Cruising the inside passage of Alaska?

Hello everyone. Long-time listener of Clark, but this my first ever post.

My wife and I are celebrating our 25th anniversary next year, and I’m in the planning stages of an Alaskan cruise of the inside passage.

I know about tracking airfare prices via Google Flights, but it’s a bit overwhelming with all the cruise line options, tours, etc.

Does anyone have any good tips or tricks when planning something like this?

Best cruise line for trip? Must-do tours? Or anything else?

We’ll be flying out of Norfolk Intl (ORF) or Newport News Intl (PHF). I’m assuming it’s better to fly into Vancouver vs Seattle since it’s obviously closer. The only must-do on the list is Glacier Bay.

Any advice or tips is greatly appreciated.

Thank you.

I have no tips but congratulations to you both…! :grinning:

If you have never done a cruise, especially Alaska, I would recommend a travel agent. Shouldn’t be difficult to find one that has a lot of cruise experience. Our first cruise, I didn’t even know what questions to ask.

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Several years ago, my wife and I enjoyed an Alaska cruise. We booked our trip through AAA and selected Holland America as the provider. AAA includes guides and tour group consultants on many of their packages. They also include some hospitality events on some of their trips. Someone is usually available to answer questions or provide assistance if needed.

We selected a two-week land and sea package and opted for a suite on the ship. We also selected the land portion first, which I highly recommend. Everything was arranged for us, and we traveled by bus or train between locations. Each morning, we set our luggage outside our room, and it was transferred to our next hotel. The luggage would be waiting for us inside the room when we arrived. Tours, activities, and meals were all arranged for us during the land portion of the trip. Everything was planned out and everything went as planned.

Upon arriving at the ship for the cruise, we boarded and found our cabin. Since we opted for the upgraded suite, concierge service was included which included full laundry service. We gathered all our clothes from the first week of travel and had everything laundered by the service. Everything was returned later in the day cleaned and folded and ready for week two. This was very nice. We did not have to pack so much, and we always had clean clothes to wear. Near the end of the cruise, we had everything laundered again and we had clean clothes to pack for the return trip home.

Since we did the land portion of the trip first, we discovered that many of the shore excursions and off-ship activities were about the same as what we already did prior to arriving at the ship. As a result, we did not do many shore excursions. We would get off the ship and explore the ports on our own or we would relax and enjoy an almost empty ship during the day.

Since we opted for the upgraded stateroom, we were able to enjoy the balcony and watch the scenery from our room as we passed the glaciers and other beautiful sites. There is aa lot to see.

We realized that this trip for us was most likely going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so we did not cheap-out on the trip. If this is the case for you, I would recommend that you splurge a little and enjoy the trip.

I lived in Alaska for 27 years and spent a lot of time exploring the state, it’s a big place.

The inside passage cruise gives you a chance to see what SE Alaska looks like. It’s the warmest and wettest part of the state and, for many people, the only part they ever experience. On average, it will be overcast most of the time and raining about half the time. (see image below)

Alaska can be viewed as having four large and quite different areas; Southeast, South-Central, Southwest and the Northern Interior. I lived in South-Central AK, but I found Southwest AK the most interesting area for experiencing most of what AK has to offer in scenery, wildlife, fishing and true wilderness adventures…

If you can manage it, an inland passage trip combined with a rail tour from Seward or Whittier to Fairbanks will give you the opportunity to experience Southeast, South-Central and Interior North areas.

Southwest AK is accessible only by air but you can arrange a side trip from Anchorage out to Katmai and the Bristol Bay area. It’s a spendy trip but one you’ll remember for the rest of your life.


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Since this might be your first cruise and you have to fly to the port I think your best bet would be to go with a travel agent since they should be able to answer all your questions. Once you have your cruise booked you can always join a Facebook group and find out tips and tricks for that cruise line you will be on. The first few times is always a learning experience so I would go again for your 35th, congratulations and have fun.

A suggestion and warning:

I live in a tourist destination. Some ship excursions may include ‘touristy’ things which you may or may not be interested in. Investigate all the included options.

Here, some people get off the cruise ship and rather be on a ‘guided’ tour, they book an excursion on their own. They may get a taxi, rent a car or find other ways to see the sights they are interested in and can save a lot of money. By doing this they can spend as long or as short a time at locations based upon how interesting they find it. I find that some people who appear at my tour spend lots more time than the people who also came on the ships excustions. Oftetimes those pre-arranged tours are in a hurry to get people on to the next location as they are on a schedule.

If you decide to book your own tour you MUST get back to the ship by the proper time. If you book on a ship excursion, the ship will wait for the tour to arrive back. If you booked your own excurion, they will not wait for you if you are late. I remind visitors of this if they booked their own.

My first time to Nairobi [first of many, went back several times] I had pre-booked at a hotel. In the am, all the many tour buses were lined up to lure guests, but a short block away, there were a few open jeeps with crude signs. One driver promised to take me places the tour busses did not go.

He was soooo right!!! In the following years, I never took another tour bus.

Whenever my wife and I have been in a place where cruise ships stop and offload their passengers for day trips we feel a little sorry for the cruise passegers. They rush off the ship and go on 6 to 8 hour tours to partake in a “authentic local culture experience.”

They miss 90% of what the places have to offer. For most places we visit we prefer at least a week or more, then you have a chance to mingle and get to know the people, see the sights and understand the culture. You can’t do that on a one-day whirlwind tour.

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During our trip to Alaska, I was surprised to learn about mosquitoes in the area. I never suspected mosquitoes to be a problem. I understand that mosquitoes can get very bad at certain times of the year. I saw some pictures where people were covered in mosquitoes. It is something I would prefer not to experience.

Our trip was the last week of August and the first week of September, which happens to be almost the end of the tourist season. We missed the mosquitoes. You may wish to do some research on mosquitoes in Alaska and plan accordingly.

The mosquitoes come with the rain. They hang out in brushy areas. Ask any Alaskan, they’ll tell you that the best protection is Ben’s 100% deet.

When it gets really bad you need a head net to prevent you from inhaling them.

NOTE: In SE AK anything not covered with pavement is a brushy area.

This may be slightly off the wall but I will rattle on a bit.

New bride (3.5 years) and I am fixing to do Alaska next month. She raised her children there, on the Kenai peninsula, and we are going places she never got to. Closest thing to a cruise will be a ferry ride from Homer to Kodiak where her sister lives. No doubt there will be some line wetting involved; wife has been hankering to go fishing ever since she got here.

Back to what she never saw but knew all about. We are generally centered at Anchorage and on the Alaska Railroad. Southbound to Seward where there are all sorts of things including wild life and fjords and sled dogs. A few days later north bound to Denali for a tour of the park. Likely will have more to say in a month. These are just some of the possibilities; suggest checking with Alaska Railroad for destinations and packages.

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Sounds like great fun…! :smiley:

Unless your bride had a friend with a floatplane she probably never got over to see the bears at Brooks Falls in Katmai.

It’s a spendy but spectacular day trip out of Anchorage but, if you can afford it, and the weather cooperates, it’s a great adventure. Here’s a link to the charter services out of Anchorage that offer them. It looks like Rust’s Flying Service is the cheapest and they have as good a reputation as any of them. The peak of the season is around July 4th. At this late date Brooks Lodge will be booked solid and the campground as well.

Another option is to take a commercial flight to King Salmon and catch a boat trip up the Naknek River to Brooks Camp and the falls.

Your wife’s sister who lives on Kodiak will know about how to visit the McNeil River State Game Sanctuary and Refuge and might have been there if she owns a boat or knows any of the many boat owners on the island. It’s a fairly short hop over to that location by boat from Kodiak. That trip is a good second choice too but it’s only officially available on a lottery basis and that closes early in the year. The Kodiak locals also know of some good local spots on the island to view the bears and fish for salmon. Salmon fishing is very seasonably dependent and varys a bit year-to-year as well.

Roger that. Wife’s sister mends the nets, or rather her husband does now that her hands gave out. We will have good time there I am sure.

Katmai is a dream experience, but alas we are going in june and the salmon didn’t come in until July last year. No fish, no bears. Wife never got there as residents had to get admission by a lottery. Touristas just pay big money. What makes it so amazing is walking in there and being only a few feet from these bears. All the bears want is fish so they ignore the people! Maybe next time!

Thank you to all those who took the time to respond and offer suggestions. It is very much appreciated.