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Tips For Getting Great Deals on Alaska Cruises

Updated on June 22, 2010
An Alaskan cruise is the vacation of a lifetime for many people.  Early planning can save you money.
An Alaskan cruise is the vacation of a lifetime for many people. Early planning can save you money.

An Alaskan cruise is the vacation of a lifetime. Unlike Caribbean and other common cruises, an Alaskan cruise brings many people into the folds of true Alaska for the first time and exposes passengers to the amazing beauty of Alaska, its diverse wildlife and unique culture. Most people believe that an Alaskan cruise is quite expensive and, depending on your choices, they are correct. There are several ways, however, that vacationers can cut their expenses and find great deals.

START PLANNING EARLY

Advanced bookings on any cruise get great discounts. An Alaskan cruise is no different. Most of the major cruise lines in 2010 are offering significant discounts on ticket prices, deposits or free upgrades:

  • Carnival offers a 25% discount to bookings made 3-5 months in advance.
  • Celebrity Cruises offers 50% off deposits.
  • Holland America is also giving a 50% of deposits and extends the discounts to tours.
  • Norwegian Cruise Lines offers a $250 shipboard credit and child fares as low as $99.
  • Princess is giving away free oceanview to balcony upgrades.
  • Royal Caribbean offers $200 shipboard credit.
  • Silversea is giving a 30% discount for early bookings and an additional 5% discount for advanced payments.

SHOULDER SEASON CRUISING

Off-season cruises are always less expensive, no matter where your cruise takes you.  The cruising season in Alaska stretches from May to September.  Booking your cruise for early May or for September can cut your ticket price in half.  At this time of year, major cruise lines are repositioning their ships from the Caribbean and other warm weather destinations and have less bookings.  May and September may be slightly colder than the peak months of June, July and August, but nature is stunning at these times.  In May, the Alaskan wildflowers are in full bloom and wildlife is very active after the winter hibernation.  In September wildlife is again very active taking in the last of summer’s food supplies before the long, cold winter months.

May and September are the least expensive months to take a cruise in Alaska.
May and September are the least expensive months to take a cruise in Alaska.
Wildlife sightings are frequent on an Alaskan cruise, particularly in May and September.
Wildlife sightings are frequent on an Alaskan cruise, particularly in May and September.
Alaska cruises offer an opportunity to explore by land and sea.
Alaska cruises offer an opportunity to explore by land and sea.

PACKAGE DEALS

As mentioned before, cruise lines are repositioning their ships in May. Vacationers with a larger budget and more time for their vacation can find incredible deals on one-way cruises. In the long run you’ll spend more money on your vacation, but you will also cruise from the Caribbean to Seattle or Vancouver and then start your Alaskan cruise.

Many cruise lines also have land/sea packages in which passengers begin or end their vacation with a land tour. These packages may offer free land accommodations, transportation, breakfast or tours. If you are thinking of doing a land tour with your cruise, do your homework. Some land tours are not worth the package price and you can sometimes find your own transportation, lodging and sightseeing tours for a better price.

An alternative to the cruise is to stay on land and take day cruises to the glaciers, national parks and wildlife hotspots. This may seem to defeat the purpose of planning a cruise vacation but may also give you all of the highlights of a cruise for a better price.

CUT SHORE EXCURSIONS

Another way to save money on any cruise, cutting out the shore excursions can save you several hundreds of dollars, depending on the excursions. Exploring the ports outside of a tour is adventurous. Researching the port towns ahead of time and investing in a map can yield an experience every bit as fun-filled and educational as a guided tour.

Exquisite views await on an Alaskan cruise.
Exquisite views await on an Alaskan cruise.

CABIN CHOICES

Of course everyone wants a balcony cabin. What better way to view the glaciers than from the comfort of your own little home away from home. Is it really necessary? No. The glaciers and wildlife are just as easily viewed from the public places on the ship as from a private balcony. Choosing an inside cabin will drastically cut the price of the cruise.

SAY NO TO TOURIST TRAPS

The ship’s crew will offer endless advice on where to eat and where to shop while in port. Ignoring their suggestions can save money. The cruise line will direct its passengers to the tourist traps, which are often overpriced. Find the local, out-of-the-way shops for the best souvenir deals. Eating onboard the ship will also save money. Though passengers may want to experience authentic Alaskan cuisine, many times the food is flown in and not as authentic as cruise lines would like the passengers to believe.

FLEXIBLE SHIPS

The smaller ships can often bring their passengers closer to the wildlife and glaciers, but they charge a lot more for the luxury. Choosing a larger ship will often yield less expensive ticket prices, and they will still visit the glaciers and national parks, depending on the ship’s itinerary. Bring binoculars for the full experience from a larger ship.

ASK EXPERIENCED TRAVELLERS

Talk to others who have already taken an Alaskan cruise. They can offer great tips for the best ports to visit, any out-of-the-way places they found, what kind of clothing to pack, and what to expect at different stops. Using their experiences will help make your own Alaskan cruise exactly what you want.

With advanced planning and thorough research into the ship choices and itineraries available, great deals can be found on Alaskan cruises, and passengers can save quite a bit of money for a longer vacation or more souvenirs.

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