As Greyson points out, it's not impossible to find a decent flight schedule back from Anchorage, but you need to be careful. I called one cruise line to see what they would offer for return air flights, and the indication was that it was indeed possible they might put their passengers on a 2 AM return flight, if that's what the airlines gave them.
It is true that Vancouver is nice and you can get some better flight times out of Vancouver, however for me I prefer to cruise from Vancouver northbound to Seward or Whittier. The views just get better and better as you go north and even though there are great sites all the way on the trip going from North to South is a little bit of a let down with the views as you head south.
I personally like it to get better each day. But believe me there are NO bad sites either North or Southbound. The whole trip is in some of the most beautiful country I have ever seen.
Techboy, though Princess arrives in Whittier at 12:30 AM, they do not disembark until early in the morning (i.e. after an early breakfast). Allow a day for the transfer, either by bus or rail, from Whittier to Anchorage. My caution was that, if you purchase the cruise line's air, you may find yourself with a return flight leaving Anchorage at 2 AM, whether you opt for an extra overnight in Anchorage after the cruise or not. (You should definitely opt for an overnight in Anchorage, post-cruise. I also recommend overnighting before the cruise in the city from which the cruise departs, in order to allow a cushion of time in case of flight delays, cancellations, etc.)
If you're having trouble getting this all figured out, why not let an experienced travel professional (agent) help you out? They can save you lots of time and aggravation, especially when you have a group going, however small.
I'm just confused when I look at the time and was cursing up a storm, thinking I'll be kick out of a ship in the middle of the night in a tiny town that has nothing.
Hehe, no prior experience in cruise is what make it so exciting to plan my own trip. Your answer make sense, and my plan will be ok now. It's getting the timing of car rental, flight, and cruise all together within the two week time span that caused the stress and confusion.
Right now, I'm looking at first week on cruise going northbound and 2nd week of free exploration on mainland Alaska. I'm really looking foreward to experience Alaska because this is also a trip to test my photographic skills.