Cruising North to the 49th

I know it has been a while since I last posted (really only when we are going on our yearly vacation) but it is time to talk. This year Heidi and I are off on one of those “Bucket List” adventures. This year we are taking an Alaska Cruise. But a lot went into this decision so I figured a good blog post about some of those decisions would be a good idea.

Going on an Alaska cruise is something that neither Heidi or I thought we would ever do. You have me, the man who has a fear of boats on the ocean. Then you have Heidi who hates the thought of a cruise ship and its big bad, waste of things like the environment and food waste etc etc. Well that changed a couple of years ago when a friend suggested we head up to Vancouver on one of the repositioning cruises for the night and see how it goes. So that is what we did. We had a blast and loved every minute. I think we ended up spoiling ourselves on this cruise as we took one of the larger rooms and then decided we couldn’t do anything smaller for a week, so that meant it was not going to be a cheap trip to Alaska,

The next part of the trip was selecting which Alaska cruise to take. This is the real problem because there are hundreds of options. First you have to decide are you going to do a one way or a round trip cruise? Round trip out of Seattle or Vancouver? One Way Northbound or Southbound? Then which cruise company? Small ship, Large Ship? Luxury or Budget? The options are just confusing. In the end we decided on a round trip cruise (because we didn’t necessarily need to go all the way to Anchorage). We chose to go out of Vancouver for our cruise rather than out of Seattle because it would not require a token stop in Victoria B.C. Those stops are just for a few hours to get around some US laws. Not worth it! For cruise line we went with Holland America for a few reasons I will get into below.

So now that we had our idea of what we wanted to do, figuring out specifics took some time. A lot of back and forth between me and Heidi going over a lot of items. Choosing which cruise line is one thing. Picking the itinerary and the ship itself is another! You have to decide do you want a new more modern ship that might be bigger, or an older ship that might be smaller. Bigger ship, more people. The bigger ship being more modern means better and more facilities onboard. Older ships would mean less people but also not as many or new facilities. We found our perfect match in this itinerary with Holland America. So there are a few reasons we picked this one:
1. The cruise visited Glacier Bay something we had been told on numerous occasions we needed to visit.
2. The ship was the Nieuw Amsterdam. While not the newest ship in the fleet, it was at the time we booked, the 2nd newest (now the 3rd). It was also very similar to the one we took on the repositioning.
3. The itinerary departed from Vancouver on a weekend which meant better timing for Heidi’s work (no matter what I chose it was going to be difficult thanks to work).
4. Holland America although normally catering to old people, attracts a very wide range of people to Alaska but the vibe felt fine to us on our overnight.

So with the cruise chosen and the date set (based on price and our schedules) we had it all sorted. We shopped around the different agencies vs direct to see who gave us the best deal. Why would we do this? Well sometimes Travel Agents get extra benefits for the cruise vs booking direct. Sure there are specials including things like drink packages or gratuities when you book direct, but travel agents can get those too. What extras you can get are things like beverage cards, extra dining packages or even just cruise credit. We went with AAA because the extras were good value and we know the agent. So everything is booked and now it is time to wait and occasionally check on price.

Glad we did that because one weekend we noticed that the price dropped considerably on our cruise, but what we noticed was that for a small extra payment we could go up to a larger room category. What room is that? Well we could get an Aft Wrap Suite. A room at the back of the ship that has a balcony that wraps around and you can see two sides of the ship. This would come in handy with so much scenery in Alaska. It ended up only $18pp more than when we booked so now we were truly set for an amazing journey to Alaska, A true once in a lifetime.

Getting to and from Vancouver was fairly easy. We booked the train up on Amtrak and rented a car (thanks to a free day) on the way back. Hotel was handled through work for a few days of free accomodation at a hotel that we wouldn’t normally be able to afford (not that Vancouver is easy to afford on a good day). It was all working out awesomely. I will post more about the hotels etc and the other bits and pieces during each piece of the trip. But suffice it to say, this will be a true trip of a lifetime.