An Alaska cruise offers unique options for adventure travelers, cruisers who just want to see what Alaska has to offer or frequent Caribbean cruisers who want to do something different. To really see Alaska and all its natural beauty up close, travelers head inland, to places that cruise ships cannot sail to via a cruisetour that can make a great cruise into an unbelievably fabulous trip of a lifetime.
There are basically three ways to do an Alaska cruise:
- Seven-day round-trip- A popular option is a seven-day round-trip sailing from Seattle, Washington or Vancouver, British Columbia.
- Southbound- Another way is to do a one-way sailing southbound, starting in a northern Alaska port like Fairbanks and ending in a southern port like Seattle or Vancouver.
- Northbound- Cruise travelers might also choose to sail in the other direction on a northbound sailing.
Any of those cruise choices can be enhanced by taking that basic cruise and adding a pre- or post-cruisetour. There are also two types of cruisetour:
- A standard cruisetour gives time for longer land experiences that can include flightseeing via float plane or helicopter, cruising mountains or landing on glaciers. This is a good choice for watching the budget while experiencing some of the best of Alaska.
- An escorted cruisetour, the ultimate way to see Alaska, brings along a cruise line guide that stays with you all the time when on land. They keep things on track and make sure members of what is usually a small group are at the right place at the right time to see the best Alaska has to offer.
Most cruise lines offer Alaska cruises and cruise tours of some sort. Princess Cruises, Holland America Line and Royal Caribbean International do more of it than all other cruise lines combined, offering some unique advantages to travelers.Owning their own self-sufficient lodges in the wilderness, for example, gives Princess Cruises a unique advantage with their customers getting top accommodations located in the most pristine areas of the state. Considered the top cruise lines in Alaska, Princess Cruises and sister-line Holland America Line have more ships in Alaska service than any other lines.
Royal Caribbean is big in Alaska too, applying the principles of its Gold Anchor Service to all they do in Alaska, making the experience a familiar one to past-guests of the line. Their Adventure Specialists serve as concierge, traveling with guests throughout the land portion of their trip.
Cruisetours are perfect for families, provide a balance of included activities and independent time, allowing guests to maximize time spent sightseeing as well as the opportunity to explore at leisure.
Don’t get me wrong, a seven-day round trip sailing from Seattle is also a good Alaska experience and probably a good choice for watching the budget while getting a good taste of what Alaska has to offer. Cruisetours are not inexpensive, but can yield an experience well worth the extra cost.
Right now, when many travelers are planning an Alaska vacation for this summer, prices are competitive. Cruise lines have limited-time promotions going on through February that can add real value by reducing the price while giving more. Princess, for example, has a Cruise and Air deal that can save thousands. Holland America Line has a One Week sale going on right now with reduced deposits and Alaska cruises starting at $499 per person + tax.
Regardless of which cruise line sailed, the important part about visiting Alaska is to do it.
Before I sailed in Alaskan waters for the first time, a friend told me, “No matter where you look there is something beautiful to take photos of,” which sounded a bit unbelievable. Still, on the ground in Fairbanks, our first stop, I could not put my camera down … well, I did once and missed a flock of American Bald Eagles flying overhead. Not one or two eagles, a flock of probably 50 or more.
Want to know more about what Alaska via cruise ship? Check this video from Royal Caribbean all about gold mining and canyoneering:
[Photo Credit- Flickr user DaveReichert]