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Holland Alaska - Inside Passage? Stephens Passage?

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We decided to switch our summer cruise from Cuba to Alaska.  Our ship itinerary states that we will be cruising through the Stephen's Passage, but other cruiselines and cruises mention they are cruising through the Inside Passage.  Are these the same thing?

 

It's past final payment, so too late to change but we're researching now and are trying to set our expectations.  Stephen's Passage seems to be full of whales (so that's good!).  We're also heading in to Glacier Bay.  😃  Thanks for sharing your advice and experiences.

 

 

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1 hour ago, SunNFunCruzer said:

We decided to switch our summer cruise from Cuba to Alaska.  Our ship itinerary states that we will be cruising through the Stephen's Passage, but other cruiselines and cruises mention they are cruising through the Inside Passage.  Are these the same thing?

 

It's past final payment, so too late to change but we're researching now and are trying to set our expectations.  Stephen's Passage seems to be full of whales (so that's good!).  We're also heading in to Glacier Bay.  😃  Thanks for sharing your advice and experiences.

 

 

Which ship are you on? We did the Nieuw Amsterdam our of Vancouver with a Glacier Bay day and absolutely loved it; that was my favorite day at sea ever. I hope you have a wonderful time. 

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The "Inside Passage" essentially runs from Olympia, WA to Skagway, AK, but the cruise lines don't necessarily cruise the entire passage.  If your ship leaves from Seattle you will probably sail out west out of Puget Sound to the west (outside) of Vancouver Island, then cut back in at Triple Island (US/Canadian border) and sail up one of the channels to Ketchikan or Juneau.  If your ship leaves Vancouver, you will probably sail to the north via the Johnstone Strait to Triple Island and then continue north. 

Johnstone Strait is more scenic and more protected, but there are is an area that the ships have to time because of currents.  Since the ship is in Canadian waters the entire time, a Canadian Pilot is required, which is extra expense to the cruise line (passed on to passengers).  At Triple Island the Canadian pilot is dropped of and a US pilot is boarded.

Sailing outside of Vancouver Island tends to be faster and because it is in international waters, no pilot is required until Triple Island, when a US pilot is boarded.  Depending upon the weather it can either be very smooth or a little choppy.  You can see Vancouver Island on the horizon.  One advantage of cruising "outside" is that you will quite often see dolphins swimming alongside the ship.

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If you are sailing out of Vancouver on a HAL ship you will be sailing the inside passage inside Vancouver Island.  If you are sailing out of Seattle you will be sailing outside Vancouver Island and then move in to the Alaska inside passage.  Both will sail Stephen's Passage up to Juneau.  You can follow your itinerary on the HAL web site.

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Thank you both! We're on the Eurodam out of Seattle.  We are mostly interested in seeing whales and we've been reading that whales are commonly found in the inside passage as well as in Stephen's Passage.  Since we are going "outside" Vancouver island, does that mean the chance that we'll see whales is greatly diminished? 

 

We just upgraded to a balcony because my body does not do well in cold weather (this way I can duck in to my cabin to warm up or bring out a blanket from inside without having to carry it through the hallways [soooo embarrassing...but necessary]).

 

Airfare to Seattle was much cheaper than airfare to Vancouver.  Thanks again!

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You will see whales if you are looking for them.  You will enjoy that balcony.  You will have a blanket in your stateroom to use when you are sitting on the balcony.  There should be more blankets stored on the promenade deck.   Have a wonderful time!

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There are a lot of chances to see whales, especially near Juneau, outside of Glacier Bay and near Sitka.

Enjoy your cruise.

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Personally I prefer sailing the inside passage.  If one gets a good Captain you will get inside a good part of the time up there.  When sailing South out of Ketchikan you will generally encounter Orca wales.

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Year before last, on our first cruise, we did a whale watching excursion out of Juneau. That evening, sailing Stephens Passage on the ship, we saw far more whales from the dining room than we had from the excursion boat. For us, it was a magical moment, and we hope you have many, many like it.

 

Lori & George

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Marketing.......

It’s kind of hard to get to Juneau without going through Stephan’s Passage.

 

After dropping off the pilot in Glacier Bay, and even after making the final turn, stay on deck for at least an hour. It’s really likely you will see lots of whales through that whole area. And if you look northward (assuming you are heading into the Pacific) Taylor Inlet will be in view with another large glacier.

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Posted (edited)

Alaska-bound ships with Seattle as departure port sail the Pacific Ocean outside/west of big Vancouver Island to Queen Charlotte Sound, continue on inside/east of the Haida Gwaii islands/the former Queen Charlotte Islands, Hecate Strait, entering U.S waters at Dixon Entrance and then take Frederick sound (picking up two U.S. pilots at Kake) to Stephens Passage sailing north to Gastineau Channel bound for Juneau

 

Locmap-QCS-Hecate-Dixon.png

 

Related image

 

The Inside Passage is referred to as the coastal route from Vancouver, BC (could also be as far south as Olympia, WA) north to Alaska. This route will take you between the Canadian mainland and Vancouver Island using the Strait of Georgia and Johnson Strait, picking up Hecate Strait, the Dixon Entrance and Stephens Passage, continuing northbound 

 

7%20Day%20Alaska%20Vancouver%202.gif

Edited by Copper10-8

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I prefer the second route to Alaska.  It is calmer and much more scenic.

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You guys are making my 11 week wait take an eternity!  I am so looking forward to my cruise now!!!!!

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Make sure you take a pair of binoculars to spot whales.  Most often they don't necessarily pull along side the ship to say hello. 

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1 minute ago, Paulinda said:

Make sure you take a pair of binoculars to spot whales.  Most often they don't necessarily pull along side the ship to say hello. 

How rude of those whales, can we please get better behaved - more user friendly - whales moved to Alaska before August 4?  Hee hee hee...

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If you want to be assured of seeing whales, take a whale watching tour in Juneau.  Many offer a guarantee of seeing whales.  We did a 7 day Alaska cruise from Seattle in May, 2012 and did not see any whales from the ship except at a considerable distance.  The whale watching tour in Juneau was extraordinary and worth every penny.  This year we are on the Eurodam leaving June 29, and have booked a whale watching excursion for our Juneau stop.

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6 minutes ago, WisRiver said:

If you want to be assured of seeing whales, take a whale watching tour in Juneau.  Many offer a guarantee of seeing whales.  We did a 7 day Alaska cruise from Seattle in May, 2012 and did not see any whales from the ship except at a considerable distance.  The whale watching tour in Juneau was extraordinary and worth every penny.  This year we are on the Eurodam leaving June 29, and have booked a whale watching excursion for our Juneau stop.

We did a great whale watching tour in Juneau too. We did one that was offered by HAL that was a small group tour (about 12-16 passengers) that included whale watching and visiting Mendenlhall Glacier with a professional photographer. You don't have to be a photography expert to enjoy it enormously; the photographer guide offered everyone great tips to take better photos whether they were using an iPhone or a professional camera. We also saw a few whales from the cruise ship during dinner one evening which was a thrill. I hope you have a wonderful time on your cruise!

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Thank you all for the great information!  I'll bring binoculars and pray for sunny skies... especially on Glacier Bay day!  

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On 5/20/2019 at 11:12 AM, suzannecruisecritic said:

We did a great whale watching tour in Juneau too. We did one that was offered by HAL that was a small group tour (about 12-16 passengers) that included whale watching and visiting Mendenlhall Glacier with a professional photographer. You don't have to be a photography expert to enjoy it enormously; the photographer guide offered everyone great tips to take better photos whether they were using an iPhone or a professional camera. We also saw a few whales from the cruise ship during dinner one evening which was a thrill. I hope you have a wonderful time on your cruise!

 

Was that with Gastineau? I enjoyed their "discover Alaska's whales" tour so much that I'm doing the photo tour in June.

 

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Yes! We booked through HAL but I recall that Gastineau was the tour operator. The boat captain and the professional photographer were both fantastic and it was nice to have a small group because some of the other whale watching boats we saw out there seemed pretty crowded. They also provided a comfortable van and driver for our group, including the photographer, to get to the whale watching boat, and the glacier, and then back to our cruise ship. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

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