From Jerry's MI World Tour posting for 2013, it seems that there may be the potential for a 2014 cruise to Alaska. There have already been a number of comments on this topic and, as we shall be planning through into 2013/2014, it would probably be best to start a separate discussion. I know that some of you are much better than me at linking across postings so, if someone could link the other comments to this posting, that would be extremely helpful.
Having read through the feedback sofa, I have the following questions ...
1. Should we use a small ship or one of the big cruise lines, e.g. Princess?
2. What time of year would be best? ... August seems to be the recommendation.
3. Where should the departure point be on the continental USA? ... Seattle seems popular?
4. If so, which hotel in Seattle?
5. Is it best to do a round-trip or fly back from Alaska? ... if so, which would be the departure airport - Anchorage?
6. What are the key sights to see? ... Jerry has already provided some great pics
7. How do we get group discounts?
Please add any other Qs as appropriate. It was only an outline thought before I started getting feedback from you guys, so these may be basic Qs.
Let me share with you my experience:
1. I don't think it matters, I went on Princess and it was huge, and I would really be in favor of a smaller ship, but they cost a lot more. I would just make sure I had another balcony. It was great to sit there and view the scenery.
This is the balcony, and I had some friends visit and enjoy the fresh air and view!
2. August would be great, I think my trip was actually in late September, so again, a lot would depend on price/
3. and 4. The Seattle Marina is a wonderful place to stay for all. Great rooms and great staff! Great CL!
View from my upgraded room, with TWO balconies. This was a wonderful experience!
5. I think you would have to do a "Round Trip", this cruise took seven days and there was no "Dull moments". I really don't know if you could do this cruise "One way"!
6. Have posted pictures, so won't do that again.
7. I don't know this answer. I could check with AMEX, but wouldn't Marriott be able to provide information. This could be a great trip in 2014.
We went to Alaska last summer, taking a cruise out of Vancouver (stayed a weekend at the marvelous Vancouver Marriott with a terrific concierge lounge and terrific view), and hit the sights in Vancouver including Capilano Suspension Bridge. Going late June was a perfect time for wildlife, we saw without much difficulty bears, moose, eagles, whales, elk virtually everyone but otters. Stopped in several ports and savored the brew pubs (I wasn't seeking nouvelle cuisine in Alaska - the food was terrific). Took the glass top train inland (great views and surprisingly good food) and took a bus tour to Denali. Plenty of fun activities including bike riding, where we rode up mountains and sped down at 25mph or faster like 10 year olds, hiked up mountains (not to be confused with climbed, but still challenging and loads of fun), rode dog sleds and riplines, watched glaciers calving and of course watched baseball - the 106th Midnight Sun game played on the Summer Solstice, starting at 10:30pm without lights! We saw the very first game in history to be called because of darkness (around 1:30am due to extra innings and a threatening storm).
Here are some photos and some links to what I enjoyed; there's plenty more to do (and we did it) so, as always, planning is worthwhile;
Anchorage - stayed at a nice Fairfield Inn - upgraded to their 'suite' the one with a parlor sitting area.
http://www.mrwhitekeys.com/mrwhitekeys.com/HOME.html Watched these guys perform at a local saloon. Now maybe it was the dozen brewpubs we had visited, or maybe these guys were actually very clever, along the line of Capitol Steps, Mark Russell, or Second City, even the Sarah Palin fans were laughing. Their dvd doesn't do their live show justice - very entertaining, clean, and clever without being snarky.
http://www.glacierbrewhouse.com/ One of those aforementioned brewpubs - downtown Anchorage - excellent food, fresh drafts
The downtown Marriott was nice with a 9 or 10 foot stuffed grizzly in their lobby. Folks we talked to in the lobby enjoyed their stay.
Fairbanks - Spring Hill - The first (and only) time I paid more than $225 for a Spring Hill. Wasn't impressed, by the property, although nothing offsetting except the five minute discussion about placing a platinum on the river half of the building.
https://pumphouse.com/ Nice outdoor dining along the river
Stayed at the Denali lodge (no Marriott) - excellent biking and hiking trails, plenty of excursions
Stayed at http://www.alyeskaresort.com/hotel/index.aspx (no Marriott) a wonderful property with service comparable to our finer Marriotts - excellent restaurant at top of mountain - Seven Glaciers, lovely grounds. Nice tram ride with great views.
http://www.doublemuskyinn.com/ down the road from the Alyeska, was this excellent local's favorite where we got our cajun fix
http://skagwaybrewing.com/ one of the port stops
Ketchikan - picture of Alaskan Skills contest - this was superb - actual world class athletes competing
Ok - that will get you started - it was and will be a blast - Have fun
World Class athletes--very entertaining!
Atop Mount Alyeska
Glass top train: great views, good food
Mount McKinley (Denali) Terrific bike and hiking trips
These bears (there were three) were on our exit path. They eventually became
amorous (Nat'l Geographic) which our guide of ten years had never seen (we
have videos, but this is a family blog!). This is only an interesting anecdote
now that we are home - at the time it was serious and we waited twenty minutes and finally
took a long loop/slope home. The bears won.
Thanx Erc for sharing your experiences and pics!
I really like Vancouver! Its a wonderful city, and I wouldn't mind a return trip to explore some more as a 2 day post cruise trip was just not enough. Also had been their previously for the World Fair, but spent too much time at the fair and not enough time exploring. Also thought Vancouver had some fantastic restaurants to try..
my 2 cents
1) cruise lines
2) Time of year - different advantages at different times
3) Seattle or Vancouver take less time, money, points to get to from East Coast, UK and Europe. Nice Marriott hotels in all cities, but Seattle and Vancouver are really spectacular - great views
4) Would prefer to cruise round trip out of Seattle or Vancouver, and avoid flites to Anchorage (and the 250 miles by train or bus to Seward/Whittier)
5) Plenty of time to look at sights by port. Most of the cruise lines have great listings by destination. I also ahve all my research materials from my Alaska cruise that I can post.
6) best to inquire about group discounts with cruise lines and cruise wholesalers. We could shop around and see what we can get for 8 cabins, which is usually entry level for a group on a cruise ship. Let me see if I can put something together.
The CC companies contract with travel companies to do their work.
At one point, all them where contracting with the same company,
I am not certain if this is still true.
Another thing is the best prices are usually less than 1 month of departure, but there is no guarantee it won't sell out, or not have the type of cabins you want, the number of cabins you need, etc.
I was just going to do a sample pricing of Celebrity, Holland, NCL for May/Sep (lowest shoulder season pricing), and June which is the option for White Nights which is not only nice to experience, but gives you the longest days for sightseeing. I will try to compare the cruiselines with VacationsToGo which is the discounter that has been in business the longest, and usually has the deepest discounts and best perks. will also try to show cheapest inside, outside and balcony cabin type.
Once we have a ballpark, everyone can compare with their sources, and I will also find out the rules for groups from the cruiselines and VTG.
I did almost have a group once on NCL, we were 2 cabins short, so I think I understand their program. When you book 8 cabins, the organizer gets their cabin free. I was going to add up the costs, and divide by the number of people, and have everyone pay the same. They also throw in one group activity, like a cocktail party with drinks and appetizers.
If we al signup on Cruisecritic.com, we can also attend the cruiseline Meet & Greet on the 1st day we sail
We can also make sure everyone joins there frequent traveler program and that will usually get you invited to a free cocktail party (or on some cruiselines a lunch where they provide the alcohol)
The work is mostly front-loaded. Gathering the information is quick. Getting it formated into a spreadsheet that everyone understands can be a bit more challenging. Once we pick the cruise and vendor, everyone just deals with them directly. Just booking a family holiday I learned its best once you make the decision to let them book.
The only thing Marriott might be able to help with, is getting quotes for the Travel Industry.
All the cruise lines, have a special rate that is available for people working in the travel industry. If they were to make this rate available to marriott, we might get a better price on the 8 cabins. Also, I don't know if there is a price break for larger groups, or extra perks. Someone in Marriott that deals in groups might have a better idea on what is standard industry practice and make sure to ask.
I always do the roll calls on cruisecritic so that I can meet other cruisers in advance of the cruise. Its another great forum like MI, except its more transitory as you tend to chat with those you are cruising with prior to the cruise, and maybe a little afterwards, and then you move on to the next group.
Some sample itineraries and fares to consider
(Per Person for 7d - includes cabin, food, entertainment)
extra is alcohol, soda, tours, etc.
For ANC itineraries - add on an extra $100/pp for the train or bus from Anchorage to either Seward or Whittier. For Whittier need to verify that the train is an option, might need to use the bus.
Note: OBC = On Board Credit ranging from $25-150 per cabin
Inside Outside Balcony Inside Outside Balcony
These prices are based on the VacationToGo Website which has been around for about 18 years, and has a great track record of discounting prices, and giving on board credit. Often the larger companies when booking 8+ cabins pass on their group benefits to their clients, while smaller companies, owners, managers, agents use these group privileges to travel for free.
Based on past experience, traveling off season (End or August or Early September) have been able to buy last minute fares for less, but you can not count on this happening. For Celebrity, on the ANC-YVR, which was not selling due to high air fare to get there, I was able to get the inside for ~500/pp (currently listed at 700/pp). Just last month a colleague traveled on Holland ANC-YVR for ~300/pp in a last minute sale. Both of these were inside cabins, with no choice of cabin, just what was left.
We can compare prices, with other discounters, and with the cruise lines, and we can try for group rates, but I would not expect to see prices any lower than $300-500/pp for an inside. One of the things we may be able to negotiate for a group is paying the inside rate and getting the outside, or paying the outside and getting a balcony. Some of the older ships don't really have balconies, or have very few, hence the NA. Some only have a suite option, hence the 8000/pp price. It looks like the cruiselines are now using their older ships for the open jaw ANC-YVR or YVR-ANC, as less passengers opt for this cause air fare is higher, and you need to pay xport from Anchorage to the port 250 miles away. These open JAW routes end up selling deeply discounted as a result. Both discount situations described above were unsold cabins on the open JAW.
GemP, you are just brilliant at this stuff!! We have only ever been on one cruise and that was in the Caribbean with Princess. We enjoyed it but haven't rushed to repeat it ... we found the limited time in each location irritating and a lot of the location were very similar. We are looking forward to getting together for an Alaska cruise ... it sounds much better.
At one point in my life I never wanted to cruise, as it just wasn't enough time. I used to do long involved 1 and 2 month land trips in Asia, Turkey, Europe, etc.
When I started traveling for work, and had lots of points, and was already in destinations so i could add in a day or two of personal time here and there, I managed to see quite alot. My list of new places is farily short after 5 of 7 continents, 80+ countries, 40 of 50 states. I also have a list of things I missed in a place. Also, since I have had so many repeat trips, I no longer feel a need to see everything. I target a couple of things for a day, and know I will probably return. It took a while to understand I could see a place over time (multiple visits) and I didn' have to do it all in one shot.
Also, one of my friends from my travel job liked to cruise. We use to have to do our annual meetings on a cruise ship, and I use to complain to her that I hated cruising. She told me it was cause I was always on a ship to work, and I needed to try it for run. After we both stopped traveling for work, we started cruising for fun. Since we live in different states, it's probably the only time we get together.
Itinerary and Ship Information to help us make decisions....some things to consider:
Seattle-Seattle Vancouver-Vancouver Vancouver-Anchorage Anchorage
2005 (2010)/ 2006 2001 (2011)
93K tons 78K tons
2003 (2011) 1999 (2011) 2000 (2010)
85K tons 63K tons 62K tons
( Twin Sawyer Glaciers) (Twin Sawyer Glaciers) -------------
2008 1995(2010) 2000(2012)
122K tons 70K tons 91K tons
(Twin Sawyer Glacier) -------------- Hubbard Glacier