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Being Late for the Cruise

It is a good idea to allow plenty of time tocanoechasingship get to the ship on the day of departure. Sometimes one can be lulled into a false sense of security after many successful embarkations.

For instance, one might plan to arrive in Seattle at 1:30 when the ship is set to depart at 4:00. That seems like plenty of time. However, a plane delay of 45 minutes or a flat tire can put you in jeopardy of missing the ship.

“Oh, well,” you might say. “I will just fly or drive to the first port and join the ship there.” That does work to a certain extent; however, in the U.S. we have to deal with the Jones Act. This elderly law states that you can’t embark from a different U.S. port.  That’s why there are no cruises from Los Angeles to San Francisco. However, it’s OK to go roundtrip from either port.

For instance, to go to Alaska, you can go roundtrip from Seattle. But if you miss the ship, you have to miss two nights on board and meet the ship in Ketchikan. On the return, you have to get off the ship in Victoria, spend the night and then get a ferry back to Seattle to fly home.

So, missing the ship means that you miss three our of seven nights you have paid for and paying for accommodations and transportation that you didn’t expect. Travel insurance would cover this if you had purchased it. Otherwise, it’s kind of sad and expensive.

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Tours on the way to Alaska

Before you can actually go on your vacation to Alaska, you have to make it to the ship. All ships have “transfers” from the airport to the ship, but this involves meeting a representative in the baggage claim area, getting on a bus, waiting until the bus is filled with other passengers, then riding to the departure point. However, there are other options:

 

San Francisco: There are regular cruises throughout the summer that depart and return from San Francisco. For residents of  Northern California and Nevada, one might prevail on a friend or relative to keep your car at their house and drive you to the pier. Another way to get to the ship would be to take a local train and then a taxi.

 

Seattle: This is a delightful port. When you arrive at the airport, it is easy to find the shuttle departure area in the parking garage across from the ship. There are “shared ride” shuttles that depart promptly and don’t carry so many people as the buses. They are also quite reasonable in price. Another idea is to arrive early, rent a car, drive around this beautiful city and then drop the car off near the pier. Some of the rental car companies will give you a free ride to the ship; others are close enough to walk back after dropping off your luggage.

 

Vancouver: What a beautiful city! This is one case where taking a taxi to the ship makes sense because the sooner you get to the ship, the sooner you can start walking around the wharf area and enjoying the scenery.

 

Anchorage: The airport is a fair distance from the ship, so in this case it is a good idea to take the cruise ship shuttle bus. The drivers are very personable and will describe the points of interest along the way.

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Seein’ Alaska – Top Attractions

There are many ways to see Alaska. There are many paid tours to be taken. But one of the best ways to see the beauty around you is to go on self-guided walks.

Juneau – You can take the city bus out to Mendenhall Glacier. Walk out to the visitors’ center. There are informative talks and great viewing of the glacier. You will see many interesting displays regarding the area. Everything is free except the bus fare.

Skagway – Walk from the Cruise Ship Terminal to the visitor’s center near the train station. They have different free activities daily and you will want to check them out so you can plan you day. They also have an on-going video made up of old photos. It is well worth your time to see the video.

Victoria – The Royal BD Museum is in the center of town. The ship will provide a bus to town for a nominal fee; then you can walk to the museum from there. Another walk would take you to Craigdarroch Castle.  It’s a 40-45 minute walk from the Inner Harbour, up fort Street, along Antique Row and various interesting shops and sights. It’s uphill going to the castle, but an easy downhill going back to the shuttle stop.

Ketchikan – Ask locals for directions to the fish hatchery and the totem pole park.

Prince Rupert – Walk to the center of town and you will see eagles galore. At first you might not see them, but look up in the tall tress. Then go do to the waterfront where the fisherman are cleaning their catch. The eagles will be on the prowl for leftovers.

 

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Bookin’ Alaska – Timing

Bookin’ Alaska – Timing

Did you know that the average tax refund in 2011 was $3,129? That’s more than enough to buy a fabulous trip to Alaska.

Have you already earmarked how your refund for 2012 will be spent? – Probably it’s long gone. But this is a great time to start planning a wonderful Alaskan adventure for 2013. In fact, the timing of your booking is a most important part of the process.

If you were to book a cruise now for the summer of 2012, you would have your choice of type of cabin and location. The closer it gets to sailing time, the less choices you will have. For Alaska, it desirable to pick a cabin on the right side of the ship, so you can see the land as you cruise along the inside passage. It is also desirable to have a cabin in the middle of the ship (from front to back as well as from top to bottom). In case of rough seas, this will give you the smoothest ride, but it is also handy to be close to the activities, dining, and the purser’s office. If you are too far to the front or back, it will mean lots of extra walking on the huge ships of today.

Another reason to book early is because you have nothing to lose. If, for some reason, you need to cancel your cruise before final payment (usually about 90 days in advance), you will get a full refund. Also, if you book with Crusin’ Suzan (cruzinsuzan.@cs.com), you can make payments throughout the year, and then use that tax refund for the final payment and travel expenses.

Of course, the best reason to plan now for the summer of 2013 is that you will have all the more time to look forward to the fabulous experience of Alaska.

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Bookin’ Alaska – Bargains

Alaskan Cruise Whales TailThere are many ways to book your cruise to Alaska – and the best way of all is to get a screaming deal. How about only $599 per person for a 7 day cruise? How does a person manage such a thing. Some people would say that it’s less expensive than staying home

First, it’s best to choose a date that is out of the prime season range. Because of ice in the water the cruise ships cannot sail to Alaska from October to April. The high season for cruisin’ Alaska is June through August. So your best times for bargains would be the months of May and September. Shoulder season would be the first two weeks of June and the last week of August.

These dates are also good because it is less crowded. In general, schools are out for summer vacation between those same magic times – the second week of June through the third week of August. Therefore, families and education professionals must travel during those times.

There is a myth that the best weather is also during June,. July and August. But I have seen people sunbathing on deck as the glacier glide by in the months of May and September.

The beauty of Alaska is just as stunning in May as it is in July. True, you might run into some rain, but that is true for any day during the summer in this part of the world.

What are some of the hidden prices that affect what your cruise really costs?

  1.  The lowest rate is for the lowest category of cabin on the ship. That means it might be an interior cabin (with no window) on the lowest deck. An interior cabin is frustrating because you can’t see the scenery around you, and you can’t check the weather to see what to wear before venturing out of your cabin. However, your in-room TV will have a station that shows the view from the camera mounted on the front of the ship. Usually, you can tell what the weather is like from that. Worst case scenario: you bundle up for a cold, rainy day and find out it’s gorgeous. Then you have to trek back to the cabin to change. Best case scenario: always wear layers in Alaska and carry a backpack. Then you can stuff a few layers in the backpack and carry on.
  1. Most rates quoted do not include taxes and fees. Probably when you see $599 per person, you expect to pay $599 per person, but this is just the base rate. A typical add-on for taxes and fees would be about $131 per person – making the rate actually $730 each. This is still a great rate. The rule of thumb is that anything close to $100 a day is a true bargain.

If you are interested in bargains to Alaska (or any other destinations around the world) – . I will be glad to help you find the best value.

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