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denisefm

Advice on Alaska

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I have been on 9 cruises, mostly Royal Caribbean, which is our favorite.  The shows and ships are amazing, in my opinion.  I have a question and need advice - friends have booked a cruise and land tour with Princes Cruise Line - 5 days land, 7 day cruise, which is quite expensive.  Is land tour worth it?  How does Princess (Royal Princess) compare to Royal Caribbean?  I appreciate any advice. Thank you. 

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My DH and I did this several years ago with HAL and I think it was definitely worth it.  For me the best part was the trip thru Denali.  We saw moose, bears and much more.  We started in Fairbanks, getting in a few days early and renting a car to explore.  The train rides from Fairbanks to Denali, then to Anchorage and then to Seward for the ship (the most scenic) were wonderful and relaxing.  The interior of the state is different from the Inside passage but beautiful in it's own way.  It is a little pricey but we put money away for several years so we could do it as my DH's retirement present.  I don't think you'll regret it if you go.

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We are booked for our 2nd Alaska Cruise Tour on the Coral Princess Southbound.  I was resistant about booking Alaska, but my DW just wanted to go.  It's so great a trip, here we go again in mid-August!  Fairbanks is a wonderful town to spend some time in.  FountainHead Antique Auto Museum is worth finding, it's at 212 Wedgewood Drive.  Not only cars, but period fashion too.  Great staff on hand.  Look up Dinners Drive-ins and Dives... we went to the Cookie Jar and had a great brunch there.  The Natural museum is worth a walk through also.  Princess train rail through the interior was a great experience we are looking forward to also.  Doing the land portion first and the South Bound passage last is more restful IMHO.  Worth the price!  Have a great trip.

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Do you want to know about how the Royal Caribbean and Princess compare for land tours or for Alaska tours?  I sailed Emerald Princess two years ago to Alaska.  It was a great trip. Princess does not have all the water parks, ice rinks, flowrider, and stuff like that.  They have nice ships, nice crews, and good itineraries.  Royal Princess is a newer and bigger ship; but you still won't find any of the above mentioned extras.  We loved our Alaska cruise.  Princess will have a naturalist on board who will be with you the entire cruise.  They hang out on the bridge and when they spot whales, bald eagles, and such they will come on pa system and point it out so you can go out and take pictures.  They will bring sled dog puppies on board the ship so you can take pictures and pet them.  We had some amazing shore excursions with them.  I have been on Allure of the Seas, Freedom of the Seas and three other Royal ships.  Princess does not have any ships that have the activities that these ships have

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We've done 2 Princess cruise tours to Alaska and think you're not really seeing Alaska unless you go on land too. It seems such a shame to go all that way and only see what you can see from the deck of the ship or your somewhat limited port excursions.

 

I also agree with the idea to do the land portion first, and then the cruise portion.

 

Jim

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As far as the ship goes.....Princess is not the multi generation line that RCI and NCL go for with lots of things to do for kids like rock climbing, ice skating, water features and the like,  that's why we like them.  The Royal has one indoor pool (I think it's warm) in the Enclave spa (you have to pay).....all other pools hot tubs are outside.  We have not done a land portion as of yet,  can't comment.  We've done many RCI sailings with and without our children but at this point we enjoy Princess.

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Obviously people's opinions vary and I disagree with the responses that the above posters have given.  I should note here that we have been to AK 5 or 6 times doing it by ship and on two extended DIY land tours.  I don't think that any cruisetour in AK is worth doing.  I want to go to the places that I want to go to and I want to set my own schedule.  On a cruise tour, the itinerary is in general completely unacceptable to me.  I can do one by myself that is better.  After all, it is the US and they do speak English.

 

With regard to Princess versus Celebrity, AK is different than other destinations as it is all about what is outside of the ship and not what is on the ship.  For AK, decisions should be made totally on the itinerary.  I do not know if Celebrity goes to Glacier Bay but for a first AK cruise, I would never go on a cruise that did not go to Glacier Bay.  It is a national park for a reason.

 

DON

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We did a Princess 13 day connoisseur cruise tour to Alaska in 2016. We had 2 days at Denali Princess lodge and 2 days at the McKinley Princess lodge. At McKinley the mountain actually came out from behind the clouds. It was spectacular. (Most folks never get to actually see the mountain like that as it's usually hidden by clouds.) Like you said, it was expensive but we loved it enough that we are currently booked for a 15 day connoisseur cruise tour in May so we can visit the Kenai Princess Lodge and the Copper River Princess lodge (in addition to returning to Denali Lodge for two days). Again, it's expensive but we think it will be well worth it.

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I think the land tour is worth the cost. Princess goes to Glacier Bay RCI does not. So stay away from RCI 

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13 minutes ago, donaldsc said:

Obviously people's opinions vary and I disagree with the responses that the above posters have given.  I should note here that we have been to AK 5 or 6 times doing it by ship and on two extended DIY land tours.  I don't think that any cruisetour in AK is worth doing.  I want to go to the places that I want to go to and I want to set my own schedule.  On a cruise tour, the itinerary is in general completely unacceptable to me.  I can do one by myself that is better.  After all, it is the US and they do speak English.

 

With regard to Princess versus Celebrity, AK is different than other destinations as it is all about what is outside of the ship and not what is on the ship.  For AK, decisions should be made totally on the itinerary.  I do not know if Celebrity goes to Glacier Bay but for a first AK cruise, I would never go on a cruise that did not go to Glacier Bay.  It is a national park for a reason.

 

DON

Don,  I do not believe the OP asked about Celebrity; they asked about Princess and Royal Caribbean

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Posted (edited)

I believe Princess and HAL were the first two cruise lines doing Alaska so they have many years of experience.  We've done Alaska on both.  Carnival and Royal Caribbean are relative "newbies" in Alaska, I believe.  Celebrity falls in between.  Our first Alaska cruise was on the Celebrity Horizon in 1996 and we've since sailed on Princess and HAL up there.  The latter two are the only cruise lines which currently have the necessary permit to enter Glacier Bay, which a lot of folks hope to see up there.

Edited by BarbinMich

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I have cruised both RCL and Princess in Alaska. Princess does way more on the ship in regards to Alaska. They will always have a Naturalist plus they have multiple speakers onboard such as the first female to win the Iditarod (Libby Riddles) plus other speakers. Princess also goes to Glacier Bay which RCCL does not have permits to.

 

Alaska is all about Alaska and Princess does do it better than RCCL.

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For the land portion Princess/HAL have proprietary ground operations including train cars, lodging, motorcoaches and guides.  Most of the guides seem to be imported college kids on summer break.  RCL, X, NCL, Regent, Silverseas, and some other smaller lines utilize an Alaska tour operator that actually purchased RCL's train cars a few years ago.  They tend to use more native Alaskans for guides and drivers and independent hotels and lodges.  The experience is less homogenized and deeper/more authentic.   It all depends on what you are after.   I've not done RCL in Alaska, but have experienced this tour operator on an NCL land/sea package.  I have also done Alaska (cruise only) with HAL and Princess and to me, Princess would be top choice due to the excellent onboard naturalists!

 

 

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13 hours ago, donaldsc said:

Obviously people's opinions vary and I disagree with the responses that the above posters have given.  I should note here that we have been to AK 5 or 6 times doing it by ship and on two extended DIY land tours.  I don't think that any cruisetour in AK is worth doing.  I want to go to the places that I want to go to and I want to set my own schedule.  On a cruise tour, the itinerary is in general completely unacceptable to me.  I can do one by myself that is better.  After all, it is the US and they do speak English.

 

 

DON

As I recall you have given the same advice numerous times.  It is always valuable to hear everyone’s perspective, which make CC a great forum.

 

I understand your points, but I am curious.  Have you actually been on a Princess land tour in Alaska?

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I second the DIY land portion.  It is quite easy to book the train or rental car yourself as well as hotels.  Do some research and go where you want to go for the amount of time you want to be there.  We have always done it this way and found it to be most satisfying.

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8 minutes ago, TexasBorderAussie said:

I second the DIY land portion.  It is quite easy to book the train or rental car yourself as well as hotels.  Do some research and go where you want to go for the amount of time you want to be there.  We have always done it this way and found it to be most satisfying.

 

In 2017 we did a 7 week camping trip from Northern California up through Montana, Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon, and Alaska. We went up as far as Fairbanks and spent several weeks in Alaska. It was freaking awesome. We are still booked for the Princess connoisseur land tour on our upcoming cruise in May. It's a different experience and well worth it to us.

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I lived for four years in Alaska and can tell you this much:  the question isn't should you do the land tour with the cruise tour...the real question is: why spend all that money on a cruise when you can plan a 2 week trip to Alaska, driving yourself to each destination, see the real beauty of Alaska, and probably do it cheaper.  Now, I know that wasn't your question...so in response...if you go on a cruise and do not do a land portion, you will be missing the best part!!

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Someone mentioned Celebrity....no line that is part of RCL has permits to enter Glacier Bay, including Celebrity.

HAL, Princess, Carnival, NCL and some of the luxury lines have permits.  As you would expect, HAL and Princess have the lions share.

 

For first timers a cruisetour (even tho costly) is a great choice....after that a DIY is a real possibility.

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Haven't traveled yet, however we will do our own land portion before we take the cruise from Alaska to Vancouver.  Haven't decided yet however will probably do 7 days in Alaska before the cruise.

 

If the land tour offered by the ship is exactly what you want then I would do it because it is easier and might be cheaper.

 

I picked Princess because of Glacier Bay.  You actually don't need a cruise ship to do Glacier Bay.

You could fly in to the local airport. Stay overnight in a lodge/hotel.  Do a one day boat tour of Glacier Bay and either fly out that day or stay over another night and then fly out.

 

For us, we decided it was not worth that amount of effort and just choose a ship with an itinerary that includes Glacier Bay and Hubbard.

 

As was stated above you don't have to do a cruise for the southeast portion of Alaska.  

We however chose a cruise instead of driving and using the Alaskan ferry service because we thought it would be easier.

Not clear to me you actually save money by doing it yourself, however I didn't price it out.

 

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We've only done one Princess cruise/land tour. The land tour portion of that was spectacular and is one of my very favorite vacation memories. Well worth the money.

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1 hour ago, USCcruisecrazy said:

I lived for four years in Alaska and can tell you this much:  the question isn't should you do the land tour with the cruise tour...the real question is: why spend all that money on a cruise when you can plan a 2 week trip to Alaska, driving yourself to each destination, see the real beauty of Alaska, and probably do it cheaper.  Now, I know that wasn't your question...so in response...if you go on a cruise and do not do a land portion, you will be missing the best part!!

Drive yourself to each destination?  It seems like all cruises include about 4 ports, including Ketchikan and Juneau;  I don't think you are going to drive to these destinations. 

 

FWIW, I've done a cruiseline land pkg once (NCL's Authentic Alaska) and my own thing 3 times...  All were amazing experiences!  Some folks like to plan trips and some just like to go.  No right or wrong way, just go!

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15 hours ago, jagoffee said:

As I recall you have given the same advice numerous times.  It is always valuable to hear everyone’s perspective, which make CC a great forum.

 

I understand your points, but I am curious.  Have you actually been on a Princess land tour in Alaska?

 

No but I have done several DIY land tours of AK including spending 2 1/2 months on a driving tour so I know a bit about AK.  I can also read itineraries well enough to know that I personally can do a much better job of planning an AK trip than Princess can.  I know what I like to see and it is different from what Princess thinks that I should see because it maximizes their profits and minimizes their costs.  As an example, the first time I was in Fairbanks, I discovered the Fountainhead Car Museum and spent almost a full day there.  I have been back there twice.  I doubt that Princess even takes you there.   They take you to the dredge and the paddlewheel steamer trip because they get a cut of all the entrance fees.

 

How many people have posted on CC complaining about the short time that they had in Denali because they thought that 2 days in Denali really meant 48 hours in Denali.  How many people post on CC that they only had time for the really short trip into Denali instead of one of the longer ones.

 

I agree that booking a cruisetour is easy but easy isn't always good.  

 

DON

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It looks like there are two longer tours into Denali (private cars generally prohibited).  One is 6-7 hours and the other is 11-12 hours.  I do not think Princess offers these tours.

 

FYI,  according to the NPS website the mountain is generally only visible one out of 3 days in the summer.

 

If you are interested in exploring Alaska on land it might be worth taking a book out of the library.

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I have never sailed on a large Royal Caribbean vessel, so no opinion about about their Alaska assigned ships nor their program.

 

Having recently sailed on Royal Princess, I wonder if she is really suited for such an itinerary as Alaska.  She is a beautiful ship, easy to navigate from one venue to another, and lots of activities/entertainment inside the ship.  Alaska cruises are about the scenery, the wildlife.  I found truly outside viewing areas and not in an enclosure of some type limited.  Having a veranda stateroom helps, but what are you not seeing on the "other side" of the ship by staying on your veranda?  Cruise ship entertainment programming is secondary, but from what Princess states in their brochures, Alaska themed programming is presented.    

 

I look forward to learning what the opinions of those who sail on Royal Princess this Summer have to say.

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4 hours ago, fishin' musician said:

Drive yourself to each destination?  It seems like all cruises include about 4 ports, including Ketchikan and Juneau;  I don't think you are going to drive to these destinations. 

 

FWIW, I've done a cruiseline land pkg once (NCL's Authentic Alaska) and my own thing 3 times...  All were amazing experiences!  Some folks like to plan trips and some just like to go.  No right or wrong way, just go!

 

That is the problem w cruises to AK and also cruisetours.  They miss 95% of AK.  You really need to drive to really see AK.  And BTW, you can get to Ketchikan and Juneau by car.  You just put your car on one of the Alaska Marine Highway ferries and then you have your car in both Ketchikan and Juneau.  That is what we did.

 

DON

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