Well we have bagged the idea of a Med cruise (at least for now). We are now researching Alaska. MIL is prone to seasickness. I've read that the Alaskan waters are light glass. Is that just the IP or all Alaskan cruises? Given the seasickness worry would it be better to go out of Vancouver or Seattle or does it matter?
One possible advantage of using Seattle as your departure port, is the cost of flights to and from Seattle. Vancouver is a truly beautiful city with a great airport, but it may be cheaper for you to arrange flights via Seattle.
As for Do NOT Miss ports; Juneau and Skagway are my favorite Alaskan ports. Juneau has the Mendenhall Glacier and the East Glacier Loop which is a trail that leads you to where you are practicly looking down on the Mendenhall Glacier, There is also a wonderful museum (the Alaska State Museum) in Juneau, and Juneau is an interesting town just to walk around.
Skagway in itself is interesting but I highly recommend that you rent a car and drive into the Canadian Yukon. The road north is a truly breathtaking road, beautifully maintained, and when you see signs for the Alcan Highway you know you are in a very special place. The train ride is also very interesting but I have not taken this ride.
Try and find a cruise that gives you a lot of time in both Skagway and Juneau. Renting a car in Juneau is also recommended but you have to do your homework and make sure that you can drop off the car in downtown Juneau, within walking distance of the ship.
The Alaska cruise is a good choice, but check the route maps and see if you are going inside passage the entire way. Generally most of the cruises out of Vancouver will stay in the protection of Vancouver Island, where some of the Seattle runs go out into open water for the first and last day. Using the inside route the only real exposure to open water will be for a few hours off the Northern tip of Vancouver Island, other then that, expect smooth sailing. Given the sea sickness I probably would not want to suggest the 1 way trips out of Anchorage.
I agree with Fruby, with the ports. On our last cruise we hired a cab in Juneau and saw everything. I also enjoyed Ketchican. Although the highlight for many in Skagway is the railway trip, I suggest taking a van trip up to Caracross in the Yukon, you will the same things that you do from the train, but gives some time in the Yukon to boot.
Momofthree, the waters in the inside passage are more like lakes than an ocean. You can generally see land on both sides of you while cruising north or south. However there is a small area where the inside passge is exposed to the open ocean. It always occurs at night, but if MIL is extremely sensitive, I would suggest the patch or some other remedy "just in case".
I took the northbound from Vancouver to Seward (Anchorage) in September and agree with most of the previous replies. We did have some rough water the first night and into the next morning. And again the last night sailing towards Seward. My mother was horizontal until we sorted out the Bonine-wristbands-ginger (there was a lineup at the little drugstore in Ketchikan!). I continued giving her the meds throughout the cruise and by the second/last night of rough (7 - 12 ft) seas, she was fine.
We really enjoyed Juneau and Skagway too - in fact Skagway is a place I need to visit again some day. Great people, wonderful restorations, and that train ride is not to be missed. We actually booked in town at the last minute, saved $60 over the ship rates, and had the fun of riding the local bus for the first leg. You actually cross the border into BC (at Fraser) then get off and meet the train for the trip back to port. It was absolutely worth doing, scenery like you'll probably never see again, terrific narrators. I really can't overdo it here.
The other lovely surprise was the train trip from Seward to Anchorage. Really gracious tour personnel, gorgeous train, and again, the most BREATHTAKING views. We were expecting it to be just an A to B kind of trip, get us to the airport but, total delight!!
Well, once I get going on the pleasures of Alaska, you can't shut me up but I'll force myself.
September '05 Veendam to Alaska
January '06 Volendam to S. Caribbean
May '06 Volendam to Alaska
July '06 Tahitian Princess Honolulu to Papeete
Most of the cruises out of Vancouver will take the protected inside waters, and a certain amount will do the same out of Seattle. Best to check the route map of whatever company you decide to cruise with. Just to say again you may want to do a 7 day trip rather than the one way ones that expose you to more open water.
As for the exposed waters off the North tip of Vancouver Island: The best solution would be to have the MIL on deck and looking at the horizon during these times, however it may not be practical. The ships are dependant on tides and particularly currents when transiting Seymour Narrows, once home to Ripple Rock, just North of Campbell River. Since the boats will pass when the current is slack, the actual time you are in open water to the North will vary. On our last trip during the return back we passed the narrows very early in the evening. This meant we were in the open water during daylight, then by bedtime were doing slow passage in the sheltered waters of Georgia Straight. End result was a very motionless final night.
I am sure your MIL will be just fine, wish ours would have joined us, but her seasickness is so bad she cannot even walk on a dock (seriously). Alaska is a must do, and absolutely fantastic if the sun is shining.