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I like the "shoulder" season as the prices are cheaper.  I've sailed late May and early/mid-June and had great experiences and great pricing both times.

 

Which side really depends on the itinerary.  Is it from Vancouver, Seattle, or San Francisco?  Is it a one-way or round-trip?  If it is a Roundtrip from Vancouver, then this is a non-issue; other itineraries, though, might make a difference.

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Ahoy Mateys...

We sailed Alaska the last week of August, and the first week in September.  Our average temps were a damp misty 55 degrees.  The ports seem to be in the smokey clouds.  We did have one sunny day of 70 degrees.  

It was the end of the season for the locals so there were  a lot of sales... 

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I just returned from the Alaska cruise on Jewel of the Seas which did the round trip from Seattle. We had an ocean view cabin on the starboard side and it was great. Being on Deck 3, we were close to the water, which was great when watching for whales (which we saw several times.) The starboard side keeps the land on your side on the first half of the trip.

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An Alaskan cruise is on my "someday...." list. One of the things that keeps it away from me is the airfare. Is an Alaskan cruise an instance when booking air fare through Royal Caribbean is better than striking out on your own?

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We flew on miles, so I'm not sure how it compares. We also flew into Vancouver (even though Jewel cruises out of Seattle.) We took the Amtrak Cascade from Vancouver to Seattle and loved it. The train goes right down the coast and offers some nice views. Then we flew home from Seattle/Tacoma. So, flying to Vancouver might be worth comparing if you can save enough to cover the train ticket!

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Part of the draw of the Seattle cruises is that the airfare is much cheaper.  Usually have the cost when I've booked airfare from San Diego.  Another option for Vancouver cruises, is to fly into Seattle and then take a bus to Vancouver or the train.  Of course, this makes it a bit more difficult.

 

Another option, Mark, is to consider driving to Montréal.  Domestic flights are often less expensive than international flights.  We did this with a cruise from Montréal to Boston.  The airfare to Montréal was prohibitive, so we flex into Boston, spent a few days, and then did a one-way rental car to Montréal.  We were able to spend several days in both cities before our cruise and greatly reduced the air costs by about $1,000 total.

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We are going on the alaskan cruise in August and staying in a 2 Bedroom Suite with a Balcony on the Jewel. The Suite is in the back on the corner so we get views of the back and corner. Didn't realize there was a best side. Hopefully we are on the best side?

 

What are the best excursions? They all look very expensive.

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We were on the starboard side of Jewel, which would be my pick if we cruised again. We could see the shore for much of the north bound trip before we got to the inside passage. Once in Alaska, there is shore on both sides. Of course, on the way back, your away from the shore, but by this point in the cruise, we weren't looking out as much.

 

As far as excursions, they are really expensive.

 

In Juneau, we just got off the ship and went to the tramway. They have a special where you get the tram ticket and a shuttle bus to Mendenhall Glacier. We did that and enjoyed both.

 

In Skagway, we didn't take the train! Instead, we booked a combination of two tours that we booked through Frontier Excursions. In the morning, we took the White Pass Summit & City tour which took us all the way to the Yukon (parallel to the train) stopping for pictures. It was a small bus, but our group of four were the only ones on the tour! In the afternoon, we took the Chilkoot Trail Hike and Float through their partner, Skagway Float Tours. Again, it was just our group, although Sam, our Guide, said 10 was the maximum for this trip. The hike was beautiful and the raft was relaxing! Sam did all the work! It really felt like we were in the wilderness of Alaska!

 

When we booked the two tours as a Combo, it was $115. This is $5 cheaper than the train and I feel like we really experienced Alaska instead of just seeing it. I was nervous since I had never booked an excursion outside the cruise line, but we had plenty of time since Jewel left Skagway late.

 

In Victoria, research it ahead of time. We decided to just go and see it, but that didn't work out too well. There's some sort of contract limiting who can be at the port. So we ended up having to by a bus shuttle ticket to downtown then figure out what to do from there. We ended up walking a lot!

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One more recommendation for Alaska cruisers... I was given The Alaska Cruise Handbook by Joe Upton. The book was good, but I really liked the included map. It showed details about the different places along the journey. I would get the latitude and longitude from the television then follow where we are on the map. (The map on TV is much too far to see anything!) the map shows things like "Humpback whales are often seen here." And then we saw whales!

 

It was great to have!

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Below is the link to the videos from The Alaska Cruise Handbook by Joe Upton on what to look for on the Alaskan cruise.

 

That cruise is one of the BEST of all the cruises. And I do not like cold weather, ha.

 

http://www.alaskacruisehandbook.com/videopage.html

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