Originally Posted by You
My husband and I are planning a cruise to Alaska for our 15th ANN. In August 2008. We are thinking aboutn taking the Rhapsody of the Seas ship, but know nothing about it. Is this the boat to take to Alaska or are there others that you suggest that are better? We are so overwhelmed with inforamtion and different cruise lines that we really don't know how to narrow things down HELP!!!
First, welcome to the world of cruising!
Fundamentally, all of the major cruise lines offer three standard itineraries to Alaska -- "Inside Passage" (round trip from/to either Seattle or Vancouver), "Gulf of Alaska Northbound" (from Vancouver to either Seward or Whittier), and "Gulf of Alaska Southbound" (from either Seward or Whittier to Vancouver). All of these itineraries visit three of the four major ports of call (Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, and Sitka) in the region known as the "Inside Passage" and all of these itineraries visit glaciers in one bay or another. The major differentiator, therefore, is the personality and style of each cruise line -- and there are major differences between cruise lines in this regard. Some cruise lines are very dressy while others are not. Some cruise lines make frequent annoncements over the PA system soliciting passenger participation in various activities while other cruise lines make no such announcements avoid the disturbance that they cause. And some cruise lines are decidedly more "upscale" and "refined" than others. In short, cruise lines run the gamut from "pretzels and beer" to "wine and cheese" to "champagne and caviar" with prices to match. And within each segment of the market, some cruise lines may tend to draw a wild partying crowd while others may be more sedate. Thus, the most important question is not whether a particular ship is a good choice, but rather whether a particular cruise line
is a good match for you
Unfortunately, neither I nor anybody else on this board know you and your personality, style, preferences, tastes, financial means, etc., well enough to recommend one cruise line over another. The only sound advice, in this regard, is to go to a local bookstore, get a travel guide to cruise lines and cruise ships (or a travel guide to Alaska that has a section on the cruise lines and cruise ships that go there), and read the descriptions of the various lines to get a sense of which lines would be the best fit for you
. If you have trouble deciding between two or three lines, a competent travel agent will be glad to help you to narrow it down.
Once you select a cruise line, you'll have your choice of itineraries. I strongly recommend a "Gulf of Alaska" itinerary over an "Inside Passage" itinerary, as the "Inside Passage" itinerary does not give you a chance to visit the main part of the state. All of the major cruise lines offer various land tour packages that visit Anchorage, Mound McKinley, Denali Natoinal Park, and Fairbanks, which you certainly may book if you prefer, but I find that the land tour packages are quite expensive. You'll do just as well to rent a vehicle, reserve hotels, and visit the major destinations on your own. Nonetheless, I strongly recommend reserving your lodging in advance because the summer is the peak season, when you may run into a lot of "No Vacancy" signs. If you don't want to take the time to go up to Fairbanks, at least spend a couple nights in Anchorage so you'll have some time to see that city.
Have a fantastic cruise, whatever you decide!