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BcIcemen

Pros and Cons for North or Southbound Land and Sea

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Trying to decide if we should go North or Southbound on Princess cruise line. Any insight would be helpful. TIA

Edited by BcIcemen

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As long as they hit the same ports and the port arrival and departure times are about the same, I can't see where it makes any difference.  I have done it both ways.

 

DON

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My one and only Alaska cruise and land holiday was last summer. I'm hopeful to go again...but since I have only sailed Northbound, I'll just talk about that from the point of having done it and what I loved about it. We sailed from Vancouver to Seward...I believe Princess goes to Whittier...but both of those cities have Anchorage as the closest major airport.

 

Sail away in Vancouver was lovely. The bay and the bridge...nice views. Our first full day on the ship was a sea day...loved that. Really nice to be able to have a day to unwind from pre cruise travel and just relax without feeling the need to be super engaged in the day. The scenery got more and more spectacular the further north we cruised. The glacier day at the end (we saw Hubbard but I believe you would see Glacier Bay?) was like the finale at the end of the cruise. Then the opportunity to finally get on land and go deeper into the area that we had just been seeing the coast of was exciting.

 

We sailed end of June, beginning of July...so the coastal weather was much cooler than the inland weather. It felt great to have that warmer weather (though I realize that this is ever changing and may be different) after having had cooler weather during the cruise (flat out COLD on the glacier day).

 

Not having to deal with customs or any kind of immigration at the end of the cruise was a whole new experience and flat out wonderful. Walk off the ship, grab your bags and go...just like a domestic flight. So when you "land" in Alaska...you can really hit the ground running so to speak. We were rested up and raring to go. We had an additional 4 nights in Alaska (we had 2 nights in Vancouver prior to boarding) and we had a fabulous time seeing so much on Kenai Peninsula. It was rather exhausting and we were ready to head back home. The longer flight at the end of our trip was almost welcome because we were so tired, we could easily sleep on the first leg (we had a connection in Minneapolis / St Paul).

 

With the northbound cruise...my last impressions of Alaska are quite majestic. The high contrast landscape...the rugged snow capped mountains right near the ocean...glaciers all around. The cruise felt like a build up.

Edited by Anita Latte

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Some people prefer to get their longest flight over at the start of the trip.   Flights to the east coast from ANC are often red eyes, so it's easier to fly home from SEA or YVR. 

Look at flight times for each option. 

 

Edited by mapleleaves

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We did a southbound sailing and it worked really well for us.  Our flight from Boston to Anchorage landed late afternoon, so we spent the first night in Anchorage.  Up early the next morning (due to time difference) and raring to go on our 4 night DIY land tour.  We were so busy on the land portion, that boarding the cruise ship and being taken care of was a welcome treat.  Our first day was Hubbard Glacier (2-6 PM), so we could relax in the morning.

 

Boarding in Seward was super easy and not crowded at all.  Disembarking in Vancouver was also very easy, since you fill out customs forms while on the ship.

 

Our port times were ideal for us: Juneau 9AM -9PM , Skagway 7AM  - 8:30PM, Icy Strait Point 6:30 AM - 3PM, Ketchikan 9AM - 6PM. The last day was cruising the Inside Passage and we were relaxed and ready for our DIY Vancouver and Seattle land tour.

 

I don't think you can go wrong either way - just check your port times. You'll have an amazing trip!!

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I'm with Anita. Northbound is a build-up. Did it 12 years ago...doing it again this year.

Edited by vozzie

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I'm taking a Princess ship on back-to-back cruises this month. The amount of time in port is better on the northbound cruise than the southbound. The northbound cruise goes to Icy Strait Point, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, and College Fjord. The southbound cruise goes to Hubbard Glacier, Glacier Bay, Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan. I'll have 13 hours in Juneau on the northbound and 10-1/2 on the southbound. The time in Skagway is the same. It'll be 10 hours in Icy Strait Point and 8-1/4 in Ketchikan. 

 

There are also the round-trip cruises from Seattle to consider. Princess has some ships doing them that include going to Glacier Bay, which is highly recommended by most people.

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We are doing southbound with the land tour first. This was recommended to us by a couple of people because on the land portion you are changing hotels every night (at least when done through the cruiseline) so its nice to have the unpacking/repacking at the start of the trip, and then when you are tired from the land touring you board the ship and can just relax and not have to keep moving rooms.

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Hi

I’ve booked my first visit to Alaska for 2020 and will explain my reasoning behind why I booked a southbound cruise.

 

Going southbound the times for Glacier Bay are far better - you enter the bay more like 9~9:30am whilst if you are travelling north it was 6:30am. I’m on holiday and I don’t want to rush down breakfast every day to not miss what is really a major draw of any Princess Cruise. Also I compared Hubbard Glacier vs College Fjord extensively and decided I wanted the opportunity to see a glacier with a large face and improved chances of calving. I plan on booking the new Allen Marine excursion meeting the ship to hopefully get a closer view of Hubbard Glacier - depending on positive reviews this year as it’s first year of operation.

 

In favour of northbound cruises you often get a longer day in Juneau which is a more appealing port, you end in Whittier so could link to Phillip Cruises 26 glacier cruise as a cruise transfer (but can’t with Princess southbound but could weigh up doing this by booking direct and being aware of the timing) and there seems to be a generally consensus that it is a great build up going north. I don’t care about build up - I’m going to be in an overseas country no matter the direction and my flights and hotel check in times work out better flying to Anchorage from Australia.

 

Also be aware that the itinerary and times may be slightly different for your sailings you are comparing. My cruise will stop in Juneau (still enough time for my preferred excursions), Skagway (I would prefer this over Icy St Point based on the available activities) and Ketchikan.

 

I think either way you will have a great cruise and it is about weighing up what is important to you.

Amber

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I prefer southbound from Seward to Vancouver for the following reasons:

 

1.  Alaska Railroad from Anchorage to Seward, in time to catch the 11:30 Kenai Fjords boat tour.  This is sometimes my favorite "excursion" of the entire trip.  When you get back to Seward, you just board the ship and the actual cruise begins.

 

2.  Sailing into Vancouver on the last morning as the sun is rising.  Awesome sight especially on a sunny morning.

 

3.  Short flight back home from Vancouver.

 

I'm leaving tomorrow for Anchorage.  Woohoo!

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On NCL, Southbound gets Hubbard Glacier and Northbound gets Glacier Bay.  Murray Lundburg who is a retired tour guide and also worked as a guest lecturer for the cruise lines says he thinks Hubbard is the better choice.

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Returned from a Northbound 3 weeks ago...and really couldn't understand why so many prefer Southbound ... live in CA...so not a very long flight either way, so I can understand flight return time for those living a distance...But we did so many actives with the ship I needed down time at the Lodges...we cruised Princess 7days and then 4 nights 3 in their lodges, 1 in Anchorage.

 

20 yrs ago did Soundbound, but not land..also a rt Seattle, just last year.

 

 

My vote is for Northbound...as others have said for build up...I have been to Vancouver a few times and find the sail in and out a non event..all relative.

 

Also liked no customs on return....as someone already stated,  guess I really enjoyed flying out of Anchorage....by the way on our 4.5 land days we saw Denali twice...so I think Northbound was goodluck....🙃

 

 

 

 

Edited by land lover

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We did northbound last year, and we absolutely loved it. Vancouver is a great start to your trip, awesome city. And Anita is right, the scenery just gets better and better with each passing day.

That being said, we're doing southbound next year, because I got a pretty great deal, and also snagged an aft facing balcony. The port times are longer (in Skagway until 8 pm, as opposed to 5 pm on our northbound), and I'm much looking forward to the fact that we get that godawful long flight out of the way at the beginning of the trip instead of the end. However, I really don't think you can go wrong wither way you go.

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Since the OP was asking about Princess, I noticed the northbound itinerary hits College Fjords, whereas southbound hits Hubbard instead.  At least on Princess, I find College Fjords much better.  Hubbard is just, "oh, look at the pretty glacier", turn around a couple times, and leave.

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6 hours ago, tetleytea said:

.......  Hubbard is just, "oh, look at the pretty glacier", turn around a couple times, and leave.

 

What a curious reaction to Hubbard Glacier -- it is one of the few cruise accessible glaciers which is actually advancing as most of the glaciers in Glacier Bay are retreating.

 

But we have done both north and south bound Alaska itineraries, and I don't find that the scenery on a north bound run, at least for me,  becomes "better."

 

 

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Enjoying Hubbard really depends on how close the ships gets to it. On our first visit our ship was very close and it was spectacular. Our second visit there was too much ice to get close so we just saw it from a distance and it was not near as impressive.

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12 hours ago, tetleytea said:

Since the OP was asking about Princess, I noticed the northbound itinerary hits College Fjords, whereas southbound hits Hubbard instead.  At least on Princess, I find College Fjords much better.  Hubbard is just, "oh, look at the pretty glacier", turn around a couple times, and leave.

Hubbard is great if you get close. I have been 9 miles away and it was disappointing. Though if you get close, it can be amazing.

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1 hour ago, Eileen G said:

Enjoying Hubbard really depends on how close the ships gets to it. On our first visit our ship was very close and it was spectacular. Our second visit there was too much ice to get close so we just saw it from a distance and it was not near as impressive.

So we are doing Northbound and I have read "what to expect" as far as Glacier Bay......a ranger comes aboard ship, etc...…..does something similar happen at College Fjord?  What do I expect that day?   Thanks!

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2 hours ago, KG2019 said:

So we are doing Northbound and I have read "what to expect" as far as Glacier Bay......a ranger comes aboard ship, etc...…..does something similar happen at College Fjord?  What do I expect that day?   Thanks!

There is no ranger but our naturalist did talk over the PA for most of the sail in. The beautiful views really start once you enter Prince Edward sound at about 4. It takes a while to get to College Fjord but it's incredibly beautiful as you sail in. The ship spent a while at the end looking at all the glaciers. We were there in May so the mountains were still covered in snow and we had a sunny day with a beautiful blue sky which I hear is unusual.

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College Fjords felt largely the same as another Glacier Bay.  Which was fine with me.  

 

Another observation was that the Princess port times felt longer going northbound.  Skagway was technically the "same" number of hours going south, but it was because they docked at 5:30am.  Can't even rent the car that early.  Juneau was absolutely shorter going south.  Ketchikan is just short both ways.

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20 hours ago, tetleytea said:

Since the OP was asking about Princess, I noticed the northbound itinerary hits College Fjords, whereas southbound hits Hubbard instead.  At least on Princess, I find College Fjords much better.  Hubbard is just, "oh, look at the pretty glacier", turn around a couple times, and leave.

 

I can't imagine anyone really seeing Hubbard Glacier like that. It was absolutely beautiful.

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Was on the same cruise as  Eileen(hi Girl) and we did have

B E A U T I F U L weather for College Fjord...as we were sailing away the views were spectacular from the back of the ship...Just a few of us were on the stern until 11pm....very few times while cruising have I experienced a totally serene feeling when looking at scenery ...this was one.......it was truly Majestic....not a big fan of Alaska...but this moment will always be etched in my mind. This photo was taken east of the ship at 9:30pm, we were sailing north or was it south? south, I think the view was totally snow covered...pristine......do not have a photo to do it justice.

IMG_3049.JPG

Edited by land lover

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Look at port times. But I would add that sailing out of Whittier in the evening, this is spectacular scenery. We took the morning train from Anchorage to Whittier, did the glacier quest boat trip (would have had time for 26 glaciers had we chosen that), boarded cruise ship in time for dinner then muster then departure, and enjoyed the scenery of Prince William Sound for the evening after departure.

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We have done round trip Vancouver, round trip Seattle, Southbound Seward to Vancouver (with 3 days on the Kenai) and just back from northbound Vancouver to Seward and on to Denali and Fairbanks. When we sailed southbound, everyone said "Oh, try northbound, it's much more exciting as the scenery just gets better and better. Well, they were right about that. 

 

The trick becomes - flights, and what you're willing to do there. There are many options. Fly to Seattle, get to Vancouver and board. (or reverse if you are going south). Fly to or from Anchorage - which most, but not all, are red eye flights depending on where you live. So many options and price changes depending on those options. 

 

Honestly, I'd price it all out, and decide what are top must do activities and go from there. My next trip - back to back. Just gotta figure out when!

 

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We preferred Southbound so the longer flight was near the front of the trip, and the land portion is go go go.  The cruise portion was more relaxing even with excursions but the few days glacier viewing were more relaxing.    We had no issues getting off in Vancouver. We didn't even have to show our passports in customs. We just walked through.  

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