After looking over a variety of possible itineraries with several different cruise lines, we finally settled on Princess's "Heart of Alaska" 12-Day Cruisetour. The choice was difficult as many of the cruise lines offer very similar tours, and most have a wide variety of different packages. Even on the specific cruisetour packages, not all sailings follow the same routes. For example, not all cruises get to visit the spectacular Glacier Bay (the National Park Service restricts the large ships to just two a day). As it happens, the cruise we selected had a bonus port of call at Haines - this wasn't even listed in the brochure itinerary.
Our criteria for selecting the cruise included price and minimal time spent in motor coaches (busses). Glacier Bay, College Fjord, and Denali were places we had on our must see list. We also decided to sail in May. Though we knew this could be the time when we were most likely to encounter bad weather, it had several advantages:
- The least costly sailings are early and late in the season.
- The longest days are those nearest to the beginning of summer.
- The best weather in Glacier Bay occurs in May and June.
- Sailing prior to Memorial Day means smaller crowds in the various ports.
- Fairbanks can get HOT during the summer months.
- Mosquitoes were less likely to be a major problem during May than in June or July.
We decided on Princess because they offer the best selection of different routes, decent pricing, and a minimum of time spent aboard busses. Mom also liked the appearance of their ships in the brochures.
Our itinerary ended up looking like this:
- May 17 1999: Arrive Vancouver, BC airport. We are met at the airport by Princess representatives, and bussed directly to the ship. We set sail later that evening.
- May 18: Sailing the British Columbia portion of the Inside Passage.
- May 19: Port of Call: Ketchikan, Alaska
- May 20: Port of Call: Juneau
- May 21: Port of Call: Skagway in the morning and early afternoon, then an evening port of call at Haines.
- May 22: Sailing Glacier Bay, Icy Strait, and then heading out into the Gulf of Alaska
- May 23: Sailing Gulf of Alaska, Prince William Sound, and College Fjord.
- May 24: Disembark at Seward, bus to Anchorage, then a charter flight to Fairbanks, with an afternoon ride aboard the Riverboat Discovery III.
- May 25: Leave Fairbanks aboard Princess's "Midnight Sun Express" rail cars for Denali. Arrive Denali early afternoon, then take a wilderness tour into Denali Park.
- May 26: Board the Midnight Sun Express for Anchorage, arriving in the late evening.
- May 27: Anchorage city tour.
- May 28: Flights back home
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- Cruise Lines