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AK350

Port or Starboard for Inside Passage Alaska

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I know this has been asked in previous threads/years, but looking for fresh opinions on cruising Inside Passage Alaska in a balcony room on port or starboard side of the ship? Roundtrip from Seattle in July 2019 9 (on Joy). It sounds like port side will have better morning sun when going northbound and also ideal when going southbound to still see the islands and not open water. I've also seen comments from Google that starboard is better as it provides more wildlife views when going northbound since it faces the mainland vs. the islands? This may be my one and only time cruising to Alaska and I want to make the right choice. I will spend a quite a bit of time on upper decks too, but for the times I want to relax on my balcony in the morning and randomly throughout the day... TIA!

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I've done starboard and gotten amazing sunset photo's from the balcony on the way back to Seattle. I have yet to see any land based wildlife from the ship while cruising, so I don't think I'd make a decision on the hope of seeing anything wildlife wise. Never been much of an early riser so I can't say if the morning sun would be a selling point for me or not. Then again in July the sun will be up around 4 AMish.

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Six of one - a half a dozen another - - -

Not all cruises use the (Canadian) inside passage - the area between Vancouver Island and the Continental Mainland.

The inside passage extends into Alaska but there is a section of open Pacific ocean north of Vancouver Island

It is the norm for northbound cruises to go the ocean route and southbound the inside passage.

This norm is mostly for cruises sailing out of Seattle - those out of Vancouver could go either way.

Check your cruise itinerary for the specific routing - - -

Since the Alaska cruises are in the summer months from roughly mid May to late September there is a whole

lot of daylight especially the farther north one goes.

 

Northbound the sun will rise on the starboard side and set on the port -

Southbound the sun will rise on the port and set on the starboard -

 

At the summer solstice the sun rises around 4am and sets at around 10pm

 

Wildlife viewing could be on either side of the ship since passage is between islands and the mainland and

seasonal migration plays an important part in what is seen.

The first day or two scout around for those photographic vantage points especially for viewing the glaciers.

Be flexible and keep attuned to any announcements made about seeing the wildlife but better luck is with

the shore excursions getting up real close with knowledgeable guides and tour operators.

In any event be flexible to seize the moment for that photo or view that you came looking for !

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Doesn't matter.  For much of the cruising you will be in open water where you won't see anything, anyways.   Once you head inland to Ketchikan, Stephens passage, Juneau, Skagway, etc, you will have land relatively close on both sides of the ship.  When you go view the glacier, the ship will hopefully do a 360 so all sides can view it (The Bliss did this past June).

 

If you really want to see wildlife along the cruise, I strongly recommend the small boat excursion up Endicott or Tracy Arm.  The small boat is much better suited for stopping and viewing wildlife. and gets much, much closer to the glacier.  It's a pricey excursion, but well worth every cent, IMO.

Edited by PATRLR

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1 hour ago, PATRLR said:

If you really want to see wildlife along the cruise, I strongly recommend the small boat excursion up Endicott or Tracy Arm.  The small boat is much better suited for stopping and viewing wildlife. and gets much, much closer to the glacier.  It's a pricey excursion, but well worth every cent, IMO.

Yes, if you're going to see the glacier at Tracy Arm, you should take the small boat excursion.  We were disappointed with our "view" of the glacier from the cruise ship.  There's too much ice in the channel for the large cruise ship to get close enough to the glacier for a  decent view.  We only saw a glimpse of the glacier.

Edit:  If you really want to see a glacier with associated calving, take the cruise that goes to Glacier Bay.

Edited by The Other Tom

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18 hours ago, AK350 said:

I know this has been asked in previous threads/years, but looking for fresh opinions on cruising Inside Passage Alaska in a balcony room on port or starboard side of the ship? Roundtrip from Seattle in July 2019 9 (on Joy). It sounds like port side will have better morning sun when going northbound and also ideal when going southbound to still see the islands and not open water. I've also seen comments from Google that starboard is better as it provides more wildlife views when going northbound since it faces the mainland vs. the islands? This may be my one and only time cruising to Alaska and I want to make the right choice. I will spend a quite a bit of time on upper decks too, but for the times I want to relax on my balcony in the morning and randomly throughout the day... TIA!

 

Most of your time is spent away from the inside passage. When you are in the inside passage both sides have the same view. IMO it really doesn't matter unless you are doing a true inside passage from Vancouver to Seward or Whittier, or the reverse.

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Seattle crusies are the least scenic and have pretty much 2 days of open ocean sailing.     The only "glacier"   viewing that has a port view edge,  is Glacier Bay-   with the port side matching up with the commentary.   That is IF you plan on just viewing from your cabin?    Realize this would be only 50% of the potential viewing.     Tracy Arm,   Endicott Arm  and Hubbard Glacier,   are forward and both side viewing . 

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6 hours ago, Budget Queen said:

Seattle crusies are the least scenic and have pretty much 2 days of open ocean sailing.     The only "glacier"   viewing that has a port view edge,  is Glacier Bay-   with the port side matching up with the commentary.   That is IF you plan on just viewing from your cabin?    Realize this would be only 50% of the potential viewing.     Tracy Arm,   Endicott Arm  and Hubbard Glacier,   are forward and both side viewing . 

 

Perhaps a another way to explain the viewing - at Glacier bay the ship approaches the glacier and spins one or more times

around giving everyone a view from all angles. You can park in one place or move around to take it in.

At Tracy Arm the ship sails up a narrow fjord like passage - then turns around and sails back the same way.

So one would not have to leave your cabin (balcony) perch - only thing changing would be the daylight causing

different photo views of the fjord.

How far the ship sails up to seeing the actual (Sawyer) glacier is dependent on the ice calving and jamming the fjord passage.

How close to the glaciers that the cruise gets is dependent on the amount ice that the ship must maneuver around.

The ships thrusters (that cause the movement in circles) are not ice crushing propellers and care it taken to prevent

disabling damage.

Not all the glaciers are visited on any one trip - refer to your itinerary or Daily newsprint for details.

For some glaciers i.e. Tracy Arm Sawyer & Endicott Arm Dawes are best viewed by a shore excursion smaller ship/boat.

The Hubbard and College glaciers are visited on the Vancouver Seward cruises due to their northerly location.

Due to environmental concerns only a certain number of ships are permitted access to viewing the glaciers.

NCL shares these viewings with Holland-America Princess and other cruise lines.

A National Parks Ranger(s) is usually brought onboard to narrate the viewing and answer questions comments.

Early morning viewing of the glaciers is often hampered by fog and mist - later in the day the sun will burn off

the fog and make for a better viewing opportunity.

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5 hours ago, don't-use-real-name said:

 

Perhaps a another way to explain the viewing - at Glacier bay the ship approaches the glacier and spins one or more times

around giving everyone a view from all angles. You can park in one place or move around to take it in.

At Tracy Arm the ship sails up a narrow fjord like passage - then turns around and sails back the same way.

So one would not have to leave your cabin (balcony) perch - only thing changing would be the daylight causing

different photo views of the fjord.

How far the ship sails up to seeing the actual (Sawyer) glacier is dependent on the ice calving and jamming the fjord passage.

How close to the glaciers that the cruise gets is dependent on the amount ice that the ship must maneuver around.

The ships thrusters (that cause the movement in circles) are not ice crushing propellers and care it taken to prevent

disabling damage.

Not all the glaciers are visited on any one trip - refer to your itinerary or Daily newsprint for details.

For some glaciers i.e. Tracy Arm Sawyer & Endicott Arm Dawes are best viewed by a shore excursion smaller ship/boat.

The Hubbard and College glaciers are visited on the Vancouver Seward cruises due to their northerly location.

Due to environmental concerns only a certain number of ships are permitted access to viewing the glaciers.

NCL shares these viewings with Holland-America Princess and other cruise lines.

A National Parks Ranger(s) is usually brought onboard to narrate the viewing and answer questions comments.

Early morning viewing of the glaciers is often hampered by fog and mist - later in the day the sun will burn off

the fog and make for a better viewing opportunity.

Clarification-    TIME is a major reason for transiting  Tracy Arm.  Some schedules  allow only for perfect conditions for it to be successful.     ALL ships will turn for both sides,  viewing   and only Glacier Bay,  requires  NPS rangers,  and usually Alaska Geographic reps,  to escort the ship in.    All these Glacier dead end,   ALL sailing back the "same way".   

 

College Fjords is only routinely visited by Princess-   which goes in/out of Whittier,  not Seward.   

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