Alaska Cruise Or CruiseTour? Either Can Be A Good Travel Value

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]

Free Cruise Giveaways To Enter Right Now

If the idea of a free cruise sounds appealing, right now might be a good time to pay attention. This month, during what cruise lines call “wave season,” travelers can pick up some of the best cruise vacation values available. To promote those exceptional seasonal values to new travelers, some of whom may have never been on a cruise before, cruise lines are teaming with everyone from television program producers to airline operators to give away free cruises.

“Wave Season” unofficially runs from January through March and features what cruise lines and travel agencies promise to be some of the best values of the year. Whether those values are something to get excited about or not, with snow on the ground and winter cold freezing travelers inside, many look to cruise vacations for relief.

Researching, looking, dreaming or buying, cruise travelers probably won’t do better than “free” when it comes to pricing. Let’s take a look at contests going on right now.

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” is giving contestants and one lucky home viewer the chance to escape the winter blues with a Disney Cruise Vacation!

This week, during “Cruise In and Win Week,” airing January 7 – 11, a cruise vacation will be attached to one “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” question in each contestant’s game. Answered correctly, the contestant as well as one lucky winner at home wins the money attached to the question as well as a Disney Cruise Vacation for four aboard the Disney Fantasy.

One randomly selected grand prize winner will choose a cruise vacation on either the Disney Magic or the Disney Wonder, sailing from Galveston, Texas.

US Airways Cruises – Million Miles Dream Getaway Sweepstakes will give one grand prize winner 500,000 Dividend Miles and a seven-night Caribbean cruise for two.

To enter, just sign up to receive US Airways weekly cruise emails by January 31. Signing up for just about any travel service provider’s priority email newsletters or offers is a great idea anyway. Those subscribed often get first notice of special pricing, value sailings and more.

Don’t want your email inbox filling up with what might otherwise be seen as junk? Have a special email address just for this reason.

Five other prize winners will receive 100,000 Dividend Miles

The Smooth Jazz Cruise has sailed annually since 2004, bringing together fans of Jazz music and top jazz musicians. Promoter Entertainment Cruise Productions is giving away a free cruise valued at $5,600 on Holland America Line’s m/s Westerdam, January 13 – 20, 2013, or January 20 – 27, 2013, for The Smooth Jazz Cruise.

On board will be jazz great George Benson along with David Sandborn, Bob James, Alonzo Bodden, Rick Braun, Richard Elliot and others.

Alaska Magazine has teamed up with adventure cruise line InnerSea Discoveries for a Cruise Alaska Sweepstakes.

Valued at over $11,000, the grand prize is seven nights on board 86-guest Safari Endeavour, departing from Juneau, Alaska. Included are all onboard meals, spirits, wine and microbrews, exclusive transfers and baggage handling, taxes and port fees, entry fees to national parks/preserves, all from-the-boat activities and equipment, sauna, hot tub, yoga classes and a complimentary massage.

Enter between now and January 31, 2013.

Looking for other sources of free cruises? Travel agencies often have free cruise contests as we see in this video:

[Photo Credit- Flickr User Peter Nijenhuis]

Alaska Rail And Cruise Packages Add Value, Adventure

Alaska rail and cruise packages, commonly called Cruise Tours, are heating up as more travelers opt to see more of what the land of the midnight sun has to offer. Choosing a multi-day land exploration, either before or after a seven-day cruise line sailing, gets passengers deeper into the Alaska heartland than possible by ship only. Now, a third-party travel source is offering to combine their package with a standard cruise line experience for something different.

Rocky Mountaineer is a rail line that offers over 45 Canadian vacation packages on four unique routes through British Columbia and Alberta, each rich in history and natural wonders. The luxurious train travels by daylight through the wild beauty of Canada’s West and is a great way to experience the majestic Canadian Rockies either before or after an Alaska cruise.

Traveling eastbound or westbound on the Rocky Mountaineer, the all-daylight rail journey departs three times per week on both the First Passage to the West and the Journey Through the Clouds routes from the end of April until the beginning of October. The Rainforest to Gold Rush route runs from the middle of May until the end of September, as does the Whistler Sea to Sky Climb route.On board, Rocky Mountaineer offers different levels/choices of service for rail journeys too. All passengers get onboard attendants that provide friendly service and informative commentary of the regions through which the train travels. Gold, Silver and Red levels of service offer more onboard amenities.

Now, combining Rocky Mountaineer extensive experience on land with Holland America Line’s experience at sea, comes a package that bundles it all.

Called Canadian Rockies Highlights & Coastal Passage with Pre-Tour Cruise – 2013, the package includes three days onboard the Rocky Mountaineer, a seven-night Holland America Alaskan cruise, eight dinners, eight lunches, nine breakfasts and five nights of hotel accommodation. Also included are Banff & Seattle tours, a Yoho Park tour and Helicopter Flightseeing.

The offer is simple: book a Coastal Passage rail/cruise trip by March 28 directly through Rocky Mountaineer and earn up to $1300 in credits toward the cruise portion, or extra hotel nights/restaurant meals along the train portion in cities like Seattle, Vancouver and Banff.

Want to know more about what travel via rail in the Rockies is like? Check this video:

[Photo Credit- Rocky Mountaineer]

Cruise line granted access to protected Alaska park

American Cruise Lines operates a fleet of small ships and offers more than 25 unique itineraries along the inland waterways and rivers of the Pacific Northwest, the Mississippi River System and East Coast of the United States. This week the line announced that it has been awarded a contract to enter Glacier Bay National Park making it the newest cruise line granted access and one of only a few cruise lines permitted to tour the area. Known for its abundant wildlife, spectacular blue glaciers and for being a highlight of any Alaska adventure, Glacier Bay is a highly sought after destination for Alaskan cruisers and travelers. American Cruise Lines will offer seven-to-eleven night cruises including round-trips out of Juneau.

“As one of the few places where people can still view the world as nature intended it to be, we wanted to make sure we could take our passengers there to experience it for themselves.”
said Timothy Beebe, Vice President of American Cruise Lines.
Designated a World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve, Glacier Bay is a nature wonderland. Ships visiting are joined by a National Park Service Ranger and a Native Cultural Interpreter who will provide narration and insight into Glacier Bay, as well as help spot wildlife such as mountain goats, whales and brown and black bears.

“Here we can return briefly to a time that doesn’t exist anywhere else,” noted renowned photographer, Mark Kelley’s award-winning book, Glacier Bay National Park: Alaska.

Cruise ships commonly stop in Glacier Bay then gently spin around to allow unparalleled viewing of glaciers.

Beginning next summer in June of 2012, American Cruise Lines will offer several different Alaskan itineraries, including round-trip cruises departing from Juneau, Alaska, and one-way cruises between Juneau and Seattle, Washington. New and returning passengers can expect all the modern on-board amenities including over-sized staterooms and bathrooms, private balconies, and elevators to all decks, along with exceptional locale-inspired cuisine and highly personalized service.

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Adventure cruise line prepares for inaugural season

Getting ready for opening day is a big job for any business. No matter how experienced, knowledgeable and prepared workers may be, there are always unexpected things that come up. If your business is active, adventure cruises in the wilderness of Alaska the unexpected could mean life-threatening emergencies far from the nearest emergency room.

InnerSea Discoveries (@InnerSeaD) is preparing for its sold-out inaugural season. Sailing active, adventure cruises in Alaska the small 5-ship line looks to be perfect for “the active, outdoor person who is more experiential based” InnerSea’s Dan Blanchard told Gadling recently. On a typical “un-cruise” the line hopes to “pull the curtain back on the natural world and let people see it” says Blanchard which means actively engaging the wilderness.

As opposed to a standard Alaska cruise which pretty much floats on by the best stuff, InnerSea Discoveries passengers get up close and personal with the land of the midnight sun. That exposure promises to add a delicious element of risk, the unknown and uncertainty as each voyage will surely take on a flavor of it’s own. It also bumps up the need for emergency training.

In addition to customary training and certification, InnerSea Discoveries’ crew members are getting Wilderness First Responder training this week in Seattle from the Wilderness Medicine Training Center. While crew members will become certified, the training is far from a typical classroom setting.

To get prepared, the line’s first mates, second mates, expedition leaders and expedition guides are taking part in the hands-on training that covers everything from trauma to wilderness CPR. All good stuff to know on a small ship that does not include a full-size medical center with operating rooms, doctors, nurses and suckers for the kids.

CEO Blanchard himself is prepared too. After sailing across the Pacific for two years in a 42-foot sailboat, Blanchard realized cruising is “a lot more than a port to port experience.” Passengers on Innersea Discoveries can engage in a variety of off-ship activities, most included in the price, or stay on board and do nothing but enjoy the majestic Alaskan scenery.

I doubt many will.

Flickr photo by leakytyr8

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