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early Alaska cruise planning....

Discussion in 'Alaska & Pacific Northwest Ports' started by jimlinalf, Sep 19, 2004.

  1. lbeck

    lbeck Guest

    I think that we’ve pretty much decided on Princess. We attended a presentation last night at a local travel agency. The presentation was made by a Princess representative, so of course it was not objective. Even so, they do seem to have a lot of what we’re looking for in the Alaskan experience. We’re thinking about an 11-13 day CruiseTour starting in AK and floating south. The southern route is a little more expensive, but I think that it will be worth it to relax on the last part of the experience rather than the first part.

    One thing that interests me is a line printed in the promotional book that we got during the presentation. There’s a line that mentions substantial discounts (up to $1200/couple) for early booking on the Coral Princess/Island Princess. Of course, being the skeptic that I am, I’m thinking that this must indicate that something is wrong with these ships. Do you know anything about Coral Princess/Island Princess? Are they older or for some other reason less desireable? (I’ve noted PEB’s comment on this thread “My and my wifes preference so far has been the Sun Class ships of Princess in Alaska.â€Â) Also, the discounts began in June so it may be possible that none of the discounted fares are still available. I thought I’d wait until I learn more bout the ships before I inquire further into fare specifics.

    We now need to zero in on a date. The early/late tours are attractive price-wise. If this is because many travelers are bound to the June-August time frame because of kids in school or mandated vacation breaks (e.g., teachers, many industrial jobs), then that’s not a problem for us. Also, we’re not bothered by the need for a jacket. However, if there’s a weather problem that would lessen our experience, like a rainy season, fog, or other natural phenomenon like snow melt (keeping waterfalls full) or something like that, We’d want to know it. I can’t see wasting the trip just to save a few hundred dollars. We’re also thinking that early might be slightly better than late for us. Partly because of the claim:

    However, my wife has an annual excursion to be at a timeshare with her parents which is unbreakable and same time each year.

    On the subject of elderly parents (I have one, my wife has 2), we’re also thinking about taking out the traveler’s insurance. Is this a good deal? Or is it better to take your chances and cancel/forfeit your deposit if you have to make a last-minute cancellation? Are there third-party policies that are less expensive than those offered by the cruise line?

    Well, back to dreaming/planning. I’d especially appreciate some advice on weather and preferred ships.
     
  2. Howie

    Howie Guest

    Lbeck there is nothing wrong with the Coral or Island Princess. They are only a few years old and are newer than the Sun Class ships. The Coral and Island Princess are a little larger than the Sun Class ships and are not as big as say the Grand or Caribbean Princess and that style ship.

    May and June are considered the dryest months for cruising Alaska. You must keep in mind that Ketchikan is a rain forest and there is always a chance of rain there. The first few weeks of June will still have a lot of waterfalls from snowmelt. The last few weeks of June head into the salmon run but will also get you closer to the rain season.

    Travel insurance is always a good idea IMHO. There are third party insurance companies for travel if you do not wish to use the cruise lines insurance. I use Travel Guard myself but I know there are many others out there.
     
  3. DebraK

    DebraK Guest

    LBeck:

    You may be interested in hitching onto my very small group's Princess cruise. We have gotten a great price because of the number of cabins we have booked. No one is getting a freebie, we are spreading the wealth! We are going at the "high" time of the season and are paying extra bucks for it, but due to commitments within the group, this is the best we could do (we actually would have preferred earlier in the season).

    The cruise is southbound (Whittier/Anchorage to Vancouver), leaving Whittier on July 16, 2005. Many of us have chosen to do roundtrip air fares to Seattle and then a one-way flight from Seattle to Anchorage. That's the cheapest I have found (I am coordinating the arrangements). If you would like specific info on cabin cost (we've booked balconies), our TA's name, and info on what I have found for airfares, please e-mail me.
     
  4. cruisegary

    cruisegary Guest

    If you can go in the "off season" you should since the number of kids drops way down. We love kids, but it is vacation and relaxation time. We went the first week of June and had perfect weather.
     
  5. lbeck

    lbeck Guest

    DebraK,

    Thanks for your generous offer. I don't know whether I mentioned it on this thread, but we're planning on going with at least one other couple, more likely 2 or 3. I got together with the other couple this evening (actually, it was His idea, I'm just more Internet savvy and am doing much of the research).

    Tonight, I think that we have probably settled on the Princess Heart of Alaska Cruise 2S, which starts in Fairbanks. It's a 12-day CruiseTour that starts in Fairbanks. We haven't settled on a date yet, but I'm going to try to influence a late-may or early-june time frame because of the combination of cost and weather. I'm not too concerned about getting cold (heck, it is Alaska) but the advice on this forum is that May is one of the dryer months, yet you get the advantage of the snow melt. July would be good too, but then you're getting into the peak season.

    We're having lunch tomorrow with about a half-dozen other couples to figure out who's in and who's out. Up 'til now, we've been talking in generalities. I suspect that some of the ones that were casually interested will let us know whether they're going or not. We'll probably talk to a TA during the next week or so to see about availability.
     
  6. shortmama1

    shortmama1 Guest

    We were on a recent RCC western caribbean cruise that was cut from 7 to 5 days because of hurricane Jeanne. RCC has offered us 50% off our next cruise, and altho we don't know the fine print that comes with the offer we are looking at an Alaskin cruise. This thread has been very helpfull.
    We will be flying from Virginia and the airline ticket price took my breath away! I saw that some cruisers fly into Seallte when take a bus to Vancover. When looking on line that does seen to make a world of difference in price. Ibeck , we often fly out of RDU and we would appreciate any and all info you come up with.
    Thanks, shortmama1
     
  7. lbeck

    lbeck Guest

    I'm still looking for an inexpensive flight from Seattle to Fairbanks. The following is cut/pasted from travelocity.com, where I have a fare-watcher. Free service, but it does require registration. The $198 fares have increased to $203 and the latest travel date is March 5. The fare is offered by several airlines. The $378 is RT Seattle to Fairbanks. We haven't totally decided what we will do, but I suspect that our group will do the bus thing from Vancouver.


    $198+ to Portland
    $198+ to Seattle/Tacoma
    Seattle/Tacoma
    $378+ to Fairbanks Intl

    I suspect that it may be a month or more before our group finalizes plans. I'll post our findings and will continue to check here for advice also.
     
  8. lbeck

    lbeck Guest

    Okay I’m back. A LOT has happened on a personal level since my last post. After all the information-gathering and dreaming about a June CruiseTour, I found out a couple of weeks ago that my daughter had strong indications that she was pregnant with our first grandchild. My layman’s calculations put the due date at mid-June. We were to keep it a secret until October 22nd (last Friday) when a sonogram would tell more about the viability of the pregnancy. She’s been trying to get pregnant for over 3 years, and the past year has been under the care of a fertility specialist. She got the news on Friday that everything looks fine and the odds are about 98% that she will carry the baby to full term. Delivery is projected for June 6. Needless to say, we are ecstatic, but this did throw a degree of disappointment on our Alaska plans. We told the “secret†to the others in our planning group, and said that they should probably go ahead with the June planning. They haven’t totally given up on June, but we have a meeting tomorrow evening to re-discuss our options. I think that we will probably try to plan around the birth date. That means that early is out for us. May is too iffy in case there is an early delivery, but anytime late-June will work.

    As I’ve reported earlier, We’ve pretty much committed to Princess. We are focusing on their Cruise-Tour 2S which starts in Fairbanks and has a land portion of 5 days before the 7-day cruise. Now, timing and specific ship is our primary focus (in that order). Timing appears to affect weather, with July starting the rainy season which lasts through mid-August? This is the impression that I get from an earlier post on this thread (thanks, Howie). Scenery and wildlife are our high-priority items. We won’t be doing any fishing, so the fact that July is when the salmon run won’t affect us. We’re thinking later in the season (August?) To avoid peak tourist season and rain. How are the bugs in August? Will we still see snow on the mountain peaks? Will there be any water from the glacier melt / rainfall or will it be getting too dry? Are there advantages to going in September other that lower prices for souvenirs?

    Advice on weather and wildlife is especially helpful as we "cruise" towards our final decision.
     
  9. GloBug

    GloBug Guest

    Congrats on the upcoming baby Lee. My sister spent 2 yrs trying to get pregnant. I know how it is to cry every month... but that baby is extra special! Keep us posted on THAT!
     
  10. lbeck

    lbeck Guest

    Okay, I think we’re finalizing our plans. Thought I’d make another post to let you all know what we decided. This forum has been VERY helpful in assisting our thought process as we consider the many options :)

    We met with a travel agent yesterday evening. Didn’t need to discuss much since we had made most of our decisions using a cruise book provided by Princess Cruise lines. We’ve selected Princess CruiseTour 2S which departs from Fairbanks on June 16. One day in Denali, 2 at Mt. McKinley, Bubble-top railcar via Anchorage to Whittier where we board the Dawn Princess on June 20. Winding up in Vancouver on Day 12, then bused to Seattle where we return home.

    We got a quote on the CruiseTour and have them holding it for a few days (no deposit). I’m now doing a pricing blitz to see if there are prices out there that are substantially lower than the TA quote. If there’s only a few hundred dollars difference (for my wife and I combined) then I’ll probably stay with the TA for the added advantage of local help. However, I’ve heard stories from frequent cruisers who compare prices with fellow cruisers on the same ship that paid 20-30 percent more. In our case, this could approach a thousand dollars. My loyalty for an hour’s work on the part of the TA begins to wane at that point. As best I can tell, we’re paying “sticker price†for the tour.

    Anyway, much of my research began and ended with this forum, mostly on this thread. The weather question got us thinking about an early trip (late May, early June) - Thanks, Howie . Then my daughter got pregnant with a June 6 delivery date. I think later in June will be okay. It gives us over a week after the due date before we leave. All indications are that she will deliver on time or labor will be induced (not for our trip, or course). The Dawn is a “Sun class†ship and I was influenced by PEB’s recommendation.

    Once I pay my deposit for the cruise, we can put that part behind us and begin to plan our shore excursions. I also need to arrange transportation surrounding the CruiseTour. The TA wanted $799 each for the trip RDU -> Seattle -> Fairbanks then Seattle -> RDU. I think I can beat that. I’ll arrange something that will get us into Fairbanks at least a day early to mitigate any snafu on the air part (cancelled flights, etc.)
     
  11. lbeck

    lbeck Guest

    WE DID IT !!

    My wife and I are finally booked on Princess "Heart of Alaska" CruiseTour 2S. As it turns out, I did find a price that was ~$500 less than the local TA was able to offer, so I took it. It was from an online agency that I've seen quoted here and advertizes on this site (Lori at SkyscraperTours.com). I hated to abandon the local TA after our visit / her quote last Friday, but the on-line savings was too much to ignore. I did email the local TA with my online quote to give an opportunity for a counter-quote, but didn't get a response.

    I went back and read my original post on this thread. It's been a long 6 weeks but a lot has happened and I really learned a lot. The help that I received here was invaluable and I want to thank all of you for contributing to my continuing enlightenment on cruise knowledge. :)

    Now that we’re booked I can sit back and relax for a while. Next big items are airfare and choosing the excursions. Life is rough ;)

    You’ll see me around these threads for a while. I’ve found the help to be excellent.
     
  12. GloBug

    GloBug Guest

    Lee, you'll keep coming back because you'll become addicted to the addiction! Reading, talking, thinking about a cruise... it feeds the addiction! Oh yes, you'll be back!
     
  13. nona

    nona Guest

    June is much nicer than August usually. Sept may bring snow.
     
  14. Hi Fellow Cruisers,

    Me and some of my family are booked on our first alaskan cruise on May 18th out of SF RT . It will be aboard the Regal Princess this will be our first princess cruise and first time to alaska. I am so excited.
    I have no idea what to pack I have never done a 10 trip for me and my husband so that is really getting me nervous dont want to forget anything .


    Starla
    Starlite Travels
     
  15. Irish Lassie

    Irish Lassie Guest

    Hi all. I've been reading the reviews and think this site will suit me fine. GREAT Information!

    I have one more question:

    Will an Alaskan Cruise be unsuitable for us 30somethings??

    Myself and my husband are planning to go in September on RCCL Radiance Vancouver Inside Passage cruise. We thought that this was the best for us as it returns to Vancouver but after reading these messages I now think it might be a mistake!

    We are planning to go to Las Vegas for a week after the cruise so Im wondering how easy it would be to fly down there afterwards if we took a Northbound cruise?? Anyone know anything about airlines / airports etc.??

    Any advice is much appreciated.
     
  16. lbeck

    lbeck Guest

    Okay - I have my first draft of an ininerary and have chosen the following excursions. I found that we couldn't take in all that we wanted to do (even IF we could afford it) because of the timing.

    Excursion/Activity

    Riverboat Discovery Cruise
    Rail-Fairbanks to Denali
    Denali Wilderness Safari
    Morning Natural History Tour
    Susitna Float Trip
    Chilcot Trail Hike and Float
    White Pass Scenic Railway
    Guide's Choice Adventure Hike
    Mendenhal Glacier and Salmon Hatchery
    Clover Pass Bike Ride (Lee); Totum/Town Tour (Barb)


    Do you have any recommendations (positive or negative)? I know that preferences are subjective. We’re looking more for natural experiences (e.g., scenery and wildlife) than touristy ones (e.g., plane rides and dinners). I'm thinking about Captain Larry's whale watching out of Juneau, but I'd have to give up my only hike and/or the Mendenhal Glacier and Salmon Hatchery. Still, I've heard some really great things about the Cap't Larry experience.

    Also, I'm wondereing about things to do while at the Princess Denali/Mt. McKinley lodges. I've been to practically all of the large National parks and they usually have trails close by that can be accessed by foot and sometimes park transportation (e.g., at Yosemite). Are there trails within walking distance of the lodges? Are there transportation options to get you to the trailhead (e.g., bike rentals, trams, shuttles)?
     

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