Those of you that have taken a cruise to Alaska where did you leave from on the ship

I saw on tv a few nights ago a really good deal for a cruise to Alaska through the Princess Cruise Lines, told my husband about it and he said yeah the price is great but the air fare would probably cost you an arm and a leg depending on where it leaves from. Now I don't know all the details about the cruise and what it offered for the price, but I'm just curious on what port or ports are the most common you would leave from if you go on a cruise to Alaska and of course the only way I would do a cruise to Alaska would be in the Spring or mainly Summer.

16 Answers

We left from Vancouver for a round trip cruise on Princess. The inside passage route is preferable in my opinion because of the opportunities to see wild life. I think cruises from Vancouver or Seattle use the inside passage, while those from further south take the western side of Vancouver Island. I would avoid school holidays because both cruise and air fares are higher.

We're booked for a 10 night round trip from San Francisco in early June 2019. With airfare included it was cheaper than the 7 nighters out of Seattle or Vancouver for us. We live in the upper Midwest, so airfare is a big chunk of our budget,too.

We have done 2 Alaska cruises that started in Fairbanks with a land tour and a 14 day RT from Seattle.

Like most have said the main ports for Alaska cruises are Seattle and Vancouver, some leave San Francisco and now even Los Angeles. If you decide to cruise out of Vancouver check the price for air fare to Seattle. Princess offers a shuttle to the Vancouver cruise terminal. Some time the airfair is cheaper even when paying for the shuttle.

Hi Bubba54, did you two have a good Christmas and uneventful travels after the cruise? We did. Bubba54 and wife were on the same cruise with us for the last 2.5 weeks. Great folks. In fact, their cabin was just a few doors down the corridor from ours. Small world. By the way, Bubba54 knows Alaska very well. Here is my take, that I posted before somewhere regarding the questions raised in this thread:

"The best dates to travel to and in Alaska really depends upon which part of Alaska you will be visiting and what you are most interested in. For instance, bear viewing is really popular, however most brown bear viewing is on the coast when the salmon are peaking out in the spawning streams, which occurs mid-summer on.

If you are doing a cruise tour or visiting interior Alaska as an independent with a lot of outdoor activity, you might want to come before the peak mosquito season begins, (which is shortly after mid-June and ends around early August).

About 65% of cruisers to Alaska only do the Southeast (Panhandle) portion of the State. Not much of a mosquito problem in Southeast since they don't breed in brackish or salt water. Assuming you are on a typical 7 day (round robin) cruise you probably won't be crossing the Gulf of Alaska and traveling further north to South Central Alaska or going on into the interior on a land tour, but most likely doing a cruise of Southeast Alaska, originating and ending in either Vancouver or Seattle. Almost all of these cruises do the "Alaska Inside Passage".

For Southeast you might want to wait until later June through mid-September. Sometimes, close to the equinox, the Pacific storms start setting in, however, that also can be the best of the travel season too. Luck of the draw.

My personal preference for these round robins is to get on a cruise that cruises through the "Canadian Inside Passage" as well as the "Alaska Inside Passage". Meaning, they travel to the east of Vancouver Island as opposed to the west of the island, west of the island places the vessel out into the North Pacific where scenic voyaging is limited to non-existent, rougher water there too, particularly in the Fall. Vancouver is the most likely port for Canadian Inside Passage voyaging.

Beware when the line or your agent simply says you are going to be in the "Inside Passage". We are lifelong Alaskans so have taken only one cruise to Alaska, which was on Regent, a two weeker, originating in San Francisco and ending in Vancouver, around the end of May and first of June. Hot weather even, 72 F, for Alaska that is. We sailed as far north as Valdez in Prince William Sound and hit every obligatory port in Southeast. Excellent cruise; the only downer was, both north and south, we skipped the Canadian Inside Passage and traveled to the west of Vancouver Island. Some Canadians on board weren't very happy in that they had been led to believe they would be cruising on the east side of Vancouver Island.

The two cruise lines with the longest history in Alaska are HAL and Princess. Both have made considerable investments up here in the way of excursion transportation (buses and dome railroad coaches) and hotel chains (Westmark Hotels for HAL and 5 wilderness lodges for Princess). Both lines now operate under the Holland America Group of Carnival Corp which includes the combined land holdings of both. Most major cruise lines offer excellent cruises to Alaska, NCL also being one of the largest players although none have the land based holdings that the HAG has."

Here is an exchange on another forum, regarding the inside passage(s) to/from Alaska between myself and Heidi13. Apparently, Heidi was a navigator on cruise ships plying Alaska waters but is now retired (N'bd and S'bd mean northbound and southbound) Helcate Strait is the body of water to the west of British Columbia and north of Vancouver Island, as Heidi points out most cruise ships leave the Canadian Inside Passage when they reach Helcate Strait and run north or south in that wide mundane body of water with little sightseeing, whereas they could continue on in the Canadian Inside Passage in the Grenville Channel until they reach the Alaska Inside Passage, but elect not to do so. Heidi13 says that Viking Ocean Cruises reportedly is going to cruise in Grenville Channel next season:

Heidi13-----"Correct, as Seattle based ships head out Juan de Fuca and then up the West Coast of Vancouver Island in the Pacific Ocean. Vancouver ships use the Inside Passage to the East of Vancouver Island. Unfortunately most Vancouver ships then use Hecate Strait rather than the remaining Inside Passage. N'bd much of the Canadian Inside Passage is at night, but S'bd you see the entire transit in daylight." Me-----(I might add though, that not all Seattle ships go west of Vancouver Island, as some Princess cruises begin and end in Seattle but at least on one leg of the cruise travel east of Vancouver Island. Her first sentence gives the impression that "all" cruises using Seattle go west of Vancouver Island.)

Me----That is interesting. I was curious about how the lines handled Hecate Strait. To your knowledge does any of them continue on, in the inside passage instead of running up the strait?

Another question I had, was how much does darkness effect cruising and sightseeing in the inside passage(s)? Since I spend most of my summers in the Wrangell Mountains, at 61 degrees north, on June 22 one can see quite well at midnight, with a cloudless sky that is. You pretty much answered that, I guess it is a lot darker in Southeast than up here. I looked up official night, twilight, etc for down there on June 22nd.

For Vancouver they have: 16.15 hours of daylight, 2.05 hours of nautical twilight, 01.27 hours of civil twilight, 4.13 hours of astronomical twilight and zero hours of night

For Juneau they have: 18.16 hours of daylight, 3.06 hours of nautical twilight, 2.37 hours of civil twilight, zero hours of astronomical twilight and zero hours of night.

When I was a kid, from Cordova, during the summers we would ride Alaska Steamship to Seattle in order to visit relatives. Alaska Steam used the inside passages all the way south of Cape Spencer or so my Mom used to say. But I don't recall any detail as on our last trip south, before the airlines took over, I was only nine years old. Five years later Alaska Steam quit the passenger business. Much to the chagrin of those in Alaska who depended upon summer visitor activity.

Heidi13-----"Affirmative, most of the Vancouver based ships depart the Inside Passage at Pine Island, heading up Hecate Strait to Dixon Entrance. This is most unfortunate, as the Bella Bella, Boat Bluff and Grenville Channel passages are spectacular. Hecate Strait is just like being deep sea.

Viking Ocean will have a ship in Alaska for 2019 and they indicate they will be using the entire Inside Passage. They are the only cruise line I know that use Grenville Channel, however both BC Ferries & Alaska State Ferries still use the Inside Passage. Some of the other smaller premium/luxury ships may also use the Inside Passage, but being retired I no longer work those waters.

Sunset is about 21:30, with twilight until 22:00 to 23:00. When N'bd out of Vancouver you sometimes get to Seymour Narrows in Twilight. All depends on the tide, as the cruise ships only transit within 1 hour of slack water. Johnstone Strait transit is during hours of darkness, with morning twilight starting about Alert Bay.

I believe Alaska State ferries still operate the service down to Bellingham and BC Ferries in the summer have a Port Hardy to Prince Rupert service that alternates N'bd & S'bd, with the entire transit in daylight. Worked these waters both on cruise ships and ferries and the scenery is spectacular, many great memories."

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