Saturday, January 20, 2007

Some more notes on Alaska cruises

I just read an interesting note on Alaska cruises from Vacations to Go, one of my favorite Internet cruise discount sites. Alan Fox, the Vacations to Go chairman, points out that you can usually save money on airfare by booking a roundtrip Alaska cruise -- that is, one that sails from Vancouver, Seattle, or San Francisco, then returns to the same city -- as opposed to booking a one-way cruise from Vancouver that goes north to Seward or Whittier and stops. That's because you can avoid paying for a typically more expensive flight that returns from far-north Anchorage or Fairbanks by limiting your flying to and from Vancouver, Seattle, or San Francisco. He also points out that it's generally easier to find flights to the latter three cities, thus allowing you to book later than you might have to for an Anchorage or Fairbanks flight.

So what's the advantage to the one-way tours? For starters, you'll see a big stretch of the Alaskan coast besides the heavily traveled Inside Passage. And, as Fox notes, the one-way cruises are handy for exploring the Alaskan interior (such as Denali National Park) on your own or with a prearranged tour once you disembark in Seward or Whittier. So if a land tour is on your list, you'll probably just have to factor in the extra airfare.

Fox also adds that if you do want to take a cruise tour of Alaska -- a trip that combines a land tour with your cruise -- you should book sooner rather than later (January or February), because these tend to fill up fast and are seldom subject to last-minute discounts.

Keep in mind that anyone taking an Alaska cruise this summer can benefit from early-bird discounts available this month and, to a lesser degree, next. But if you're planning a cruise-only trip and have some flexibility in your sailing dates and cabin choice, don't despair -- you'll still be likely to find some late bargains closer to summer.

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