Jump to content
Cruise Critic Community
chicagopaul

Our First ALASKA Cruise! Advice? - CHICAGOPAUL

Recommended Posts

Happy almost weekend everyone! Edward and I decided to jump on a somewhat last minute cruise. We just booked the Celebrity Eclipse for May 19th out of Vancouver for their Hubbard Glacier Cruise. We ended up getting what I believe is a great deal on a Celebrity Suite at $5,378 total including the Go BEST promotion and a total of $975 OBC (this is from Celebrity, Celebrity booking on board - we moved out August cruise - and from out A).

 

This will our first Alaska cruise so I wanted to reach out to get some tips and tricks from all of you as we are starting to plan and on this cruise will definitely book some excursions as well as some tips of where to be on the ship for the best views. Here is a quick breakdown of the itinerary.

 

Port out of Vancouver

Icy Strait Point

Cruising Hubbard Glacier

Juneau

Ketchikan

Cruising Inside Passage

Back to Vancouver

 

We're currently looking at flight options. Not a ton of non-stop from ORD to YVR but there are a couple options on Air Canada (operated by Jazz on their little CRJ 900) that are non-stop as well as one on AA and I think United has one as well. We will definitely spend 1 night before and 1 night after the cruise. We might flight in 2 days early into Vancouver if most of you think it is worth spending multiple full days in Vancouver.

 

Any advice on Celebrity excursions would be appreciated so we could use the OBC. Also packing - any tips and tricks on really what to expect weather wise at the middle to end of May in this area. Also if any of you have stayed at hotels in Vancouver that you highly recommend or even just a specific location of where we should stay I'll take all advice!

 

As always thank you so much for all your advice, thoughts, comments, etc.!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Assuming you’ve never been to Vancouver, I can absolutely encourage you to book two (or more) nights if your schedule allows. Vancouver is one of the most beautiful cities in the World IMO. And very cosmopolitan. It’s a great kick-off to an Alaska Cruise. 

 

Congrats and happy planning!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Paul

 

With the weather in Alaska the main thing is to plan on layers of clothing, particularly in May.  Also be sure to take rain proof outer wear.  We were there in July and still needed hats and gloves on occasion.  One of the fun things we did in Icy Strait Point was to go sea kayaking.  It was not a difficult trip, we covered only about 5-6 miles.  But a whale breached about 50 yards away from me. I would recommend that one.

 

Vancouver is one of the prettiest cities I have been in.  I thought it was also the most expensive until I went to Norway!  It is a fun city to explore.  The HOHO bus system is very good.  I think the large park is Stanley Park and I highly recommend visiting it.

 

Have fun!

 

Jeff

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, wave rider said:

Vancouver is one of the prettiest cities I have been in.  I thought it was also the most expensive until I went to Norway!  

 

It’s a bargain, currently, with the exchange rate in the favor of the USD! 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Vancouver is worth a few days.  Nice city to walk and can go to Granville Island Market.  If you can go to Butchart Gardens in Victoria.  We took a float plane over and back and is much faster than ferry and was only a few dollars more of course this was over 10 years ago.  I'm not really a flower or plant guy but Butchart Gardens was amazing and would like go back.  Victoria was a fun city to walk around as well.  Vancouver also has some excellent restaurants.  Enjoy tour trip!

 

Art

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I usually try to keep the excursion expenses to a minimum. But I think you have to look at Alaska as a once-in-a-lifetime type thing. We looked at the excursions and picked stuff we wanted to do, knowing we might not go back for a while. We took the helicopter out to the glacier - our kids (who were like 8 and 11 at the time) still talk about it.

 

We’ve travelled to a lot of places, Alaska is incredible.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We don't do a lot of ships excursions.  Flight seeing or helicopters to the glaciers are suppose to be great but my DH does not like to fly so we've never done them.

 

Vancouver is a beautiful city.  We stayed a the Pan Pacific, right adjacent to the pier.  There is also a Fairmont across the street.

 

We end up flying YVR to PIT on United.  The flights generally go through Chicago but the Chicago to YVR flights are non stop. I've read that there is a lot of confusion and delays at the port for the first sailings of the season, especially if there are several ships docked.  We will be doing our 4th Alaska cruise next year and have always gone July or August.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Good Morning Paul,

My wife and I did a cruise to Alaska on the Infinity in September 2007 - a highlight of our cruising experiences.  We sailed into Yakatat bay to view the Hubbard glacier up close (real close) and the Captain opened the forward deck for those who wished to view the face of the glacier from that vantage point.  If you have that option on your visit to the glacier I'd definitely recommend taking advantage of it as it is amazing watching the massive chunks of ice calve off the face off the head wall of the glacier and listening to the sounds made by the glacier.  Definitely dress warm and in layers - it can get pretty cold standing out in the elements.  Also, get to the deck early as it gets crowded and you will want to be as close to the front as possible for the best view.  Also, the view as the ship enters the bay is beautiful.

Hope you and Edward enjoy your cruise - Alaska is beautiful.

Paul

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hello ! Have really enjoyed reading your various travel logs. There is a ton of information on Alaska on the  “Alaska Board”. I’ve been using the info to plan our first Alaskan Trip scheduled May 31 on Solstice. Give the various trip reviews a look. Info on excursions and lots of info on what to wear. I have found very helpful. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We were on the Milly to Alaska in 2015 and it is still one of our top two vacations ever!  LOTS of layers, don't forget a true rain coat and gloves.  IMHO don't misses include 1) Forward deck for the Hubbard glacier, 2) Up close and personal with any glacier, either by helicopter or kayak, 3) Whale watching tour (the most amazing animal experience of our lives!), and 4) Visit Iditarod sled dogs.  If you ever get a chance to go back, definitely add a Celebrity Cruise Tour and you'll have an amazing visit to Fairbanks and Denali!  Enjoy!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Packing should definitely be the layered look.   I have done the same cruise in May at it was on the cold side and we even had snow on one day.   Hubbard Glacier you will need heavy "Chicago" jacket, ear muffs and gloves if you plan on being out for long.  One good thing is the CS is a perfect place to view the glacier.   The ship turns around in one direction then reverses course and goes the other direction so every room gets a good view.

 

 

For Ketchikan we rented a car and drove to the Youkon for the day.   It follows the same route as the train ride which is a popular excursion.   The cost of a daily car rental was very reasonable. 

 

Juneau is a great site for Whale Watching tours.   Many recommended Captain Jack which we selected and were not disappointed. 

https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g31020-d1576541-r73419028-Adventures_in_Alaska-Juneau_Alaska.html

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
53 minutes ago, Jim_Iain said:

 

.....

 

For Ketchikan we rented a car and drove to the Youkon for the day.   It follows the same route as the train ride which is a popular excursion.   The cost of a daily car rental was very reasonable. 

 

......

 

 

In the interest of accuracy, there is no road from Ketchikan into the Yukon.  Jim is describing Skagway.

 

At the top of the Cruise Critic Alaska forum you will find trip reports organized by years.  So many questions will be answered by simply skimming through those reports.  Even read the reports on cruises taken on other cruise lines.  The bulk of these reports also contain photos, so even that question about what to pack will be answered.  But there will be an incredible amount of information about shore excursions.

 

Hope you enjoy our state.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As others have noted, clothing plans should account for layers.   And a good rain coat.   Fleece vests or jackets too.   They are nice and lightweight and easy to stuff into a napsack when it's gets warmer.   Good pair of all terrain shoes, like the Merrell  Moab 2.

 

Some highlights from our trip (we did one way Vancouver to Seward on Millennium):

 

1.  Vancouver:   As others have noted, a couple days would be best.   Granville Island Market - also the Art Galleries, Stanley Park, Whistler.   Take the ferry or float plane over to Victoria...  If you do get to Victoria the Royal British Columbia Museum if very nice, tea at the Empress.   Vancouver is very cosmopolitan, Victoria very British.   

 

2.  Ketchikan:  Easy to do on foot from the ship.   Take the local bus out to Totem Bight State Park to see the Totem Poles.     

 

3.  Icy Strait Point:   Nice to wander around ISP, but highly recommend walking (or taking shuttle) into Hoonah to see real Alaska.   Not much to see, but it's definitely not geared to the cruise traveler....   When we were there, a group of men were carving a native wall panel in a garage off the main street - amazing to see.    Also many whale watching options from ISP.

 

4.  Juneau:   Alaska State Museum is nice.

 

We haven't done it, but if there is an excursion to helicopter up to a glacier and see the sled dog camps, do it.  Friends have RAVED about it.....  Only omission on your itinerary is Skagway.   It was one of our favorite stops.....   

 

Get a good pair of binoculars.   There will be so much to see while you are cruising - especially along the inside passage.   

 

Joe

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

We did the helicopter ride and dog sledding which was amazing and well worth the cost. We decided it was a once in a lifetime opportunity! We also did the Misty Fjords sea plane which was a lovely trip. The first we booked through Celebrity, Misty Fjords we booked direct. We also did a whale watching trip and had a couple of sightings but it was not the most memorable trip.

We loved Vancover and would recommend at least 2-3 days there to be able to see most things. 

It is one trip we will repeat one day, we called into Sitka and so will pick one that goes to Skagway and Icy Strait point for our next one.

image.jpeg

image.jpeg

Edited by downsmead
Added pics

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We stayed at the Pan Pacific in Vancouver pre cruise.  It is right above the cruise terminal. Lovely hotel.  The weather at the end of May was not good.  The sun hardly ever shone.  Very dreary.  But the sites were spectacular.  Did a combination of Celebrity and private tours.  Varied reviews for both.  A whale watching tour through Celebrity was pretty good.  We got really lucky and actually saw some breaching.  Also if you are going to spend any time in Vancouver, we did the hop on off bus.  Got a great tour and then decided where to get off.  Hope it’s a great cruise.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh you are going to have an amazing time! We went on the Solstice last May. Lots of memory space for your cameras, layers and sunglasses! We had really warm weather which surprised us, didnt even need coats sometimes.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We stayed at the Sheraton which was fine but about 7 minutes walk from the cruise terminal (it was part of our package). The Pan Pacific looked ideally placed for the terminal and walking around Vancouver and I would have probably picked this if booking independently. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Misty Fjords flightseeing in Ketchikan, for sure.  I cruised to Alaska last May and the Misty Fjords were breathtaking!  After our float plane landed on the water, a mama bear and her cub came to the edge of the shore to say hi to us.  

 

In Juneau we rented a car and drove ourselves around, which was great to be able to do things at our own pace.  We spent a lot more time hiking around Mendenhall than any of the tours would allow for, and we were also about to drive out to Eagle Beach and a bunch of other places.  I know this wouldn't help with your OBC, but just throwing the idea out there.

 

For clothing, layers!!  We had everything from cold and rain to warm and sunny all within the same day.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We loved Vancouver and Victoria. Butchart Gardens and The Empress hotel in Victoria worth the trip over from Vancouver. We’ve done the glacier landing and the full circuit trip of Denali as well as the Iditarod dog training facility of Jeff King. As someone else pointed out, the captain will turn the ship around so everyone gets a fantastic view of the glacier. Make sure you have binoculars and layered clothing. Hopefully you’ll return again for a cruise/land trip- really THE best!  And, it goes without saying, enjoy yourselves ( which by reading your postings, you and Edward always do!  

And be sure to grab a bite at Tracy’s Crab Shack right along the dock in Juneau.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Everyone has given good advice, especially about the layers of dress in May. We love the Four Seasons hotel in Vancouver.

Sounds like wonderful trip, you will love Alaska.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My husband and I cruised from Anchorage to Vancouver in May 2016. It was a destination that had always been on his bucket list.  So glad we did it but once was enough for us.  

 

First, Vancouver is definitely worth coming in early for a few extra days.  The dining scene alone is worth it. The city is quite cosmopolitan with an international flair representing cuisine from all parts of the world.  Having once lived in Chicago, and now on the West coast, Vancouver is a fun get-away destination every so often. Very walkable.

 

As far as hotels, the Pan Pacific next to the cruise port is definitely stellar with prices to match.  A good alternative, at a more friendly price point, is the Executive Hotel Le Soleil which is a boutique hotel a short walk from the terminal as well as near many restaurants.  

 

As others have noted, it’s wise to plan on layered clothing options a la REI. I was so glad I purchased binoculars. Ended up buying binoculars that were a step above entry level but not ultra-serious constant use level.  Take a look at Opticron Discovery 8x32.  They are waterproof and work well if you wear glasses.  

 

Cruising a cooler itinerary opens up a whole new realm of warming alcoholic concoctions . . . so be ready to explore.  

 

Enjoy the planning.

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Traveled last May  One of our best cruises - NO rain -Got a sunburn in Alaska and Vancouver 23c and Sunny.

We packed for 3 seasons only used 1 season hope you have the same luck

 

We did Celebrity Solstice  Vancouver to Seattle had Sunset Veranda at the back of the ship. We couldn't decide what side was best so the back was best for us.

 

Slept with the balcony door open - the fresh air

 

Vancouver had an amazing time -Stayed at the Hyatt 5 min walk to port for 3 nights did a lot of walking also did the Capilano Bridge.

Just across from  Canada Place is a tourist office with discounts to many things.

Gastown, Stanley Park, The island if you have time Tofino

NO Uber in Vancouver..... Taxi is flat rate from airport on a grid system or Skytrain.

 

Alaska Excursions on board are quite pricey we are a family of 3 adults and we averaged $200 u.s( we are Canadian) each  we did 3 in total.. After we purchased them they did have a 25% off special  on some and they did credit us  the difference.

 

Usually don't book through ship glad we did .....No happen to us but the ship had to wait for a few hours extra in 2 ports

Train broke down going to the Yukon, A whale boat lost power about an hour away.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, Northern Aurora said:

 

In the interest of accuracy, there is no road from Ketchikan into the Yukon.  Jim is describing Skagway.

 

At the top of the Cruise Critic Alaska forum you will find trip reports organized by years.  So many questions will be answered by simply skimming through those reports.  Even read the reports on cruises taken on other cruise lines.  The bulk of these reports also contain photos, so even that question about what to pack will be answered.  But there will be an incredible amount of information about shore excursions.

 

Hope you enjoy our state.

You are of course correct Jerry.   Thanks for correcting.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would suggest an active excursion for each port. There is not much to see in each of the ports. We were there 12 years  ago with our then teenaged children. We loved the kayaking, the canoeing up to the glacier, and the whale watching.

Weather  can be unpredictable. Keep track before you go. We were there in August and needed very warm clothes.

One hint that helped us was to bring hand warmers to put in our gloves!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Forum Jump
    • Categories
      • 2019 Cruisers' Choice Awards
      • Forum Assistance
      • New Cruisers
      • Cruise Lines “A – O”
      • Cruise Lines “P – Z”
      • River Cruising
      • ROLL CALLS
      • Digital Photography & Cruise Technology
      • Member Cruise Reviews
      • Special Interest Cruising
      • Cruise Discussion Topics
      • UK Cruising
      • Australia & New Zealand Cruisers
      • North American Homeports
      • Ports of Call
      • Cruise Conversations
×
×
  • Create New...