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Alaskan Cruise Insider Tips: Which Cruise Should You Take?

Jun 2, 2008
There are literally dozens of different Alaskan cruise itineraries. So with so many different options to choose from, how do you know which one to choose?

Most Alaska cruise itineraries fit into one of four main categories: round trip out of Seattle, round trip out of Vancouver, one-way northbound between Vancouver and Whittier/Seward, and one-way southbound from either Seward or Whittier to Vancouver.

If you want to take a tour of inland Alaska before or after your cruise, including stops at such attractions as Denali National Park, Fairbanks, and the Kenai Peninsula, you must choose either a northbound or southbound one-way cruise, since the round-trip cruises do not take you to Anchorage.

Land/cruise packages are called cruisetours, and they are booked separately from cruises. Most cruise lines will not let you add on a land tour to an existing cruise reservation -- you must book the cruise and land at the same time.

Even if you do not want to go on an inland tour, there are other advantages to the one-way northbound or southbound cruise itineraries. One-way itineraries often include more glacier viewing than the round-trip cruises, since they frequently stop in College Fjord as a secondary glacier viewing location. So if you want to maximize your glacier viewing opportunities, consider booking a one-way cruise.

Of course, the round-trip cruises also have their advantages. All cruises out of Seattle are currently round-trip offerings, and airfare to Seattle tends to be cheaper than airfare to Vancouver or Anchorage (for those with flights originating in the U.S.). In addition, U.S. citizens flying into Seattle will not need to go through customs at the airport.

Round trip cruises are also offered out of Vancouver. These cruises often are a bit cheaper than similar sailings out of Seattle. In addition, ships sailing round-trips out of Vancouver tend to stay almost entirely in within the calm, protected waters of the Inside Passage, so these cruises can be a great option for anyone who tends to get sea sick.

Finally, you should consider at which ports and glacier viewing locations your cruise will stop. The best Glacier viewing opportunities tend to be in Glacier Bay National Park. However, cruise ship access into the park is limited, and currently only three ships out of Seattle head into Glacier Bay.

An excellent alternative is the Hubbard Glacier, which is simply enormous. The largest Glacier in Alaska, the Hubbard is truly a sight to behold.

Port options include Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan, and Sitka. Skagway is the only port with access into the interior, and train/bus trips into the Yukon Territory are a very popular shore excursion from Skagway. I tend to view Sitka and Ketchikan as interchangeable, both being picturesque island fishing villages, but I do highly recommend stops in Skagway and Juneau.

Of course, whatever itinerary you choose, you will see incredible scenery, quaint towns, and amazing glaciers. It's hard to go wrong when you are selecting an Alaskan cruise.
About the Author
Scott Russell is a writer, consultant, and frequent traveler. He is also an editor of the Alaska Cruise Advisor, which provides information on all aspects of Alaskan cruises, including details on Alaska Airlines, Alaska fishing, and dozens of Alaskan shore excursions.
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