We are planning a Princess cruise to Alaska, and think it might be a one-time event - then again, maybe not. We were thinking 2005, but are now leaning toward 2006 as we see the costs and the fact that some of the cruisetours are already booked. Our minds are boggled. Cruise only vs. cruisetour? Whittier to Vancouver sounds like you see a lot more of Alaska. Round trip from Seattle sounds like a really condensed view of Alaska? Many seem to say the four-day cruisetour is nothing but traveling from place to place. Are the cruisetours truly a lot of exhausting moving around in groups? Are we really looking at up to 10 grand for two to do the cruise tour by the time you book excursions, pay for meals on land, pay air fare from the East Coast etc? We need advice big-time to un-boggle our minds. Help please!
You are right that you would see more on a one way. Some people recommend a round trip if you aren't going to do a land tour also, but we did the one way only and loved it. If you can swing the land tour, then a one way with land tour is my recommendation.
Alaska is expensive. Cruises only go from May to September, so there is a limited number of cruises to choose from. Also, in Alaska, everything has to be flown in, so prices are high. All this effects the price of your cruise and tour.
Alaska is so beautiful that you could go again and again and again without getting tired of it. Be sure to get a balcony so you can view the spectacular scenery from the comfort of your cabin. It is worth waiting another year to be able to get a balcony and tours if that is what it takes to get the most out of Alaska.
Here's our own suggestions, based on our having " done Alaska " 3 times.
1/ If it is to be a " one time " event, do it right and do not shortchange yourselves.
2/ Cruise tours book real early; your finding that the better tours are already
booked for this summer is not surprising. Postponing till 2006 will not save
you $$$ ( costs are pegged to go up approx 8-9 % ) but will expand your
choice, give you access to Early booking discount and spare you with the
dissapointment of not doing what you really want, because " it's already gone".
3/ Seattle departure will only give you 7 days inside passage,not the whole of
the Gulf. Vancouver departures (on Princess,which seems to be your choice)
have 2 weekly sailings going all the way to Anchorage (Whittier),7 days,
with a corresponding 7 day southbound voyage. Much better "Alaska " on those
4/Cruise tours are always linked with the Gulf Of Alaska ( Whittier) sailings,never
with the inside passage ones.
5/Yes, cruise tour, land portion, are by defenition a bit hectic. Alaska is a WIDE
area, and typical passengers want to " do it all "; cruise operators have long ago
figured out that " squeezing a lot into a little " works best....BUT; there are huge
advantages: -the operators do all the driving-your bags are handled by them,with
your own "effort"limited to placing them behind the door at checkout--the rail
portions are superb,so are their own cars--the lodges are great--the organizing
is all tought out for you--groups are no more than 40-ish in number ( a bus load)--
DO LAND FIRST....you'll enjoy the relaxing cruise even better at the tail-end.--your
bags,on last land day//1st cruise day, are taken from hotel stop,right to your cabin
door !!! This is NOT your typical " 14 day coach tour thru Europe ", not at all; less
hectic and more comfortable.
You will have loads of fun even planning the whole thing. Good luck
We made our Alaska trip summer of 99 as a graduation gift and "last family vacation" before our kids started off to college etc. We chose a "land-sea" tour package with Glacier Bay that gave us rooms as a nice lodge in Glacier Bay National Park, meals there, and "day-trips" on a 300 or so passenger boat. Each morning we'd take the boat and do the same touristy trips that the big ships were doing, only better...more conversational, more personal I suppose...and we got to go A LOT closer to the "action".
I'm sure they have a web-site still and they get my vote for a first time, intimate trip that both adults and children found something to enjoy on.