How to find the cheapest cruise to Alaska: Part 1
I’ve never taken a cruise before, and never would have considered vacationing in one*, had it not been for my parents-in-law who longed to set sail on a huge cruise for Alaska. After several years of hearing them verbalize their bucket list, my husband and I concurred. We researched and found a reasonably-priced 7-day cruise from Seattle to Alaska via the Norwegian Pearl.
*The idea of a cruise sounds way too relaxing - I was under the impression that I’d be bored out of my mind holed up in a big ship and surrounded by entertainment 24/7. I like to work even while on vacation, thus cycling across America at the tune of 100 miles a day is more so my cup of tea, which was exactly what I did in 2014.
Several pro tips you must take note of which would save you substantial time and money:
First, look up the various companies that offer cruises to Alaska. Off the top of my head, they include: Alaska Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Princess, Carnival, Oceania, and Celebrity Cruises.
Next, compare the offerings of each cruise company - decide on your destination, departure, duration and budget.
Destination: What is your primary agenda for visiting Alaska? Do you want to see the glaciers? The Yukon wilderness and railroad? The largest city in Alaska, i.e. Anchorage? Or the tallest mountain in the United States and one of the most remote wilderness, Denali? Different cruises offer different highlights. For us, we chose to see the receding and disappearing glaciers.
Departure: Where would you like to board the cruise from? Different cruises offer departure from different Northwest cities including San Francisco, California; Seattle, Washington; Seward, Alaska; or Vancouver, Canada. We chose Seattle, even though we live in San Francisco, as none of us have been to Seattle. Also, if we had boarded the cruise from San Francisco, that’s an extra 2 days of sailing from San Francisco to Seattle - we’d much rather fly from San Francisco to Seattle as it takes only 1.5 hours.
Duration: How many days would you like onboard? Typical cruises to Alaska range from 7 to 14 days. We chose the shortest possible, i.e. 7 days (phew!).
Budget: How much would you like to spend per person? A typical cruise package starts from USD$749 and goes up to $1249 per person (for interior-facing rooms with no windows or balcony). If you want a room with a balcony view or huge suites, the cost would be doubled and tripled. We took the advice of a friend who had been on the cruise before, who told us that for the most part, you’d be out and about on the ship and not in your room, so what’s the point of having a room with a balcony view? I’m so glad we listened to him and settled for an interior room for under $700 per person.
Wait a minute… how did we secure a 7-day cruise to Alaska for under $700 per person when most of the packages cost between $749 and $1249? The key is to call the cruise company.
It was actually by accident that I called the cruise company. You see, being the savvy tech person that I am, I’m used to making reservations for trips, hotels, flights and cars online. I don’t usually call to make enquiries. This time however, I made a call to the Norwegian Cruise Line because I had a question. You see, my meticulous parents-in-law noticed a fine print below the cruise prices indicating that the price mentioned was applicable only to US and Canadian citizens. None of us being either citizens, I had to call to clarify that should we make our reservations online, we would all be able to board the ship come sail day and not be told otherwise.
So I called 1-866-234-7350 and was greeted by a hyper friendly girl by the name of Desiree. She’s what I later learned to be a cruise consultant, i.e. she’s the first point of contact when you call the Norwegian Cruise Line and she’s well versed with the various tour packages that the cruise line offers.
I told her my criteria. I wanted a 7-day cruise to Alaska, I wanted to see the glaciers, I would depart from Seattle, and I wanted the cheapest possible price.
Let me see what I can do for you, she replied sweetly.
And so I waited while she studied her computer screen.
Ah, I found a really good package for you, she said after several seconds.
I got really excited. Yes?...
You want a room that sleeps four people, right?
Yes. I was about to burst on the inside.
Ok, I got a room for four, the first two persons pay USD$879 each, and the third and fourth person travel for free.
I gasped. What about taxes and other hidden costs? I couldn’t believe a deal could be this good.
To be continued in the next post...
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