Cruising has become a lifestyle in Alaska. There are, perhaps, more choices of ships and itineraries to Alaska than to any other single destination in the world. What makes cruising so attractive is an upfront price that includes all meals, transportation, some drinks, onboard entertainment, and on some cruise lines, shore excursions and even alcohol on board. Basically, there are two types of cruise itineraries: the cruise itself and a cruise tour. To make it simple for you, the cruise tour is a combination of the cruise and some of the land tour stops we just reviewed. Cruise itineraries are either one-way or round trip.
One-way cruises are by far the most inclusive for sightseeing as they get to stop at more ports during the cruise. Most cruises are seven days. A northbound cruise would depart from Seattle or Vancouver, ending in Seward for Anchorage, or the reverse for the southbound cruise. Typical ports of call on a one way voyage would be Ketchikan, Juneau, Haines, Glacier National park, and Seward. One full day is spent cruising along the scenic Inside Passage where smooth waters are often the norm, and views are plentiful. A round trip cruise is very similar, except the cruise starts and ends in either Seattle or Vancouver. Round trip cruises might visit Ketchikan, Juneau and Glacier Bay.
There are cruise lines to fit every personality, bar none, and the waters are often more calm than a typical ocean cruise. We have our favorites and can help you sort through all the choices. There are economical cruise lines that can give you a seven night package in an inside cabin for amazing low prices. The are several great value cruise lines with magnificent ships, where the per diem is a real value to everyone. There are luxury ships that can, and will, cater to your every desire. From included spa visits, to included drinks, to unlimited dining privileges, they can supply it all. There are expedition ships now in Alaska that have drop-down water sports centers off the stern to service kayaks and small water craft for up-close touring. There are even some sailing ships now where you can help the crew set sails and navigate the helm. There are intimate ships holding just 200 lucky passengers, as well as mega ships holding upwards of 4,000 passengers.
Typically on board a cruise ship, you will have a choice of several dining venues included in your pricing. Sit-down dining rooms are available for three meals a day. Buffet dining rooms are available about sixteen hours a day, and most have “hot stations” now to cook items for you on the spot. There are usually one or more specialty dining areas like a pizza bar, sandwich bar, or coffee bars included in your fare. On-board entertainment varies from intimate shows and demonstrations by the ship’s crew on more intimate ships, to outdoor aqua theatres on some mega ships. Every ship will offer specialty dining restaurants for special occasions, where there is a small surcharge for dining. All the cruise ships will offer excursions at ports of call. Many are accompanied by the ship’s crew to heighten your experiences. There is always the choice to disembark and do your own thing at every port.
If I can give you one piece of advice from this weathered old “Captain of the Sea”, listen to an experienced advisor before choosing. It never costs you to consult a travel advisor, and often saves you in both money and time researching. We know because we have “been there, done that”, and can walk you through your choices as well as look for specials for you.
One last thing for you procrastinators out there. Many of our country’s researchers are saying the world’s glaciers are melting at an alarming rate. Very reputable researchers like National Geographic warn we may be the last generations to see a glacier. If you have never looked over a glacier field, or watched a glacier “calve” in front of you, do it now!