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First Cruise for Family of Four

Discussion in 'Alaska & Pacific Northwest Ports' started by mll1013, Nov 14, 2009.

  1. mll1013

    mll1013 Well-Known Member

    We are considering a cruise next summer to AK-a first for everyone in the family. Our children are 10 and 12. We are nature lovers, and try to explore some new area every summer. Typically, this means packing the car, driving, camping, hiking, and sight-seeing. Every 5th year, we splurge on a really big vacation. 2010 is our splurge year. Woohoo!

    We are torn about doing a cruise, because we aren't really into many of the amenities of the cruise ship industry. Night clubs, fancy dining, exercise rooms, play areas, spas... these are things we know we will be paying for, but won't likely use. We are also considering splurging for a balcony... or perhaps even a suite, but are wondering if this is needed. The children won't likely utilize the children's programs. On our family vacations, we all prefer to be together.

    We live north of Seattle, and would consider embarking either in Seattle or Vancouver. While the former is more convenient, it seems like Vancouver would be the better place to embark.

    At ports of call, we are likely to try to find our own trail to blaze and get away from the crowds, rather than do the touristy things with the rest of the crowds. Exceptions might be the air-tours, which already limit the number of the group anyway.

    With that as a back-drop, we have several questions:

    1) Inside passage RT? Or NB/SB? It seems like the latter would spend more time out at sea, which we would not be as interested in.

    2) Should we do a balcony or suite? Or should we save the money with an inside cabin for more/better shore excursions?

    3) Cruise rates online seem to be based on double-occupancy. Does this equate to 2X for a family of four? Or are the suites priced based on number of beds.

    4) Based on our profile above, does a cruise even make sense for our family? Or should we fly to Anchorage, rent a car, and do day drives to Denali, Seward, Whittier, etc. We've also considered doing the state ferries (marine highway), but this doesn't seem to be very cost-effective compared to cruising anyway.

    I know... it's a lot of questions to ask, but we are feeling overwhelmed at considering our first-ever cruise.

    Thanks!
     
  2. MisterD21

    MisterD21 If you take me serious, it's your problem

    Welcome Aboard... I hope you enjoy your time here. Everyone here is awesome and you should have no trouble finding answers to your questions.

    First I have to ask, what are the childrens ages? i'm assuming that they are preteen and teens. If this is the case i would like to suggest to you that instead of getting a balcony, or suite, you consider getting two ocean view or interior staterooms. The reason being is that it affords you privacy and intimacy for the two of you, while allowing the children to experience a little bit of "backyard camping" freedom so to speak. You can easily afford two staterooms for usually less than a suite.

    As for the dining you will find that the cruiselines(esp. Carnival)are geared as family cruises and offer a wide variety of dining options. The MDR Is the formal dining room on most ships(only have 1-2 formal dinners depending on legnth of cruise). for the most part even in the MDR dining is smart casual atire. Being that you like to do your own thing, and don't always follow the crowd, you may want to consider choosing "my time dining" or the cruiseline's variation of this. It allows you to choose when you wish to dine instead of being pegged into a certain dining time. With most cruises you can eat very well, and the food is often great in a relaxed atmosphere and not at all stuffy. So i think you will find that since the children might not enjoy the MDR you might also like dining at the lido deck restraunt on the ship, which is usually a buffet style dining room and is very casual dining. Just because it is not the MDR, does not mean the food isn't good quality, it just has a wider variety of food to choose from. There are also a variety of specialty restaraunts onboard specializing usually in steaks, itallian, or some other food. These are usually pay per use restaraunts and generally not included in the cruise fares.

    Answering your question about the fares, the rooms, including the balconies and suites are based on double occupancy so if the fare is $950.00 that would be x2. I would like you to consider something about cruising as it pertains to shore excursions and shore time. Most shore time is limited to 7-10hrs and you must be back aboard the ship by sailing time. So as long as you keep your shore excursions within the time frame of the docking you will be fine.

    As for wether or not cruising is for your family or not... well, that is a decision you have to make for your self. I think Cruising is for everyone, as long as you know what a cruise entails. Cruiseing is totally different experience from road trips. For one you are somewhat limited in where you can go(like you can't all of a sudden make a detour and decide you want to see something that catches your eye at the last minute). And being that the docking times are a relatively small window you usually have to choose a excursion you think you would enjoy most at each port.

    With that being said i think cruising is better than road trips for several reasons. First being is that a cruise usually costs less than hotel stays and you don't have to search to find where you are going to stay at each destination along your trip, It travels with you.. Second, you usually do not have to rent a car which is awesome, because that is money that can be saved for shore excursions and souveniers/gifts. Third, your food.. be it elegant and fancy or everyday is included in your cruise. No deciding and hunting where to eat 3 times a day. the most difficulty you might encounter is where to have lunch on a shore excursion. four.. no packing and unpacking luggage each day from one hotel to another.. there is more but i am not trying to bore you with details at this point...

    Sorry i am not much luck with info on your itinerary. I live in florida and have never been west of nebraska, and have no desire to do so. However, there are several members here who live out west and have much experience with west coast cruise itineraries. For example, BSeabob is one member off the top of my head that lives out that way a little north of you.. he is very knowledgeable about cruising. There are many , many others here who i am sure can answer your questions. As well as give you different points of view so you cna make the best decision for you and your family...

    DOH!!!!! i almost forgot to mention that some of the interior staterooms have adjoining doors so you're not completely alone and can check in on the kids occasionally.
     
  3. BSeabob

    BSeabob Reinststed due to good behavior-Subject to change Staff Member

    First of all lets do the Ports and what happens to ships leaving from there.

    Vancouver... a 7 day cruise goes through what is become known as the inside passage both ways.

    Seattle.... a 7 day cruise will go "Outside" Vancouver Island at least one way and likely both with a short stay in a Canadian Port to meet cruising regs. for the USA. If it goes inside one way you will lose a port in Alaska.

    Both POrts are handy for parking and drop off ..as you arrive same day. $$ for parking about the same. It is so nice nice to have to fly.... Both cities are great pre. and post cruise as you likely know.

    Rooms: are many & varied and some have way more room than others. Family cabins on say RCL would be quite handy for your family. Here's where a good TA that knows the ships would come in. As Mr D said the rates are per person but the 2 & 3 rd per cabin as the kids could be are way less. You need to build into your budget the expected tips however around $10 per day per person. and on top of that price you see for the cruise there will be port taxes for each passsenger and this will be about $130 each for an AK cruise (That's a guess)
    The biggest thing about a cabin and a family will be the bathroom room. :)
    But I expect you know what that is like. A balcony is really nice but depending on the weather in AK sometimes its not too great a benefit. I'd let the budget and space take preference here. Outside room with window would be my choice for AK and a first cruise. It gets really really dark inside. (We do however use inside rooms for budget reasons and enjoy them)

    I would think a RCL cruise would meet any expectations you have. R
    They have family cabins. Don't overlook the kids programs as a option (10 and 12 is a good age) they have some neat stuff for kids. If the kids are into pools and such make sure you check to see if they are heated for Alaska. Some lines do not do that. HAL would be a quieter cruise with an inside pool for sure and even though generally thiking is HAL is an older cruise Alaska in summer they are younger and have kids rooms and programs also

    We have also thought about the State or BC ferrys. We have new ships on the Run to Prince Rupert. and then you could drive around through PG it's only a day time but it does the REAL inside. your's ( assume you are from Wa.) ferry's can be a bit of a camping adventure on the deck even if you want and of course go further north.. or you could combine the two. Getting off in Skagway and driving back around has been in my Bucket list for a while.

    Let the ports do some of the planning for you also. Juneau and Skagway are on most itinerary's but Skagway and the Whitepass & Yukon Train is not on them all. Glaciers are interchangeable as far as I'm concerned all are beautiful.

    Enjoy planing and do drop back and ask more questions or tell us what's happening with you.
     
  4. MisterD21

    MisterD21 If you take me serious, it's your problem

    hehe.... see, i told ya BSeabob was a wealth of info...:p:D:)
     
  5. mll1013

    mll1013 Well-Known Member

    "PG"? That's not an acronym I'm aware of. I do have to say that I'm salivating looking at Hwy 16 into Prince Rupert. That looks like one heck of a drive and a rugged adventure to boot! Of course, GMaps calculates that as an 18+ hr drive from my home town. (Good golly: BC is huuuge isn't it?!)

    Whoa! Are you saying that you can drive into BC from Skagway? I didn't think there was any road accessibility to the panhandle.
     
  6. BSeabob

    BSeabob Reinststed due to good behavior-Subject to change Staff Member

    Yep you used to have to take the railroad but there is now a hwy up into Alaska BC & Yukon and then you come south on the Alaska Hwy with the option of using Hwy #37 south from just West of Watson Lake in the Yukon.. or continuing on the Alcan..... Pack a lunch (or two) :) That Is one really great drive.

    If you are using google maps you have to go to a real closeup to see the road south of BC into Alaska for some reason it doesn't show up to well. It is however a good highway.

    Also today they announce that they are looking at using one of OUR new ferries on a day light run of two 15 hour trips. Basically Vancouver (Tsawwassen) to Port Hardy and then Port Hardy to Rupert.
     
  7. mll1013

    mll1013 Well-Known Member

    Just an update on our family's status. We still haven't decided yet whether we are going to:

    1) Take a cruise
    2) Rent an RV for the AK Marine Hwy
    3) Fly RT to Anchorage and explore South AK by rental car

    We did, however, just talk to a cruise consultant who found a pretty good deal for us
    on the HAL Ryndam. It sounds like HAL may be up our alley... a little bit older crowd,
    but some family activities. Less Vegas-style entertainment and more educational
    opportunities (e.g. naturalists, artists.) The Ryndam is a little smaller ship (1200
    passenger capacity) which will suit our desire for a little more relaxing atmosphere
    (especially upon embarking/disembarking.)

    What we have to concede for such a great price is the balcony. I had my heart set on
    a balcony, but these are selling out quickly, and as such, an inside stateroom will cost
    us about half of what a balcony will. I can justify a bit more, but not 2X.

    BTW, we have decided that if we do the cruise, it will be a northbound cruise instead of
    an inside passage RT. We find the opportunity at more scenery (college fjord, seward,
    anchorage) to be more appealing then heading just doing the inside passage for a few
    days and then turning around on the same exact route. Plus, it won't cost us anymore
    to fly from Anchorage with the rates scored by our agent for the NB cruise.

    Our agent also recommended Princess. I'd be curious to know the differences between
    Princess and HAL, and whether anybody has experience with the Ryndam, its crew, or
    its operation/logistics.

    Thanks,
    Mike
     
  8. mll1013

    mll1013 Well-Known Member

    BTW, here is a link to the specific itenerary/cruise dates we'd be travelling:

    http://fwd4.me/6sv

    Does this look like a decent itinerary? Any objections or comments about it?

    Thanks
    Mike
     
  9. Yukon

    Yukon Well-Known Member

    That is one of the best Alaska itineraries, Mike - its tough to beat getting both Glacier Bay and College Fjord in 7 days!
     
  10. BSeabob

    BSeabob Reinststed due to good behavior-Subject to change Staff Member

    Looks great to me also.

    Hal vs Princess ?? Never been aboard Princess and my limited experience on HAL, 2 times allows me to say you will/should enjoy the Ryndam for sure.
     

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