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Advice Appreciated - Help Me Pick from Four Alaskan Cruise Options


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My husband and I are going on a cruise for the first time. We'd like to take an Alaskan cruise and want to do it right. Because of very specific work obligations, we have to depart June 24, 25, or 26 and arrive back on or before July 3.

We have narrowed it down to these four options:

  1. Celebrity Cruises, Celebrity Eclipse, June 26-July 3. Itinerary is Vancouver, Inside Passage, Icy Strait Point, Hubbard Glacier, Juneau, Ketchikan, Inside Passage, Vancouver. We could afford an Aqua Class or Concierge Class balcony room.

  2. Norwegian Cruise Line, Norwegian Encore, June 26 -July 3. Itinerary is Seattle, At Sea, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, Ketchikan, Victoria, Seattle. We could afford a Club Suite with Large balcony.

  3. Princess Cruises, Royal Princess, June 25-July 2. Itinerary is Vancouver, At Sea, Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, College Fjord, Whittier. We could afford a Premium Club Class Mini Suite with Balcony.

  4. Royal Caribbean, Ovation of the Seas, June 24 - July 1. Itinerary is Seattle, At Sea, Inside Passage, Juneau, Skagway, Endicott Arm, At Sea, Victoria, Seattle. We could afford a balcony room. This is also a Royal Caribbean "President's Cruise," which apparently means there will be some surprises during the cruise and the CEO is on board. Not sure how much that means though.

Based on cruise line, ship activities/quality, room class we can afford, and itinerary, which of these sound the best? Which sounds the worst? We are novices and trying to research this has been very overwhelming, so we appreciate any insight or help.  Everyone on this site seems like experts!

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I agree w the Glacier Bay comments.  However, port times in AK can be interesting in the very negative sense.  Finally, I would not worry about what cabin I was in.  On an AK cruise, it is what is outside of the ship and not what is on the ship that counts.  You can save your money on cabin upgrades and spend the money on excursions which tend to be pricy in AK.  

 

I know that you said that this will be your first cruise but I find that people who are trying to pick their cruise or their cabin based on their past Caribbean 20 cruises get it wrong on  their 1st AK cruise.  The 2 primary selection factors on an AK cruise should be itinerary and port times.

 

DON

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10 minutes ago, donaldsc said:

... On an AK cruise, it is what is outside of the ship and not what is on the ship that counts.  You can save your money on cabin upgrades and spend the money on excursions which tend to be pricy in AK...

 

Amen!

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Of those options, I would 100% do the one-way cruise on Princess. We did pretty much that same itinerary in 2017 on Star Princess.

 

This is for various reasons:

 

1. Glacier Bay. It's amazing, and one of my non-negotiables when it comes to Alaska.

2. The one-way cruise allows you to spend a few days at the end to run up to Denali National Park - it's my second Alaska non-negotiable 🙂 I understand that due to time constraints you might not be able to do that though.

3. Another advantage of the one-way cruise is that it minimises the sea days that you'd need on a round-trip

 

Another thing to consider is that in Alaska, you want to spend time and money on shore excursions as others have mentioned. I don't even think a Balcony is that important - I prefer to spend time on deck because then it gives you the flexibility to view the scenery from either side of the ship.

 

Good luck! Alaska is one of my favourite places in the world. We went in 2007 for our honeymoon and then again in 2017 for our 10th anniversary.. Hoping to go again in 2027 🙂 

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Totally agree with Glacier Bay, and recommend you choose an itinerary with Skagway, too.  And I would choose Princess because it is the smallest of the ship choices.  EM

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Posted (edited)

Glacier Bay is amazing but I wouldn't discount Hubbard Glacier.  While GB has an overall appeal, HB is far more spectacular than any single glacier in GB.  I would only give the slight edge to GB.

 

For itinerary only, I'd pick Royal Princess.  I love one-way AK cruises.  You get to take in some awesome sights on your road trip out of Whittier.  However, that class of ships is terrible for scenic cruising.  Princess designed those ships with no lounges that have panoramic views.  

 

Weighing both itinerary and ship, I'd pick Celebrity Eclipse.  The ship is beautiful with excellent views.

 

If onboard activities and having lots of fun is important, I'd pick Ovation.  Encore is also fun but those ships are VERY crowded.  

 

So I guess I'd recommend Royal Princess first.....but only slightly more than Eclipse.  

Edited by Aquahound
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25 minutes ago, Essiesmom said:

And I would choose Princess because it is the smallest of the ship choices.  EM

 

 Eclipse is smaller than Royal Princess.

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Any AK cruise with Glacier Bay gets my vote.  it is truly spectacular.  We've have done Hubbard but couldn't get really close due to the amount of ice in the water.   

 

Cabin choice - we do like a balcony, just to have that extra space.  Like to spend part of the time in GB sitting on the balcony watching the scenery go by.

 

You will enjoy whatever cruise you chose.

 

Karen and Kevin 

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Since you don't have time at the end of your trip to hang out in Alaska, and as mentioned Royal sucks (it removes one of the benefits of a Vancouver departure - sailing the full Inside Passage, instead spending a lot more time sailing all the way around Vancouver Island so probably giving you a shorter day in your first port of call too).

 

Obviously I'm biased living here, but I'd do Vancouver RT on Eclipse - the dates work such that you can travel here early enough to get in some decent pre-cruise time in one of the world's most awesome cities, then do your cruise.

 

OTOH, given the current issues with travel back to the US from Canada (Covid testing, security staffing issues making a 'fly same day as disembark' very troublesome right now) then for simplicity a Seattle RT avoids that - but you'll still need to do ArriveCAN because of the Victoria stop, and a precruise Covid test regardless of where you're departing from.

 

Lots of people say they're doing a 'one and done' to Alaska, and most of them are wrong - but in terms of 'doing it right' you've already failed completely, since you'll literally just see a small fraction of 1% of Alaska on any of these cruises!!! There's an awful, awful lot more of it inland despite the long coastline ;-)

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I took the Celebrity Cruises Alaskan Cruise in 2017, and enjoyed it tremendously. Back in the pre-Covid world, I would say "whenever possible, cruise out of Vancouver instead of Seattle" because of the mandatory "foreign port stop". If you cruise out of Seattle, that stop is Vancouver Island, and it's a extremely short port stop.

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I forgot that the Princess Royal Class ships don't actually sail the Inside Passage as originally advertised.  IP is a big reason for choosing a cruise out of Vancouver.  

 

Op, if you do not intend to spend some time in AK if you choose the one-way cruise, my recommendation shifts more toward Celebrity Eclipse.  

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Thank you all very much! We ended up booking the Royal Caribbean cruise because we wanted to go to Victoria and because it was simpler to fly out of Seattle since this is very last minute - but all of your advice was so helpful.  We're looking at doing another one next year with different stops, probably the northbound cruise on Princess and adding a land tour on the end. 

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9 minutes ago, anniefannie0625 said:

We're looking at doing another one next year with different stops, probably the northbound cruise on Princess and adding a land tour on the end. 

Yep this is the right way to do it IMO 🙂

 

Good luck and I hope you enjoy it. 

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2 hours ago, anniefannie0625 said:

Thank you all very much! We ended up booking the Royal Caribbean cruise because we wanted to go to Victoria and because it was simpler to fly out of Seattle since this is very last minute - but all of your advice was so helpful.  We're looking at doing another one next year with different stops, probably the northbound cruise on Princess and adding a land tour on the end. 

 

Enjoy your cruise.  I've cruised Ovation twice in the past 8 months and it is an amazing ship.  You're going to love it.  🙂

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Well a couple of thoughts.  Norwegian and Princess have been in the Alaskan cruise business among the longest, and have their own hotels and bus services in some critical areas.  That being said, if you are just taking a cruise, it might matter less than if you are taking a cruise tour -- a tour before the cruise which I do recommend.  You ought to see Denali at a minimum.

 

We did a tour first, and then a one-way cruise from Seward (Anchorage) to Vancouver.  We went into College Fjord which also has a bunch of glaciers, BUT for me the very best part was a small boat tour in Seward that explored Resurrection Bay for about four or five hours.  We got to Seward in late morning and the ship wasn't leaving until 5.  There are a sizeable number of tour boats that take 100 - 150 passengers to see wildlife, and get up close and personal with a glacier.  A large cruise ship gets within a mile, but when you get with less than a half mile, you find that glaciers are not silent -- they make lots of noise -- and you see calving up close.  That tour and the tour of Denali were, in my opinion, the best two out of three things we saw in Alaska.  The third was a whale watch in Juneau, and that was part of the actual cruise. 

 

What things would I suggest in addition to the tour in Seward: the whale watch in Juneau, walk on a glacier in Juneau (the ship's tours won't allow both, but if you do it yourself you can squeeze both in), and ride in a float plane in Ketchikan.

 

Go on the Ports of Call board for Alaska, and read a lot to seek out the private tour providers that do the best job, and pick those. 

 

On the ship, you will be outside to see most of the real sights, so your cabin isn't too critical.  If you are sailing southbound, you might want to be on the port side, but as the ship is cruising, you will not be all that close to land until you get to the inside passageway, in which case there are sights on both sides.

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I am going to take this in a slightly different direction and reject all the listed ships.  Why?  Because we have been to AK on large ships (all the OP's ships are large) and once on a smaller ship (about 550 aboard).   There was no comparison.  Going to a place like Icy Strait Point on a smaller ship is wonderful and gives cruisers more of a real feel for AK vs the hoards crowding into Diamond International in too many AK ports.  

 

As to itineraries we also enjoyed Glacier Bay although the highlights of our AK trips have been a helicopter excursion from Juneau (to the dog sled encampment) and hiking at Icy Strait Point where we were able to see a few bears in the wild.  I would also mention that no one trip we flew into Anchorage a few days pre-cruise, rented a car, and drove to the Denali area for a few days (we stayed in a nice cabin near Healy).  Healy is a small town near the Denali National Park and is not nearly as touristy as most of the places (such as Princess Lodge) used by cruise lines.  We enjoyed 3 days in the Denali area which gave us enough time to do some decent hikes within the park.  Unlike being stuck with a large group of cruisers (i.e. excursion), DW and I were able to simply drive into the park and go off on well marked trails by ourselves.   It was also nice to have dinner in a couple of local Healy restaurants mostly frequented by locals and park workers without being crammed into a seasonal restaurant operated by a cruise line.

 

Hank

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