We've cruised a lot, but want to try Alaska for the first time. Help us understand "Gulf" vs. "Inside". Is Northbound or Southbound best? Also, Princess offers many land packages. How do you choose which one? Is it best to cruise before the land package or after the land package
This is Marie's daughter answering these questions. I work in the industry and I know that there are many tough decisions about Alaska. For your first question about the Gulf vs. Inside. With the Gulf cruises that would mean that the ship would be going from Vancouver to Seward or reverse. With Princess you would be cruising through College Fjord, Glacier Bay, and Inside Passage, with ports of calls at Skagway, Juneau, and Ketchikan. With the Inside passage cruise, you would be cruising roundtrip Vancouver. You would stop at Juneau, Skagway, and Sitka. You would visit either Hubbard Glacier or Glacier Bay, depending on the departure date. The Sun Princess, Star Princess, Ocean Princess and Dawn Princess will be doing the Gulf cruises next year. The Sea Princess will be doing the Inside Passage. For the land tours, Princess offers a wide variety. Their most popular tours are the Heart of Alaska tours which include overnight in Anchorage, Denali, and Fairbanks. The most popular direction is Southbound. Passengers believe that they can do all their running around on the land and then have a nice relaxing cruise at the end. Hope this helps. Heather
With a good travel guide like Milepost, you can create your own ground tour. Princess charges and arm and a leg for theirs, and their tour doesn't take you quite far enough. Get a price quote both with and without the ground portion. You will do much better on your own. Read these forums (this one and Cruise Critic...and there are others) back a month or so before you make any decisions. You will do sooooo much better on your own. I'm excited about going on my booked tour. But I am just as excited about creating my own next time! I'll be back from Alaska in a couple weeks. Feel free to e-me and ask whatever you want. I'll be glad to help you. Unfortunately, (fortunately for her) the greatest expert on self-planned Alaska trips, Budget Queen, is also leaving soon so her advice will not be available for a while. But you can do it. It is not as confusing as it looks.
>> a Northbound "Voyage of the Glaciers" cruise from Vancouver to Seward (Anchorage) with
>> a Southbound "Alaska and the Yukon" cruise-tour that consists of a land tour from Anchorage to Skagway, connecting with a four-day "Inside Passage" cruise from Skagway to Vancouver
and get to see everything in one trip. My parents did this back in 1993, and had the time of their lives. Princess was very helpful in putting the two packages together into a seemless whole. My parents also received a significant discount for combining two packages back to back. You probably also could combine the two packages in the reverse direction if you prefer.
It's true that Princess's land tours are somewhat more expensive than other operators, but Princess's "Wilderness Lodges" throughout Alaska, "Midnight Sun Express" railcars, and custom motorcoaches also are a lot less primitive than other operators' accommodations and transportation. Thus, I cannot agree with Cheryl's opinion that other operators provide better value. It's a question of what you want when you go to Alaska.
We did almost the same thing Norm, back when Island and Pacific Princess were the latest thing in cruising. We went everywhere. Loved Alaska so much we've done 7 cruises there and will be back on number 8 next year. We're doing the Northbound gulf of Alaska cruise on Celebrity, then are making private arrangements to go down the Kenai peninsula to Homer, one of the most beautiful spots on earth, IMHO. So much beauty in Alaska you almost can't go wrong.
I'd recommend a Southbound Anchorage to Vancouver, because Vancouver is one of the most wonderful cities in the world and worth some time spent there after your cruise. If you want a land package in Alaska do it first. But this is just my opinion....good luck!
There are just too many options to do in one trip!!
We really enjoyed the B&B environment because you get to make friends with real Alaskans. There are many B&B organizations to search and most B&Bs have their own web site. You'll find everything including simple log cabins, A frames, lodges, and people's homes.
We're trying out two new places this year 'cause you can never have enough friends!!!
Again, the Milepost is very much worth buying to get a feel for Alaska. It is really the traveler's bible up there.
Whatever choice you make, you'll be in one of the most spectacular places in the world!! Enjoy!
Vancouver is a great city. Stanley Park is very nice, and the gardens at Queen Elizabeth Park are gorgeous (or at least they were when I was last at the park early June 1999, probably great in summer too), Gastown is a nice walking/shopping area. Actually the whole downtown area, which is extensive, is nice for walking, also great shopping on Robson Street and good restaurants everywhere. I've been there three times but never long enough and have yet to see everything I want to. Research a good Vancouver guidebook, and go to it! The people are all so nice, and the exchange rate is wonderful! If you're in Gastown and like jewelry or unusual souvenirs, stop at Rocks and Gems (a personal favorite). There's also a jewelry counter in one of the skyways in Pacific Centre Mall with beautiful and unique custom jade jewelry and figurines, etc. And don't miss Purdy's chocolates! Good luck!
Vancouver has to be my favorite city. The Aquarium is wonderful and then you can walk through Stanley Park. You can rent bicycles and ride through the park as well. If you have time take the ferry over to Victoria. It is about an 11/2 hour ride each way. You will have the BEST Chinese food just about anywhere in Chinatown. There is nothing better than walkng down Robson street so many interesting shops. Have a wonderful time.
Sue, other things to do in Vancouver include the Capilano Suspension Bridge - it's quite an experience walking over this bridge. It is just a short cab ride outside of the city. Also, if you take the ferry to Vancouver Island, make sure to see the city of Victoria. The city is beautiful, and Buchhart Gardens are not to be missed. However, be aware that this is probably an all day trip. We have been back to Vancouver twice, and would go again in a heartbeat. Happy travelling.
Search the web and educate yourself is the first line of defense. This way you will know what to discuss with your travel agent, what to expect, and you will have a better idea of what you want to see and do in the short time you're there. I have found an excellent TA in Wasilla, Alaska and have been extremely pleased. As a matter of fact, she is the best we have found YET! Very helpful, attentive, and has a lot of patience. If the price of our cruise is lowered (for which we qualify), we will be reimbursed the difference, guaranteed! We are taking a Southbound after 6 days of driving the interior of Alaska. We will fly into Anchorage, drive to Denali for 2 nights, drive to Talkeetna for one night, back to Anchorage the last night, take the train from Anchorage to Seward (said to be one of the most beautiful train trips in the WORLD), take a wildlife cruise through Kenai Fjords, and then board the ship for a wonderful cruise southbound. Northbound was out for us because we like to fly Continental. The ONLY flight out of Anchorage is at 12:55 A.M.!!! No thank you. If you are interested, my TAs information is as follows:
HOURS: M-SAT 10 AM - 7 PM PACIFIC STANDARD TIME
M-SAT 1 PM - 10 PM EASTERN STANDARD TIME
What I like about Corky is that she has lived in Alaska for 25 years, is full of life, and knows the ins and outs of what to do, where to go, when to go, etc. She is loaded with helpful hints. No joke! Also, she will arrange for your hotels, etc. and does not charge extra. I have checked it all out myself AND she could even get better rates and I COULD! No. I'm not Corky. I'm just an extremely happy customer. I know it's difficult to find a good TA -- I have found one -- and I'M KEEPING HER!
Lastly, THE MILEPOST is an exceptional learning tool, as well. It can be purchased on Amazon.com.
Best of luck!
P.S. The ONLY problem with going to Alaska is that you will want to go back time and time again. Ask anyone who has been there!