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Best cruise company and time of year for Alaska cruise

Wanting to cruise Alaska this year, what's best cruise company, time of year and land tours? 

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  • Tony Wright

    top answer by

    Alaska is beautiful year-round but I assume you're aiming for summer months. You'll get the best deals early or late (May, Sept/Oct), but you'll get the warmest weather and most daylight in late June/early July. Given that most cruises hit Southeast Alaska (Juneau/etc), you'll do better from a rainfall perspective if you aim for May/June.

    There's often an imbalance of customers heading north vs. south, so consider flying up to Anchorage and grabbing a cruise SOUTH versus the more normal northern route.

    If you want some adventure, consider the Alaska Marine Highway System. It's a little more spartan (there are staterooms but also are camping areas) but you can do cool stuff like get off at a port you like and catch the NEXT ferry boat (versus the 8hrs you get on a cruise).

    http://www.dot.state.ak.us/amhs/

    Also consider some time in SouthCentral area before or after your cruise. Talkeetna, Seward, and Homer are all lovely towns worth a visit. Anchorage is also a pretty cool town.

    In terms of companies, Cruisecritic has a pretty good breakdown:

    http://www.cruisecritic.com/articles.cfm?ID=1424

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  • Valerie Stimac

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    answered by

    I used to work for Holland America and still have a few friends in the business, so hopefully this will help!

    As others have said, June is the best (and most expensive) time to go. If you're not concerned about funds, do it then.

    If you're interested in doing a land tour of Alaska and/or only sailing one way, why not start with a flight to Anchorage and the land tour before your cruise? I hear consistently from friends in the biz that this is the cheaper option and less likely to be packed on the ships.

    As for companies, it depends on the personality of your travelers. Holland America is much more 'old money,' Princess tailors to a more 'yuppie' crowd, Carnival and Royal Caribbean are aimed more for the fun-lovers, and Disney has just started cruises aimed at families. Those are the biggest companies, I think...

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  • K. Fordney

    answered by

    As someone who grew up in Southeast Alaska, it's my duty to strongly advise against taking a cruise. Instead, I wholeheartedly second Tony's suggestion for taking the ferry.

    So... If you're game for that route, you can tailor your own trip based on where you'd like to go and how long you'd like to spend there. This is definitely a less "luxurious" option but the best one to see and experience the area you'll be traveling through.

    All ferries have a cafeteria, bar, and staterooms. Alternatively, if you're looking to rough it/budget you can pitch a tent and/or snag a lounge chair on the top deck/solarium and bring along some groceries. If you have the time (and money), bring a car along for further travels..

    http://www.dot.state.ak.us/amhs/

    Sitka is easily the most charming city in Southeast AK, (and with the strongest Russian roots). Ketchikan is the first port on the way up and I'd recommend stopping there if you're interested in getting out to Misty Fjords National Monument (which I strongly recommend you do). This can be done via flight-seeing (take Taquan Air) or via a boat trip if you have more time. Juneau's a good stop to see/hike the Mendenhall Glacier. While there, be sure to get out to Glacier Bay National Park If you're game for more and up for tackling the Chilkoot Trail then head on to Skagway.

    If you're sticking with the Southeast only, grab a flight home from Juneau. If you have more time (and no car), from Juneau you can connect up with the Cross-Gulf ferry route to Whittier, continue on the Southcentral ferry route to Seward, and grab a train to Anchorage. If you have more time (and do have a car), just drive from Whittier on to Seward, Homer, Anchorage, Denali National Park...

    Once you get further north (ie, out of SE) the weather is much better but Southeast Alaska contains one of the world's largest (temperate) rainforests (Tongass National Forest) so there it's always a gamble. If you don't mind chancing a strong likelihood of chilly, rainy, grey days then anytime late May to early September will do. If you want the best bet for sunshine go in July or August. Honestly, go in July.

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    • Carina C.

      Carina C.

      This is some great advice, I've always wanted to travel to Alaska but I've never really known how to get around, or exactly what to see. This is excellent info to have on hand for planning my trip there :) · (0 likelikes)

    Mentioned in this answer:

    1. Sitka (city)
    2. Ketchikan (city)
    3. Misty Fjords National Monument (attraction)
    4. Juneau (city)
    5. Mendenhall Glacier (attraction)
    6. Glacier Bay National Park (park)
    7. Chilkoot Trail (attraction)
    8. Skagway (city)
    9. Seward (city)
    10. Anchorage (city)
    11. Homer (city)
    12. Denali National Park (park)
    13. Tongass National Forest (attraction)

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  • Brew Johnson

    answered by

    I think you can't go wrong with either Celebrity or Princess. I personally like Celebrity more, but Princess is great too.

    Timing-wise, August and September are great weather wise, August being most crowded.

    As far as land tours, there are so many to choose from, its hard to narrow down, but here are some things that I really enjoyed on my 3 or 4 Alaskan cruises:

    • In Ketchikan i've done a sea plane trip to see bears, which was amazing and also gone to the Misty Fjords National Monument, both of which are great. For a great, quick bite to eat in town, grab a Halibut Burger at the Burger Queen. Phenomenal.

    • In Juneau, visiting Mendenhall Glacier is a must. I've taken a helicopter to hike on the ice, gone by car, and gone by bikes and they are all worthwhile. The bike ride we did through the ship and you visit the glacier, then ride back for a stop at the Alaskan Brewing Company which was a lot of town.

      One place that I would personally avoid is the Red Dog Saloon, which is an old-west type bar in town with very expensive drinks. Its worth popping your head into, but if you want a beer, walk down to the The Alaskan Hotel and Bar, which is in an historic building with a GREAT bar that really makes you feel like you are in the wild west and it isn't touristy at all. Even if you don't like beer, its worth visiting.

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    • Russ P.

      Russ P.

      Great details, Just what I was looking for! I like RCCL, never been on Celebrity, my EX had a bad cruise with them out of Baltimore. I think I'll try Princess, Thank you. · (0 likelikes)

    Mentioned in this answer:

    1. Ketchikan (city)
    2. Misty Fjords National Monument (attraction)
    3. Burger Queen (restaurant)
    4. Juneau (city)
    5. Mendenhall Glacier (attraction)
    6. Alaskan Brewing Company (attraction)
    7. Red Dog Saloon (attraction)
    8. The Alaskan Hotel and Bar (attraction)

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  • Joanne Duncan

    answered by

    • There's a great variety of suggestions here so I'll just pass on our wonderful Alaskan experience. We decided on Princess, based on itinerary, ship and reputation. Prices were rock bottom in Sept., so we did that. Took a landtour before the cruise and that seemed to be better than other way around. We flew into Anchorage, spent a very short night there (no time for sightseeing) and boarded Princess bus outside hotel for stop, Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge in Mckinley. Two nights there, took rafting trip on Chulitna River(?), got wonderful nature shots, wildlife and some eagles. Ended up at charming town of Talkeetna. Spent afternoon there. Onto beautiful train, Princess again, with domed railcars, to Denali Princess Denali National Park for another two nights. Did the shorter Denali bus tour in the morning and took a small plane excursion up around Denali for breathtaking views of peaks. Next day headed south to Whittier to board ship. This honestly was my least favorite part of the trip as we were assigned a seat at a table for four, with minimal leg room and this is where we spent the bulk of the 7hr ride South. We were on the Coral Princess, a beautiful medium sized ship. Next morning we awoke to awesome beauty of snow covered mountains and later entered Glacier Bay. It was a very clear, sunny day but cold. Ship stayed in the bay several hours. We got fairly close to two major glaciers.

    Next day we arrived in Skagway, where we took a ship excursion to HainesWe rafted in an eagle preserve down the river and that was the most amazing day! Eagles everywhere you looked! We did walk around Skagway a bit, but it was the usual small, though richly historic town, just swarming with cruise people.

    Juneau was the next stop, we had scheduled a whale watching trip with Harv n Marv, but had to be cancelled due to high winds and waves. Very disappointed, but we took ourselves to Mendenhall Glacier and salmon hatchery and enjoyed those. I agree with avoiding Red Dog Saloon. Lots of shops on walk back to ship, many are the chains you see in the Caribbean. Wanted to mention weather, we knew due to the time of year there was a high probability of rain in SE AK, we came prepared and still enjoyed our activities. (What to pack is another long list) However, the weather inland earlier in the trip was pretty much shirtsleeve during the day and cool at night. So, onto Ketchikan for our last stop. We again took an excursion via float plane to an island lodge for a crab feast, bear watch type of thing. Weather cooperated and we had a blast. Also got a bonus enroute back to ship via air, pilot spotted a bunch of whales beneath us and he circled so we could get a better view. Loved this day! Had a couple of sea days and then final stop for was in Vancouver. Loved this city and we did stay over one night, right where the ship docked, at the beautiful Pan Pacific Vancouver. Would recommended the HoHo bus. We can't wait to do this again soon!

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    Mentioned in this answer:

    1. Anchorage (city)
    2. Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge (hotel)
    3. Talkeetna (city)
    4. Denali National Park (park)
    5. Glacier Bay (unknown)
    6. Skagway (city)
    7. Haines (city)
    8. Juneau (city)
    9. Mendenhall Glacier (attraction)
    10. Ketchikan (city)
    11. Vancouver (city)
    12. Pan Pacific Vancouver (neighborhood)

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  • Andrew Buys

    answered by

    We took the Emerald Princess on its second voyage and its first Alaskan Inside Passage cruise.

    It was great. We went in late June and it was expected to be a tad chilly so I spend too much money on the LL Bean website. Wasted might be a better term as during the whole week of the cruise there was a record setting heat wave where during the day it was in the middle 80s, in Alaska.

    We had our teen and preteen daughters with us and we hardly ever saw them - unless we went looking for them or it was dinner time or we were taking in a show together.

    Early one morning we woke up to find the ship doing 360 degree turns in the Tracy Arm Fjord just so everybody on board could see the many splendors...I never forget the stunning blue ice which was thousands of years old. And it was cold, finally it was cold in Alaska.

    I was not crazy about some of their stops especially Juneau Port. No thank you, I do not need any Tanzanite jewelry. The stop in Victoria was great and Ketchikan had a entertaining lumberjack show and a smoked salmon barbecue.

    I'd go back and do it again but I have too many other places to visit! Most of them are in climates that are supposed to be warm and are accessible by a private charter on a catamaran sailboat.

    You will have a fine time!


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    • Joanne D.

      Joanne D.

      Andrew: we just took a Caribbean cruise last month on the Emerald. What a gorgeous ship!!! · (1 likelikes)

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    1. Tracy Arm Fjord (attraction)
    2. Alaska (state)
    3. Juneau Port (attraction)
    4. Ketchikan (city)

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  • Jane Scoles

    answered by

    I've been to Alaska twice and both times I went the end of May. Both trips were on Princess Cruises and both were outstanding. The prices are cheaper in May plus school is in session so there weren't many children on the cruise. There is so much to do...white water rafting in Denali National Park, ATV tours, sea kayaking and I'm a "senior"

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    • Jane S.

      Jane S.

      The weather in May was great too. When we were out on the deck checking out the glaciers we needed a heavy coat. The rest of the time I wore jeans, a long sleeve shirt and a windbreaker. I was very comfortable · (0 likelikes)

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  • Kenin Bassart

    answered by

    Holland America had some great cruise options when my wife and I went a few years ago. If you are looking for a great deal, look at the very beginning of the season (Mid-April). It's a tad chilly, but much cheaper than the mid-summer peak prices.

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  • Joann Severson

    answered by

    We've cruised with four cruiselines, and our favorite is Holland America, hands down. Our favorite times to go to Alaska are September and October.

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  • Bryce Campbell

    answered by

    The only Alaska cruise i've been on is Royal Caribbean, they were pretty good. I have been on Princess down in Mexico -- I have heard Norwegiain Cruise Lines is pretty good too

    In terms of time of year, it really comes down to price -- start and end of seasons are going to be cheaper, but the prime is July/August

    Land Tours range from town tours, to helicopter rides, and climbing glaciers. Lots of outdoors!


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  • William Smith

    answered by

    I like to go north in June; almost endless daylight. Best Cruise Line? Maybe you mean least costly. Try Vacations-to-go for a good list of Alaska cruises. (I'm not an employee)

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