Would like to know what to expect on this "Voyage of the Glaciers" 7-day south bound cruise on Island Princess. Also having Princess Cruiseline package this with airfare. I understand you aren't told what the flight schedule will be til 45 days or so before you are to take off. How does that work out? We are scheduled for cruise date August 28, '06
A note about the airfare. It really depends in large part from where you are flying. Here on the east coast, I find it a lot easier to go with the cruise line's air and transfers when doing an Alaska cruise. You could always do a comparison from your city, and see how much it would cost to arrange your own airfare to the ship's starting point, and home from the disembarkation point. If there's a small difference, I'd go with the cruise line's air arrangements.
It's true that you don't find out your exact air arrangements until after final payment is made. This means you could be making more than one stop, or have a very early departure, or whatever. One way around this is to pay more money (maybe $50-$75 per person) and request "custom air" arrangements. That means you request specific flight(s) to and from the cruise, and the cruise line tries to arrange those flights for you. This works well if there are non-stops from your city, or if you and your travel agent identify flights that are at times most convenient for you. The cruise line will then tell you whether or not they can arrange those flights for you, and whether it will cost any additional fare (in addition to the Custom Air fee you'll pay). Generally, if they can't get those flights they will suggest other flights. If you don't like the suggested flights, you don't have to take them and you won't pay the Custom Air fee.
Discuss this with your travel agent and see if it's something you want to take advantage of, or if you're willing to go with the cruise line's air, or if it makes sense to make air arrangements on your own.
Sandy: Thanks very much for you thoughts on the airline flights arranged by the cruise line...in this case; Princess. We are flying from a smaller departure city Columbia, SC and couldn't fly direct..one-stop..in any case. Wish we could. Guess we will just have to take "pot luck". My good wife and I don't mind the early flight as much as getting in at some ungodly hour.....we'll see huh? Jim
Sandy...and others who are in-the-know about Island Princess cruises. Since we're now booked for Aug. 28 southbound Whittier to Vancouver....I'm beginning to research this thing of getting from Anchorage (where the plane will arrive)to the port of departure at Whittier. I'm told that is a 2 hour haul-out on a "motorcoach" (known to me as a BUS)to just get to the ship. How does that work...meaning from the plane to a bus and then on down to the port of Whittier?? My understanding is that it is far less of a hassle from ship to the plane in Vancouver....please enlighten me....obviously we're new to this Alaska cruising bit. Thanks for YOUR views on this....I'm relying on Princess for these transfers by way of their package arrangement. Hoping I did the right thing....
Jim, as you probably know, Alaska cruises come in three different types: 1) round trip from Vancouver or Seattle; 2) northbound from Vancouver or Seattle to a northern point such as Anchorage; and 3) southbound from a northern point to Vancouver or Seattle.
From Anchorage, it's a trip to whatever point the ship actually leaves from. The Alaska cruise group I escorted flew into Anchorage a day prior, and then took the "motorcoach" 3-hour ride to Seward, our port of embarkation. On the way, we stopped at Portage Glacier where everyone boarded a boat and took the ride close to the glacier, while the naturist gave us a running commentary on glaciers in general, this one in particular, and the geology of Alaska. Then we went back on the bus to finish our journey. The whole thing was rather enjoyable. I don't know offhand if your bus will stop anywhere along the way as I have not done a Princess cruise in Alaska.
The southbound itineraries are particularly conducive to doing an inland Alaska tour prior to the cruise. Northbound passengers can do the inland tour after the cruise. Since you're flying to Anchorage from the east coast, I would absolutely recommend that you fly in a day or two early, so that you're not completely blitzed the first couple of days on the cruise from travel time and time zone changes. Anchorage was a nice place to spend an extra day. There is an interesting museum there, a shopping mall with lots of stores selling fleece (!) and Alaskan crafts, and lots of places to eat great salmon.
Similarly, if you've never been to Vancouver, you may also want to think about staying there the day you get in, and leaving for home the next day. Vancouver is a gorgeous city with lots to see, and a great city to walk in. Time and finances permitting, I'd look into an extra day at the start and end of your Alaska cruise. Especially living in SC, you may not be on the west coast of Canada or in Anchorage that many times in the next couple of years!
If you fly into Anchorage the day of departure, you're right that you'll be met at the airport by a Princess rep, who will escort you to the bus heading to the port. If you check a map, you'll see that you're right that Anchorage is much further from the port than Vancouver is from the airport! From the ship terminal in Vancouver to the airport will take you about 25 minutes.
SANDY: I can't thenk you enough for your thoughtful reply to my inquiry about the southbound cruise (Whittier to Vancouver) on Princess. I'd love to do as you suggest visiting in either end of the cruise...especially into Vancouver. Another friend who travels almost constantly said Vancouver is something special...and
Voctoria too. Thank you again. This chat line sure can be helpful, huh? Jim