If you are one of the many Canadians who think they have no desire to cruise to Alaska because, after all, we see enough snow and ice here at home, you may want to change the way you think. There is no better way to experience the glaciers, landscapes, wildlife and warm friendly people of Alaska than on a cruise!
Alaska remains one of the most requested cruise destinations for a reason. Imagine viewing snow-capped mountains, gliding through sparkling fjords as you watch for marine wildlife and thrilling to the sights and sounds of walls of blue ice “calving” from the face of a glacier into the sea. These are only a few of the marvels you are sure to encounter on your Alaska cruise.
If you are ready to embark on an adventure of a lifetime, there are a few things you should consider before booking your cruise.
The Alaska cruise season operates from May to September. The months of July and August are usually the busiest and most expensive, as this is when the children are out of school. You will usually get the lowest rates in May and September.
Most of the premium cruise lines will offer itineraries in Alaska, with the leaders being Princess Cruises (www.princess.com) and Holland America Line (www.hollandamerica.com).
There are three main options for the Alaska itineraries. The first, and generally most economical, is the 7-day inside passage cruise embarking and disembarking in either Vancouver or Seattle. During the course of the cruise you will usually visit 3 different ports in Alaska. The most common are Ketchikan, Skagway and Juneau. It addition to these stops, the ship will usually visit either Glacier Bay or Hubbard Glacier for a viewing of the dramatic glaciers. If you have never cruised to Alaska before, this is a good place to begin, as you will get a good mix of port visits and glacier viewing.
The second option, is a 7-day glacier route. You will embark the ship in Vancouver and cruise 7 days north up to Seward or Whittier. You are then transferred by motor coach to Anchorage and you will fly back to Vancouver. You could also do the reverse and fly to Anchorage and cruise back to Vancouver. This itinerary does have the advantage of possibly seeing more glaciers, however, the cost does tend to be higher because of the airfare required back to Vancouver after you disembark the ship. Some people will make this a 14-day cruise and cruise roundtrip from Vancouver. You will likely repeat the ports, however, if time allows you to do this, you can often get a great deal on this back-to-back cruise.
Thirdly, there is the cruise tour. This is by far the best way to see Alaska and will provide the ultimate adventure both on land and by sea! You will board the ship in Vancouver and cruise 7 days north up to Seward or Whittier on a one way cruise that will explore the spectacular sights of the inside passage, as well as the glacier-clad shores of Southcentral Alaska. Highlights include a day immersed in magnificent Glacier Bay as well as discovering the charm of Juneau, Skagway, Haines or Ketchikan.
After disembarking the ship, you will travel by luxury train and motor coach deep into the spectacular backcountry of Alaska coming into contact with towering mountain ranges, meandering salmon streams and abundant forests. These cruise tours can range in length from 10 to 14 days in duration, including both the cruise and land tour. While on land, you will overnight in first class hotels and have the option of purchasing many exciting land excursions. At the end of your cruise tour, you will fly back to Vancouver. This itinerary will also operate in the reverse order.
One of the highlights of your Alaska cruise is sure to be the rustic charm of the shops and saloons in the colorful towns you will visit. An experience that is sure to take you back to the Gold Rush era.
The weather in Alaska, even during the summer months, is very unpredictable. While it could be warm and sunny, it can also be rainy and quite cool. For that reason, you will need a variety of clothing options. Be sure to have a good rainproof jacket and sturdy walking shoes with you. Generally speaking, you will find the dress code on an Alaska cruise is a little more casual than other itineraries. For more guidance on this, be sure to ask your cruise consultant for more advice on what to pack.
Whichever Alaska cruise itinerary you choose, be sure to book early to get the best rate. The prices will go up as the ship nears capacity. As well, this itinerary is very popular with cruisers from around the world and the ships do sell out quickly.
After experiencing the pristine wonder of Alaska, you may very well find that your first cruise to this region is not your last.