We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Stupid Question for the cruise Crowd

Norwood...
Level Contributor
1,269 posts
19 reviews
Save Topic
Stupid Question for the cruise Crowd

So my 60 something parents announced at Thanksgiving that they want to bring us all on a Cruise tour next summer. Our group would include, My parents, My brother, his wife and their 2 sons (16 and 13), my Sister her husband and their Son (10) and me and my husband and our 2 sons (6 and 4). As you can imagine we are all very excited and my Dad has started chatting with the travel agents about our options. So my stupid question...obviously not Alasks specific. If you book a normal room (not a suite) that says 2 twin beds that can be pushed together as a queen...Where do the other 2 people sleep since they allow 4 to a room? In my case of having 2 little kids I wouldn't want them in a seperate room for security reasons and in my Brother's case...his boys are taller than him. I am having a hard time picturing how 4 to a room works. PLEASE enlighten me. Once I get past that detail i'm sure I'll move onto all the glorious details of the region...Has anyone gone on a Holland America with little kids. My parents went HA themselves and loved it but if it isn't kid friendly than I'd like to gently stear them towards Royal. THANK YOU!

fti
MN
Destination Expert
for Alaska
Level Contributor
15,375 posts
28 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: Stupid Question for the cruise Crowd

Normally two beds come out of the wall and are above the main bed(s). Kind of like a "bunk" bed but not really since they are not attached to the lower beds.

If it were me, I would first look at itinerary then cruise line. Figure out if you want round trip or one way and what your priorities are. You mentioned "cruise tour" so I assume you are thinking one way cruise and time on land before/after.

Do you want more glaciers or more ports? Some lines cruise Glacier Bay, others Hubbard Glacier or Tracy Arm. Many visit Juneau, Ketchikan and Skagway, some visit Haines, Hoonah or Sitka.

Sounds like you will have 13 people in your group. Do consider splitting up for some of the shore excursions - with 13 people and such a varied age range I can imagine not everyone would be interested in the same things in every port.

Also, consider what you want to do on land - how much time you will have will help determine at least in part your itinerary. You might consider doing the land portion independently (i.e. not a "cruise tour from the cruise line). It would give you more flexibility and would be less expensive, but for that large of a group it could get a bit challenging logistically.

John

Norwood...
Level Contributor
1,269 posts
19 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: Stupid Question for the cruise Crowd

Thanks John, yes there will be 13 of us total. I "think" we want a 10 day Cruisetour (inc 7 day cruise) starting in Vancouver heading up. When my parents were there they fell in love with Denali, so that is a must see. We have no problem splitting up. My dad has disabilities and us "kids" are avid hikers. I picture one group of "fisherman, sightseeing" and another of "Kayak, Snowshoeing, Ice climbers" The 10, 6 and 4 year olds will want to pan for gold and see as many animals as possible. We see each other often enough that this isn't a reunion experiance, more an experiance the world experiance. My parents get real joy in being with their family and being able to provide and share with their 5 grandsons amazing memories. (They like thier kids too.) There are enough of us that no one should feel left out at any time regardless of the excursion.

fti
MN
Destination Expert
for Alaska
Level Contributor
15,375 posts
28 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: Stupid Question for the cruise Crowd

If your parents are looking at adopting a son, I am first in line:-) It sounds like it will be a neat experience.

With your time frame, I would think you really only have time for the cruise and Denali. If you go for a cruisetour, please understand exactly what you are purchasing with the cruisetour. You really need two nights at Denali National Park (not Talkeetna, not McKinley Princess Lodge, etc). Without two nights at Denali, you are really missing the whole purpose of going there - wildlife and hiking. And if on a cruisetour, I would ditch the Tundra Wilderness Tour and book a shuttle bus into Denali, especially with smaller kids and especially for those who like to hike.

And if you choose RCCL or HAL, you would be arriving into Seward which is a real highlight in Alaska. Perhaps get off the ship that day, see something of Seward (Kenai Fjords 6 hour boat tour is excellent, as is Exit Glacier) then head to Anchorage on the 6pm train then to Denali the next day. This is probably only possible with an independent tour after your cruise.

If you arrive into Whittier (Carnival or Princess), you can do a Prince William Sound cruise before heading to Anchorage then Denali.

John

Norwood...
Level Contributor
1,269 posts
19 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: Stupid Question for the cruise Crowd

Yes, sadly this is where we disappoint our parents. They REALLY want to go for 14 days to see it all but in our mid 30's to 40 its hard to leave our jobs for that long regarless of how amazing the experiance will be. We wil have to make the most of it. Thanks for the tips. My dad is a big fishing fanatic (mostly bass) but he is also a parapalegic (knees down) so fly fishing is out of the question. I'd love to suprise him with a special fishing excursion...maybe one that includes all the "men" in the group icluding the kids 4yrs plus (or not?) Any recommendations?

Seward,Alaska
Destination Expert
for Seward
Level Contributor
3,346 posts
51 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: Stupid Question for the cruise Crowd

You can surprise dad with a fishing trip out of Seward. A fishing/wildlife combo with Alaska Saltwater Lodge and you'd have the whole boat just for your group and what you want to see.

The train is a great way to get to Anc. Those needing to leave can fly out and the rest continue on towards Denali.

I suggest staying away from the cruise tours/agents and doing it on your own. You'll save a ton of $$$ and can plan what suites everyone. As for dad chatting with travel agents...tell him to make sure that they've been to Alaska. So often agents sell things that they haven't experinced themselves or they only know as much as what the book says.

You'll find tons of 1st hand knowledge here and the sister site... www.cruisecritic.com

I'm up for adoption too! :)

Michigan
Destination Expert
for Alaska
Level Contributor
3,071 posts
208 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: Stupid Question for the cruise Crowd

Seriously, a three day land tour is not going to give you much. I like the idea of stopping in Seward for at least the day and taking the train to Anchorage at night. Even better would be spending one night in Seward. The train really is a journey filled with breathtaking scenery. As already mentioned, those needing to fly home could do that after arrival in Anchorage and the rest could rent a car and head to Denali. If you don't have time to do land, you can do a round trip cruise and save some money. Air will be cheaper for a round trip. We loved HAL. I can't speak for the kids programs, but I have read of many who thought the programs were quite good.

If you end up with the 10 day tour, I am sure, you will still have a great trip. It is just that you won't see as much as you could on your own. YOu will find that forums like this are filled with people who love Alaska and want everyone to see as much of this beautiful state as possible. In the end, you will have to do what works for you and your group.

If you have not yet discovered the Alaska forum on cruise critic, here is the link. It can be another valuable resource for you:

boards.cruisecritic.com/forumdisplay.php?f=55

Manitoba, Canada
Level Contributor
6,894 posts
Save Reply
7. Re: Stupid Question for the cruise Crowd

Just to expand a bit on what has already been suggested...from what you said, looks like everyone can go for at least 10 days?

Day 1 to 7 - Holland America Line cruise, Vancouver to Seward.

Day 7 - disembark HAL about 9 a.m., take luggage to hotel (might take a couple of trips to get you all, but Seward is tiny and a taxi will cost about $5). Then 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Kenai Fjords wildlife cruise (spends some time near a calving glacier as well). Overnight Seward.

Day 8 - Half-day fishing charter for Dad and whoever else wants to go. The rest of you can go out to Exit Glacier (if you time it for 10 am or 2 pm, can take a free Ranger-guided hike) and/or Ididaride sled dog tour & dog cart ride. Walk along the beach if time. Meet up with the fishermen in the afternoon and all go to SeaLife Center (is wheelchair accessible). 6 pm train to Anchorage arriving 10:15 pm, extremely scenic. Overnight near railroad depot (Comfort Inn Ship Creek?)

Day 9 - 8:15 train to Denali, arrives 3:45 pm. Freshen up at hotel. Some possible activities (you can break into various groups): take a free shuttle from your hotel to Denali visitor center to see the film & displays and/or hike an entrance trail, go whitewater rafting or flightseeing, dinner theatre.

Day 10 - Shuttle into the park to see wildlife and hopefully Mt. McKinley (is usually shrouded in clouds). With shuttles, you can get off to hike or when the kids get antsy, and catch another shuttle along. There are varying distances you can choose with different shuttles, or you could all start out on either the Wonder Lake (11 hrs) or Eielson (8 hrs) shuttle bus and the ones who don't want to go the full distance can get off sooner and catch a different shuttle back to the entrance. Be aware you might have to wait a while for a bus with room for more than a couple of people, so be prepared to split up and meet up back at the hotel. Take binoculars fore EVERYONE, even if they're just cheap for the youngsters. Also take quiet video games and lots of batteries.

I don't know how patient your 4 & 6 year olds would be, but if an adult doesn't want to go into the park, perhaps that person could babysit? Be sure to take rain gear so that if they start complaining, you can get off the shuttle and not annoy the other passengers. There is a new visitor center at Eielson, so if you think they would be okay for 4 hours, you could get off there to explore, let them run around, have a picnic. There is someone at that stop who can coordinate a return shuttle for you (I don't mean for allthat might be asking too much! But certainly for a family of 4).

Day 11A – for those who can’t stay longer, bus ride back to Anchorage. Depending when their planes leave that afternoon or evening, they can take either the 8 a.m. or 2 pm bus, arriving Anchorage 1:30 pm and 7:30 pm respectively. This site will help you with the scheduling and reservations too if you want: www.alaskatravel.com/bus-lines/schedule.html , also a great site to check for availability of hotels on the dates you want. If they stay at Denali for the morning, maybe see the free Ranger sled dog demo at 10 am. or else do activities you didn’t have time for on day 9. Be sure to be at the airport 2 hours prior to take-off.

Day 11B – for those who can stay longer, perhaps another full day at Denali? I’d suggest booking a second shuttle trip in case you didn’t get to see much the day before—if you don’t need it, you can go just part way. But the farther you go in, the more chance to see wildlife, and also if you didn’t get to see McKinley, you might have more luck today. It is AWESOME. Do activities you didn’t have time for on day 9, see the free Ranger sled dog demo at 10, 2 or 4, maybe also ATV or horse-drawn wagon. Overnight Denali.

Day 12 – Morning- more activities in Denali. Take 3:55 pm train to Fairbanks, arrives 9 pm. Overnight Fairbanks.

Day 13 – I’d suggest renting a vehicle (or 2) either early this morning or late last night. A couple of you might have take a taxi out to the airport to get a rental after normal business hours, but the airport isn’t far. To me the convenience is worth it, but if you prefer, you can hire shuttles to take you to the various events. Anyway, suggested activities for Fairbanks: Riverboat Discovery, El Dorado Gold Mine tour (includes a bit of goldpanning at the end, and be sure to stop at the Pipeline & displays on the way there or back), University of Alaska Museum, Ice Museum, Pioneer Park (great for the kids to run around), Palace Theatre if you didn’t do the dinner theatre in Fairbanks, Chena Hot Springs, fly across the Arctic Circle, drive to Santa Claus House in nearby North Pole (be sure to mail postcards from there and guess what they will be postmarked?) Overnight Fairbanks.

Day 14 – more activities in Fairbanks. Be at airport 2 hrs. prior to your plane departing.

Hope this gives you some ideas.

Manitoba, Canada
Level Contributor
6,894 posts
Save Reply
8. Re: Stupid Question for the cruise Crowd

Hey!!! Part of my post above just disappeared. The first part should read:

Just to expand a bit on what has already been suggested...from what you said, looks like everyone can go for at least 10 days? Can we make that 11? Pretty please? One extra day will make a huge difference!

Take a look at this sample itinerary:

(etc)

TA doesn't love me. *sniff*

Manitoba, Canada
Level Contributor
6,894 posts
Save Reply
9. Re: Stupid Question for the cruise Crowd

Oooo, just saw Glacierlady's idea. I like that better! And I forgot you mentioned ice climbing and kayaking. So....how does this sound for your time in Seward:

Day 7 - disembark HAL about 9 a.m., take luggage to hotel (might take a couple of trips to get you all, but Seward is tiny and a taxi will cost about $5). Likely your rooms won’t be ready, but you can store your luggage in the office. Activities: hire a taxi and walk to the face of Exit Glacier (though Dad won’t be able to go all the way, it’s wheelchair accessible only as far as the small Interpretive Center (Map: www.kenai.fjords.national-park.com/map.htm ). If you time your visit for 10, 2 or 4, you can go on a free Ranger-guided walk to the glacier. For the more adventurous, there is ice hiking and/or climbing with Exit Glacier guides, or some of you might want to do part of the Harding Icefield hike (a fairly challenging hike up the mountain beside the glacier, full hike is 7+ hrs). Others can do the Ididaride sled dog tour & dog cart ride, or go kayaking (beginners welcome), visit the little museum, or just walk along the beach (that would be fun for the little ones). And of course there is SeaLife Center—the little ones will love it: there’s a room just for them where they can actually touch various sea creatures (well, adults can too, it’s neat!) and it is wheelchair accessible. Overnight Seward.

Day 8 – Charter a boat with Saltwater Lodge so you can all enjoy the fishing and wildlife together! However, if some would rather not be along for the fishing, they can instead take the 8 am to 2 pm Kenai Fjords wildlife cruise which also spends time at a calving glacier. Then 6 pm train to Anchorage arriving 10:15 pm, extremely scenic. Overnight near railroad depot (Comfort Inn Ship Creek?)

(etc.)

Greater Sydney...
Level Contributor
16,133 posts
78 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: Stupid Question for the cruise Crowd

<<TA doesn't love me. *sniff*>>

The rest of us do, MM, so don't worry. :)

Chic, now all the hard parts of your questions have been answered, I will have a go at the easy bit. For cabin layout go to the HAL website and they used to have both room layouts and virtual cabin tours for the various classes of accommodation. Many of their ships are similar classes, so it would be easier if you had an idea of which ship you might book on. Other lines would probably have a similar features.

We cruised HAL last June on a Vancouver round trip and could not praise the line more highly for standards of service, staff, food etc. I did not mention cabins because I am biased in that we were absolutely spoilt rotten having been upgraded from a verandah stateroom to a luxury verandah stateroom on the Ryndam.

I also totally agree about staying away from ship booked tours in ports of call. Work out what each group of you would like to do then come back and there are plenty of great posters, like those above, who can give assistance, and maybe even myself as well.

Happy planning.