14 Alaska Cruise Tips And Money-Saving Tricks

14 Alaska Cruise Tips And Money-Saving Tricks
Alaska cruises are one of this year’s most popular vacations. The Last Frontier is filled with stunning scenery, incredible wildlife and amazing adventures. Favorite Alaska cruise experiences include viewing massive glaciers and snow-covered mountains, spotting humpback whales and bears, fishing for halibut and salmon, dining on delicious seafood, and so much more.

Here are 14 great suggestions and money-saving tips to help you get the most out of your Alaska cruise experience:

1. Set your Alaska cruise goals and budget upfront. Think about the kinds of experiences you want to enjoy in Alaska, who’s coming with you, and your budget for the trip. These factors will have a major impact in choosing the best cruise line and ship for your Alaska cruise. Larger cruise ships offer significantly more attractions and amenities including a wide variety of entertainment, dining options, indoor pools, and extensive programs for children and families. On the other hand, small ship Alaska cruise itineraries allow vacationers to explore some of Alaska’s most remote destinations, often visiting places that large ships can’t reach.

2. Pick the right Alaska cruise ship and itinerary. When choosing the best ship for your Alaska cruise, it’s important to understand the ship and its amenities, the types of guests it attracts, and the Alaska itinerary on which you’ll be sailing. Some cruise ships sailing in Alaska feature a wide variety of attractions and amenities including multi-level race tracks, indoor pools, huge observation lounges, scores of specialty restaurants, Broadway-style entertainment and more. Other cruise ships place more of their focus on culinary excellence and destination-focused enrichment activities. Alaska cruise itineraries also vary significantly, and it’s key to choose the right option for your group.

3. Talk with an experienced cruise travel advisor. Top-notch cruise travel agents can help vacationers select the right Alaska cruise experience, save money, and monitor cruise line sales after booking to obtain potential upgrades and more. A great travel advisor will assist you in selecting the best ship and Alaska cruise itinerary for your needs and interests. Sharing your cruise goals and budget with your travel advisor will help the process go smoothly.

4. Consider an Alaska cruise and land tour. If you’re interested in seeing more of Alaska’s magnificent wilderness, consider Alaska cruise itineraries offering pre- or post-cruise land tours to Denali National Park. These Alaska cruise and land tours allow guests to experience more of Alaska and explore some of the state’s most beautiful places.

5. Choose the right time to cruise. Alaska cruises tend to be cheapest during the shoulder months of April/May and September. Flights also tend to be less expensive and Alaska’s ports are often less crowded during these times as well. The weather during these shoulder months can be a somewhat unpredictable, however. Late June and July are the most expensive times for Alaska travel, as they can offer some of the best chances for wildlife sightings. Take time to research Alaska’s weather patterns, review the all the options and talk with your travel advisor to choose the best cruise for your interests.

6. Look for group rates. Many cruise lines offer significant discounts for group bookings, which can involve as few as five to eight staterooms. If you’re traveling with family and friends, see what deals are available. A good cruise travel advisor can help.

7. Check airfares carefully. Alaska cruise flights can be expensive, so price out air travel options to and from popular cruise departure ports to see what works best for you before choosing your voyage. Your travel advisor can help. If you have frequent flyer miles, this might be a good time to use them. Make sure to book flights as early as possible for the best availability and schedules. If anyone in your group is prone to seasickness, take that into account when booking your Alaska cruise itinerary. Alaska cruises navigating the Gulf of Alaska and the unprotected waters from Seattle can encounter rough seas. An Inside Passage cruise from Vancouver may be the best choice for those who get seasick easily. If Vancouver airfares are more expensive, flying to Seattle and taking the bus or train might save money.

8. Plan to arrive a day before your cruise. Flights are often delayed due to severe weather, mechanical problems, and flight crew issues. If you will be flying to your Alaska cruise embarkation port, it’s important to fly in at least one day before your voyage sets sail. A delayed or canceled flight could cause you to miss most or all of your Alaska cruise.

9. Book a veranda stateroom. While splurging for a balcony stateroom may not seem wise for some other cruise itineraries, it’s worth it on an Alaska cruise. These sailings include significant blocks of time devoted to scenic cruising and viewing wonders like spectacular snow-capped mountain vistas, calving glaciers and narrow fjords filled with wildlife. Seeing these from the privacy and comfort of your own stateroom balcony will be much appreciated.

10. Budget plenty of money for shore excursions and book early. Shore excursions in Alaska are where lifelong memories are often made. Allocate a significant portion of your budget for shore excursions and reserve them before boarding your ship. Booking tours independently will save money. There are significant pros and cons for booking through the ship or on your own, but you'll be able to pack more into your cruise budget with independent tours. A good travel advisor can help. Make sure to book your shore excursions well in advance, since popular tours can sell out quickly.

11. Seek out shore excursion deals in advance. If there are two or more of you traveling together, consider purchasing the Alaska TourSaver. This coupon package provides special offers and 2-for-1 deals on flights and many of Alaska's top tours, hotels, car rentals and attractions. It's important to book these tours early. Many tour operators only allow a limited number of TourSaver coupons to be used per day. In addition, check the Roll Call boards on Cruise Critic and sign up for your ship's sailing. This is a good way to meet others traveling on your ship and organize money-saving group tours in advance.

12. Pack wisely. Alaska cruises require careful packing. Temperatures and weather patterns can change dramatically in the space of a few hours, so it’s important to pack plenty of layers and fleece for warmth. These layers can be taken on and off as needed on shore excursions. Mosquitoes and other insects can be common in Alaska, so bring along insect repellent. No matter what the weather forecasts say, plan for rain and pack accordingly with rain jackets, umbrellas, waterproof shoes and a waterproof pouch for cameras and electronics. Don’t forget comfortable walking shoes, shorts and a bathing suit, too.

13. Bring the right cameras, binoculars, and gear. Alaska cruises are filled with outstanding photo opportunities, so you’ll want to have the right gear. Consider bringing multiple cameras including a DSLR with a zoom lens to capture great photos of whales breaching, glaciers calving and other action shots. Good binoculars and a small camera with an excellent zoom lens are invaluable on shore excursions as well. Make sure to pack plenty of camera digital image storage cards, batteries, and anything that you need to capture your Alaska cruise vacation memories. In addition, it’s wise to bring along a roll-top dry bag to protect your cameras on small boat excursions or in case of rain.

14. Purchase travel insurance. Travel insurance is more critical than ever, and it’s particularly important for an Alaska cruise. Trip insurance can reimburse travelers for covered losses such as unexpected illnesses, trip cancellations, flight delays, medical expenses, and much more. Travel insurance can protect your Alaska cruise vacation investment, providing peace of mind.

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