending the smaller ships. In most cases, the small ships have very limited facilities, a minimal children's program if any, and limited activities for adults. Overall, I doubt that such a line would be a happy match.

Have a great cruise!

Norm.

Rev22:17 February 5th, 2009 09:08 PM

Mary,

Quote:

Originally Posted by You
We're looking at Alaska too in August but have one teen. What ships would be best for a 16 year old that will want to hang with his "kind".

All of the major cruise lines have excellent teen programs. Your best bet is to choose a line that has a personality and style that's similar to yours and his. See my reply to the OP.

Norm.

Nurse Debra February 8th, 2009 09:16 PM

Re: Help me pick the right cruise line
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by thefreedmans
I have started researching - but am so overwhelmed with all the options I can't even get started... If you could help me narrow it down it would be greatly appreciated.

We will be cruising for the first time as a family to Alaska this summer. I have children ages 11, 7 & 3. They are all excellent travelers. I want a cruise ship that has kids activities - but I don't want a kids cruise (i.e. Disney). I also want activities like cooking, art, sports, outdoor activities, not video game rooms and movies (okay sometimes, but not for all the time on the ship). We want GOOD food and a nice dining setting (my kids are little gourmets and very well behaved).

A smaller ship would be preferable as well. Most of all we want to make the most of our cruise and really enjoy the scenery on shore excursions.

Thank you in advance.

Hi thefreedmans:

I would agree with Donna and based on you description, I think a ship that goes to Glacier Bay would be your best choice to really experience Alaska. Ten year contracts were just awarded to Princess, Holland America, Norwegian Cruise Lines and Cruise West. Unfortunately, for Celebrity and RCCL, both were banned from Glacier Bay National Park several years ago.

I have sailed to Alaska on Princess, Holland America and Celebrityand based on my experience, I would highly recommend either Princess or Holland America for an Alaskan cruise.

If budget is important Cruise West offers a very small and intimate ships, but the price is four times what the mainstream cruise lines charge. Cruising to North or South to Glacier Bay and College Fjord gives the most dramatic views of Alaska in my book. I would recommend Princess because of their access to Glacier Bay National Park and also for many other reasons, such as their superior past passenger program, well maintained ships and children's programs among many other things. Princess also has a naturalist that will come onboard and give everyone all the history and current information about Glacier Bay.

If you are flying into Seattle it is very easy and reasonable to get to Vancouver by train at somewhere around $25-$30. As far as price goes right now Princess is offering very low prices on all Princess cruises, especially to past passengers. We could not turn down a deal on a Princess cruise to Alaska, with a balcony, for right around $700, including all taxes and fees. If time permits and yo do take a one way cruise to or from Alaska, try and allow as much time as you can to explore Alaska before or after your cruise.

Princess also does have round trip cruises from Seattle but I don't believe any of those cruise stop at Glacier Bay National Park.

Hope this helps.

Enjoy your cruise, whatever you decide to do.

Debra


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