Going on an Alaskan cruise is a bucket list item for many travelers. It is also an once in a lifetime experience for many people as well. What is the best way to see Alaska? When is the best time to go? How do I get the best “bang for my buck”? I hope to answer these questions and many more for you through this article.
Choosing The Time To Go
Alaska travel season begins in mid-May and goes through mid-September. For the best pricing, you will want to look at pricing in May and September. The weather is cooler during these times and you may have some fickle rain or wind storms. However, you will not pay as much as you would in July or August. As far as weather goes, July and August are the best times to experience Alaska. I, personally, traveled in mid-September and had the unfortunate experience of not being able to visit all of the ports listed on the itinerary. The ship could not dock due to hurricane force winds. I took a round-trip cruise from Seattle on Holland America. The itinerary included Tracy Arm Fjord, Juneau, Skagway, Sitka, and Victoria. We were only able to see Juneau and Victoria. Holland America made a great judgment call in canceling the other ports due to these winds. It was just really unfortunate that I did not get to see the rest of the ports of call. Oh, well! It gives me a reason to go back!
Booking Window for Alaska
You will want to start shopping for your Alaskan cruise at least 8 months to a year in advance. Because Alaska has such a short cruise season, space fills up rather quickly. If you have a preference for where you would like to be on the ship, book as soon as possible. Many cruise lines start running their Alaska specials a year in advance and the prices generally increase from there. However, if you do see your price go down, contact your travel agent and they will get it honored by the cruise line. Of course, certain terms and conditions apply (sometimes some promotions are only available for new bookings only). If you book a year in advance, please make sure you are purchasing travel insurance just in case you do need to cancel. If you do not purchase travel insurance, at least make sure you are booking a refundable deposit rate.
Choosing The Right Itinerary
Most cruise lines do the same 4 itineraries. The first two are round trips. You will start off in Seattle and then head through the Inside Passage and end in Seattle. Or, start off in Vancouver and do the same itinerary and end in Vancouver. The first “open-jaw” itinerary is starting off in Vancouver and then ending in Whittier or Seward. From there, you can take a bus or a train to Denali National Park, Talkeetna or another fantastic destination in-land Alaska. Many cruise lines offer land itineraries packaged with their cruise itineraries. The Vancouver to Whittier or Seward , north-bound itinerary, generally prices a little better than the southbound Whittier or Seward to Vancouver itinerary. Simply because people like to fly into Anchorage or Fairbanks first to get the long haul of the journey out of the way. That brings us to our second “open-jaw” itinerary which is from Whittier to Vancouver. You will fly into Anchorage or Fairbanks and complete the land portion of your journey first and then board your ship in Whittier or Seward. Both of the “open-jaw” itineraries give you the best overview of Alaska. You will see the best of both worlds by completing land and sea.
Choosing The Right Cruise Line
Many cruise lines work the Alaska cruise route. There are several choices budget-friendlily to 5 star luxury. Do keep in mind that you will not have the mega ships on these routes because they cannot fit on the docs. So, if you are taking children on the cruise , they will have things to do but it will not be as extensive as some of the cruises out of the Caribbean, for example. That being said, these ships are obviously smaller and sometimes that means they are older. That is not necessarily a bad thing especially if the cruise line has completed refurbishments in the last couple of years. When shopping, make sure you advise your travel agent to inform you about the last refurbishment that was done on the ship. Ask about the average client on the cruise line, if you are young at heart and would prefer to not be around an older crowd, one cruise line may be better for you than another.
Choosing The Type of Cabin To Book
I think it is absolutely essential to have a balcony while cruising through Alaska. You are there to take in the beauty of nature. Why wouldn’t you book a balcony cabin? I recommend one of two areas on a ship to have your balcony cabin. The first would be mid-ship port side and the second would be aft in the very back of the ship. You can get great views on both options. The back of the ship (and I mean the very, very back of the ship) can give you some incredible views of whales and give you a great view of either side of the water. Plus, you usually have an extended balcony on some cruise lines. If you cannot splurge on a balcony, and you would like to look into the cost of an inside or a ocean view cabin, I would recommend sticking to a mid-ship location so that you have easy access to the stairs and would be able to get to an outside deck to view the beauty outside.
Choosing How To Book
Book with your favorite travel agent, of course! When you book directly with the cruise line, you are leaving money and deals on the table! Your travel agent has access to promotions that the cruise line does not have access to. I know there is the untrue rumor out there that it costs more to book with a travel agent. It is a myth! There are no fees when you book with Brilliant Journeys, LLC. Call me today and I will make your Alaskan dreams come true!
Packing and Preparing For Your Trip to Alaska
No matter if you travel in May or in August, you will want to be prepared for all weather scenarios for Alaska. I recommend taking at least one set of long underwear and a heavier jacket. Of course, check the weather when you get close to your trip, but you will never know what the weather will do in Alaska. You will most definitely want to pack rain gear (umbrella, poncho, some sort of rain jacket), sunscreen, and bug repellent (with DEET, if allowed). It is true when they say the unofficial state bird of Alaska is the mosquito. Comfortable walking shoes are a must! Also, Alaskans are not fancy folk. They are very practical in their attire. Your best jeans and flannel shirt is considered formal wear. There will still be formal nights on the ship, but you will not need anything dressy for when you are out touring. I also recommend bringing extra socks just in case you get caught in a sudden rainstorm or if it is just a misty day.
Is an Alaskan Cruise on your bucket list? Let me know in the comments below!