Picking the Right Product
Alaska cruise options have grown considerably in the last few years and there are even more products that are set to be introduced or come back to Alaska over the next few years. Your options are robust and very different. Someone traveling on Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas is going to get a vastly different experience from someone on Oceania’s Regatta, who in turn would get a very different experience that someone cruising on an UnCruise Expedition vessel. There is a perfect fit for everyone and my most critical job as a Master Cruise Counselor is to make sure that you get on the right one. Here is a little insight into Alaska product offerings.
Large Mainstream Ships
The larger cruise ships are the ones that have the most amenities on board when it comes to dining, activities and entertainment. These cruise options are actually perfect for a wide range of travelers and can definitely meet the needs of multi-generational family groups. With accomodations ranging from 4,252 sq ft Garden Villas on Norwegian, to the inside cabins that they all offer, there are diverse choices available to you. If you want to have a ton of options of things to do and eat throughout the day and night, one of these choices may be perfect for you.
Popular Alaska Ships: Radiance of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas
Highlights: Royal Caribbean’s tagline is Get Out There and if you are bored on a Royal Caribbean ship, its your own fault. There is a ton to do from strolling the city street like Royal Promenade, practice your ice skating or take in an indoor ice-skating performance, climb the rock wall or even surf on the back of the ship. With inside cabins, to huge suites to large family ocean-view cabins that can host up to 6 people, these ships have a room for everyone.
Popular Alaska Ships: Norwegian Jewel, Norwegian Pearl, Norwegian Bliss
Ship Highlights: Norwegian bills itself as hip and trendy. They encourage you do be different and swim upstream with their freestyle dining. With nearly 20 restaurants, they offer choice. They also do a great job with entertainment and have activities such as rock climbing walls. With the BRAND NEW Norwegian Bliss coming in 2018 to Alaska, Norwegian will take over from Royal Caribbean having the biggest, newest and most technologically advanced ship to ever sail in Alaska.
Popular Alaska Ships: Island Princess, Ruby Princess, Emerald Princess, Star Princess, Coral Princess
Ship Highlights: Princess’s large ships give you a wonderful classic cruise feel. Their ships are built for longer cruising so you find more amenities that will make you comfortable such as laundry facilities, all rooms have walk in closets and even their smaller rooms aren’t tiny. Princess has been in Alaska for nearly 50 years and has a robust assortment of cruise options and land tours to go along with them. They built their own cruise port in Whittier and you can catch one of their “Direct to Wilderness” trains a few hundred feet from your ship.
Smaller and Mid-Size Premium Ships
Popular Alaska Ships: Eurodam, Oosterdam, Amsterdam, Noordam, Voldendam, Nieuw Amsterdam, Zaandam, Westerdam
Ship Highlights: Holland is a Panoramic elevators offer beautiful views outside, state of the art kitchen, great dining options. The ship retains much of the classic cruise feel with contemporary renovations. Items such as the BB King Blues Bar and updated dining make Holland ships extremely popular.
Popular Alaska Ships: Solstice, Millennium, Infinity
Ship Highlights: Celebrity Solstice and the “Solstice-ized” Millennium class ships that sail to Alaska have great look and feel to them. The updated ships have great feel and flow to them. Celebrity’s enrichment program “Celebrity Life” has great activities cruisers of all ages. The Aqua Class staterooms over not only upgrades to the cabin but also access to some exclusive areas that are worth every penny.
Popular Alaska Ships: Regatta
Ship Highlights: Oceania prides itself as the best culinary experience on the seas and from my experience, I would agree. One my trip up to Alaska in 2016 on the Regatta, I was very impressed with the Oceania product and its attention to detail. This ship that holds slightly under 700 passengers translates into no lines and great service. The decor on the ship was very plush and had all the trimmings of a luxury line but the dress code was “country club casual” which is one of the most asked about aspects of higher end cruising we receive.
Popular Alaska Ship: Silver Shadow
Ship Highlights: What we loved about Oceania Regatta (great dining and fewer passengers aboard) is magnified on the Silver Shadow. The ship is also an all suite ship which means the selection of of cabins starts at a Vista Suite then goes to the Grand Suites. The suites are larger than most but could use some renovation and the entertainment is, according to our clients, not the greatest. The service and food, however, are definite hits.
Popular Alaska Ships: Serenity, Symphony
Ship Highlights: One of the most beloved cruise lines in the Ultra Luxury space is Crystal and for good reason. Great food, service, and ships have Crystal cruisers being very loyal to the brand. Beyond the normal boxes to check off for a luxury cruise line, Crystal always gets remarks for great enrichment programs.
Regent Seven Seas
Popular Alaska Ships: Mariner, Navigator
Ship Highlights: Regent has a very inclusive (drinks, tips, most excursions, and even airfare) pricing model and prides itself being the most inclusive experience at sea. This means you would not have to worry about pulling out the wallet or purse to pay for anything once you are on the ship.
Types of Cabins Available Per Ship
Inside – Inside cabins are the least requested type in Alaska and for good reason. Sitting on a balcony enjoying a hot cocoa or coffee while watching glaciers is an amazing experience. Inside cabins are perfect for that first trip to Alaska when the budget trumps all else. That said, with nearly 24 hours of sunlight in the summer months, this room will get completely dark for you to sleep.
Oceanview – The Oceanview room is for someone who needs natural sunlight, but isn’t concerned with private outdoor space.
Balcony – This is by far the most requested room type in Alaska and for good reason. Having a balcony to take in the coastline and breeze is something that people enjoy the most about Alaska cruises.
Suite – Suites vary greatly in size. Junior Suites all the way up to the named highest end suites all have different amenities and access. Those traveling with children, a suite might be a great option.
Location of Cabin
Choosing a cabin on the port (left) or starboard (right) side might seem important but on Inside Passage (round trip) cruises, you will get to see land either on either the first half or second half of the cruise. Also when cruising by important areas, like the Hubbard Glacier, cruise ships will make sure to cruise in, circle around, then cruise past them in a way that both sides of the ship will be able to view.