There’s a higher demand for Alaskan cruises than in the past and yet there is less inventory. Cruise West once controlled a third of the Alaska cruise business and is no longer in business, so book well ahead as there are fewer ships available even though business is up 30 percent.
Small ship cruising is ideal. There are over 25 itineraries, many new in 2012. Deal with an experienced company, such as AdventureSmithExplorations, that will help you with the details. They can:
- compare itineraries
- provide details on ships that carry from 12 to 86 guests and the benefits of each
- suggest travel to the embarkation city
- make packing recommendations
- recommend hotels
- help with transfers
- outlline tour options
The small ship experience
Choose from luxury to basic travel and from large ships to small. Nail down the area and type of cruise, such as Glacier Bay Adventure Cruise, Alaskan Safari Yacht Cruises, Active Inside Passage and Active Prince William Sound Discovery Cruise.
Set your personal priorities. The Safari Endeavour, for example, is an upscale 86-passenger yacht that pampers guests with two hot tubs, sauna, exercise equipment, spa, kayaks, paddle boards, shore craft – and great wine!
The 46-passenger Alaskan dream is more intimate and focuses on Alaska’s nature, history and First Nations cuture.
The total experience
Alaska is known for its high mountains, glaciers and wildlife. The towering peaks of Alaska Range are crowned by Mt. McKinley. Denali National Park has an expanse of wild tundra where bears, moose, caribou and wolves roam free. Quite different is the experience at Kenai Fjords National Park out of Seward which is teeming with marine wildlife.
What you need to know:
- The peak travel time is summer.
- The weeks immediatey before the summer season starts and ends are spring shoulder season (May 15 to May 31), and fall shoulder season (Sept. 1 to Sept.15).
- Hotels booked in shoulder seasons typically give 15 to 20 percent off the regular season rates.
- Ask for hotel specials. You may get CAA discounts, for example.
- Avoid renting a car at Anchorage airport beause they add on very high airport fees. Rent downtown.
- Rent a car from a location where you plan to return the car. For instance, if you rent a car in Anchorage and drop it off in Fairbanks, the drop-off fee will be between $150 and $190.