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Old 04-04-2011, 02:06 PM   #21
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I would love to be able to take this trip to Alaska: Exploring Alaska's Coastal Wilderness, Ocean/River Cruises, Family Programs, Signature Tours, Small Ship Expeditions, Educational Travel - Smithsonian Journeys

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Experience Alaska's Inside Passage up close aboard the comfortable and intimate 62-guest National Geographic Sea Bird for the May departure and National Geographic Sea Lion for the July departure.... Travel with your Smithsonian experts and a dedicated team of naturalists who share their passion for nature in a casual and hands-on style.
Sale price, only $5990 per person plus airfare.
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Old 04-04-2011, 02:40 PM   #22
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Put it on your bucket list !
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Old 04-04-2011, 11:06 PM   #23
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Don't forget the Sierra Club

Wilderness Cruise on Alaska's Inside Passage - Sierra Club Outings - 11071A
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Old 04-04-2011, 11:21 PM   #24
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Norwegian Cruise Lines here for the reasons you mentioned. No preset eating arrangements. My recommendation is to get a balcony for the views.
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Old 04-04-2011, 11:24 PM   #25
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Wow DangerMouse, I hope y'all have a wonderful time!

I'm going to mark this thread....one day I hope to go to Alaska.
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Old 04-04-2011, 11:51 PM   #26
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The only cruise I've taken was in August 2003, on Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas.
Radiance of the Seas Cruise Ship - Royal Caribbean International

I had never considered taking a cruise before but was persuaded because an organization to which I belonged was having a meeting organized around it (and i was on the organizing committee). We embarked and disembarked at Vancouver and travelled up the Inside Passage, with stops at Juneau, Yakutak Glacier, Skagway (which I had previously visited by the land route) and Ketchikan.

We had a large group (mostly women) and "dressing up" consisted of one good packable dress. The ship was just two years old at that time and very spacious. Contrary to my expectations, I never felt claustrophobic. I shared a cabin near the centre of gravity of the ship; it had a large window, but no balcony, and it was just fine. The only rough water was beyond the inside passage. The spa was to die for. The excursions catered to every taste and were very enjoyable. My favourite was the helicopter trip up the Mendenhall Glacier. It was a really clear day and we were able to go much farther than anticipated and land on the glacier and walk around in T shirts. It was also really neat to pack only once!

Altogether, I had a blast. I'm sure you will too.
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Old 04-05-2011, 10:43 AM   #27
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The only rough water was beyond the inside passage.
An experienced cruiser told us that the roughest water they ever encountered was on an Alaskan cruise.......in the open waters outside the Inland Passage...
SEA to Ketchikan or Juneau/Glacier Bay to Anchorage. Consider taking Dramamine along just in case.

I've also heard that if you book the side trips through the cruise line (not just in AK )that it is much more expensive than just hopping off the ship and getting something there (sometimes iffy tho if they book up). Not sure how that compares to booking independently ahead of time. The risk (not sure if they say it to scare you into booking thru the cruise) if you go on your own and the return is late, the ship may leave w/o you and you'll have to catch up somehow at your own expense.
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Old 04-05-2011, 10:54 AM   #28
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I was comparing some of the shore excursions listed on the cruise ship's website against what the tour operators charged. It seems like the ship add an extra $100.

If we do go we intend to book direct with the tour operator. Our feeling is we want the money to go to the peeps who are providing the service rather than the ship taking a good chunk.

Didn't really want to hear that about sea sickness as I suffer badly.
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Old 04-05-2011, 12:31 PM   #29
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Didn't really want to hear that about sea sickness as I suffer badly.
Didn't mean to suggest that it would happen......just that it could......so just be prepared.........I imagine that the ship should be able to provide forecasts in advance (a day or so in advance). Dramamine comes in various versions...the old classic and the new "less drowsy".. ....my impression is that the old style makes you drowsy but is quicker acting; the "less drowsy" is like a time release so lasts longer but may take longer? to take effect. Maybe take both along and use whichever is appropriate w/ how much advance notice you get. We also have weak stomachs but the dramamine appears to work if you don't wait until it's too late.

Have fun on the trip.
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Old 04-05-2011, 12:48 PM   #30
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I have mixed emotions of where to book tours. If you look at the pricing of cruises, the cruise itself is almost a lost leader for the cruise line. Maybe a break even at best. The cruise line depends on selling you drinks, casino, special restaurants, tours, spas, and just about everything else you can think of. So yes, the tours are more expensive and all the money does not go to the tour group, however, I have to believe they get what they want, but, it is subsidizing your room and meals. We have found that booze on the boat is about the same as in the ports.
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Old 04-05-2011, 12:51 PM   #31
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Re: seasickness. There are only 2 cures for it - terra firma or PREVENTION. I think it unlikely you'll get seasick, but just take a pill each morning and you'll be fine (I recommend Bonine, or the chemically identical non-drowsy Dramamine).
Re: shore excursions. No doubt about it, the extra $$ you pay goes right into the Cruise Line's coffers. But I think of it as insurance, guaranteeing I won't get blocked out of the tour and that the ship will be there when I return from the tour.
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Old 04-05-2011, 03:44 PM   #32
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We do 1-2 cruises per year and have cruised Alaska out of Seattle and enjoyed it very much. I second the recommendation for excursion of the helicopter ride to glacier with dog sled ride. Its been one of the top excursions we have ever done. A balcony is especially recommended for an Alaskan cruise.

Our favorite cruise lines in order are Celebrity or Azamara, Princess, Norwegian, Holland American, Carnival. We feel like Celebrity has the best food. Also would choose a newer ship over an older one. Most cruise lines use their oldest ships for 3-4 days cruises.

We have found that the longer the cruise--10 days and up-- the older the clientelle ( I assume because retirees can be gone for longer periods of time).
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Old 04-06-2011, 09:10 PM   #33
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My only cruise experience was a Celebrity cruise to Alaska leaving from Vancouver. It was very casual, people didn't really "dress" for the dress-up night (and other passengers told us this was typical of the Alaska cruise). There was a wide range of ages, including families with quite well-behaved children who were interested in seeing Alaska.

The trip was great, I booked our shore excursions independently. The best was the helicopter ride to the Mendenhall Glacier, a small helicopter for the pilot and the 3 of us. They met us at the port, drove us to the airport, and delivered us back to the ship with plenty of time.

One of my favorite memories was on a travel day while my 20 year old companions were off doing their thing -- sitting at the very bow of the ship, in a lounge with 2 story windows, reading a book, sipping champagne, and watching the gorgeous scenery floating by.
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Old 04-06-2011, 09:13 PM   #34
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DH and I have been on many cruises on most of the popular lines. We have only done Alaska once. We did Alaska on the NCL Pearl. This was about three years ago and during the Pearl's first year. It was a wonderful ship. We found it to be one of the most enjoyable cruises we have ever been on. Neither of us were really taken by the "beauty" of Alaska. We went in July and it was cool and rainy. Someone on the ship said you could look out and see a thousand shades of gray and that was so true.


NCL was the first to offer Free Style dining and they definitely do it better than any of the other lines.

Our favorite lines are Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, and NCL. We like Princess but find it a little stuffy and dull compared to RC, Celebrity, and NCL. We have only done one Holland America and we decided we were to young (we are in our 60's) for them. Everyone on the boat was in their eighties! Carnival is just not in the same league with the others. Of course, Carnival owns Princess and Holland America and uses the different lines to market to different demographics.

The newer Celebrity boats are gorgeous and Celebrity delivers a real quality experience. Of course Celebrity is owned by Royal Caribbean.

Formal nights are just a suggestion these days. You see all kinds of attire on formal night. Don't go to great expense or worry any about that. Go and have a great time.
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Old 05-11-2011, 01:32 AM   #35
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I just returned from an Alaskan cruise . They are super casual .We spent most of our days in jeans . I did take a few nice outfits for the dining room but really one knit dress and some jewelry would have been plenty . We booked our excursions by reading cruise critic and getting recommendations . We saved some doing it that way but not a lot but it was smaller groups . We did have a balcony which was great for just relaxing and watching the scenery . Leaving from Vancouver we had only a few hours of rough seas . The rest was very smooth . The scenery was amazing so do not miss it !
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Old 05-11-2011, 08:17 AM   #36
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question: taking a cruise to Alaska, 3 people including a 14 year old. Best tours? book tours now or wait until on cruise? Tours that are waste of time? leaving from Vancouver, 5 day trip. Many thanks for your help!!!!!!!
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Old 05-11-2011, 10:20 AM   #37
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question: taking a cruise to Alaska, 3 people including a 14 year old. Best tours? book tours now or wait until on cruise? Tours that are waste of time? leaving from Vancouver, 5 day trip. Many thanks for your help!!!!!!!
We used Frommer's guide book and cruise critic recommendations and we booked in advance . We lucked out in that the weather was gorgeous but I am not sure I would want to do some of the tours in crummy weather . We went whale watching which was a great tour and we went to the Yukon with Duryea Dave . I am afraid of heights so the helicopter tours were out . I would recommend a trip to the Yukon by van and return by train . In Vancouver we did the hop on hop off tour which I highly recommend . If you are spending a few days in Vancouver you can join Entertainment online for a month and get a lot of 2 for 1 deals in Vancouver . Here is our picture from the Yukon.
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Old 05-11-2011, 10:57 AM   #38
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question: taking a cruise to Alaska, 3 people including a 14 year old. Best tours? book tours now or wait until on cruise? Tours that are waste of time? leaving from Vancouver, 5 day trip. Many thanks for your help!!!!!!!
I have been on 10 cruises now. My experience is that tours booked dockside (ie. independent operators) are approximately half the price of tours booked through the cruise line.

No tours are not a waste of time. If you don't want to hang out at the Red Owl Bar or look through the curio shop for hours.

On a tour in Ketchikan (Alaska) we saw zillions of salmon spawning in a shallow river and saw one of the chutes that they swam up. It was all very impressive and amazing.

The countryside in Alaska is... shall I say in a word... Stunning. We saw bears and whales and porpoises both from the ship and on land. I certainly won't forget the trip.
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