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Winter months great time for booking Alaskan cruise

Reader Amanda J. asks “We want to go to Alaska. We’ve thought about a cruise then some friends said take a land tour.

We have searched the Internet found what we thought we wanted then a friend gave us more advice so we searched again and again until we were totally confused. Can you give us some guidance?”

Gladly but with all the snow, ice and cold around wouldn’t you rather talk about sailing the sunny Caribbean?

Actually now is a great time to look into booking the Alaska cruise and tours for the upcoming season.

Right now most cruise lines and tour operators are offering early booking specials, upgrades and discounts.

I can see why you got confused. You went on-line and immersed yourself in a maze of analyses, descriptions and opinions.

Factor in some well meaning but probably misguided advice from friends that have cruised Alaska and what did you accomplish. A bunch of time invested with the results of what? Complete and total confusion! Am I correct?

I know where you’re coming from because I’ve been there too.

The cruise lines have been encouraging travel agents to book space on their dedicated agents’ web sites for years. Yet these sites offer more than 1000 various booking codes that only an actuary can decipher. I still prefer to shop the web then call reservations.

You cannot beat the human interaction.

So the smart ones like you turn to people like me (or your travel agent) and ask us to help guide them through the possibilities. Hopefully you will benefit from our product knowledge and insider information.

What can you gain by asking for help?

A good agent will match you up not only just with the right cruise or tour company but also with the product the fits your cruising and/or touring style. Companies have personalities that tend to attract a certain type of traveler plus there are even subtle differences between ships in the same fleet.

Sorry I’ll get off my pro “live” travel agent soap box and focus on your Alaska question.

Personally I prefer what is termed a cruise-tour.

You combine both the elements of a vacation at sea with a land sightseeing excursion. You’ll spend some nights at sea and the remaining nights on land often in quaint historic Alaskan venues.

Any mega-cruise ship can take you to Alaska. But when you’re ready to see this incredible land up-close travel the small inlets and visit unspoiled ports where big ships can’t go.

When you want to savor Alaska’s people and culture instead of shipboard activities and 24 hour buffets I believe it is time to think small ship cruising.

I feel that you are suited for a Cruise West cruise-tour package. They practically invented small ship cruising in Alaska way back in 1946.

And for the past six decades they have shown thousands of adventurers the real Alaska well beyond the crowded ports of call teeming with mega ship passengers.

Small wonder why people who travel with them once are hooked on small-ship cruising for good.

While Cruise West is not your cheapest option I believe it offers great value and in depth touring.

Another personal favorite is the combo land-sea programs offered by Princess Cruise Lines. Their land and sea cruise tours gives you the best of Alaska by ship, rail and lodge.

Every cruise tour visits Glacier Bay and Denali National Parks. Exclusive direct to the Wilderness rail service provides more time at Denali. You’ll stay in comfortable Princess Wilderness Lodges at the doorstep of Grand National parks. Hundreds of optional excursions are offered from river rafting to nature hikes and much more.

If you are constrained by budgetary issues Carnival Cruise Line generally is the least expensive option. While not as all inclusive as Cruise West or Princess they will take you to the some of highlights of Alaska. They also offer (at an additional expensive) an extensive menu of shore tours that will take you inland to Alaska.

Just do the math and add up all the extras before you decide on which route to travel. Price out all the expenses-the cruise statement, air, optional shore sightseeing excursions, etc and compare small ship versus large ship cruising side by side. Better yet talk with your local travel professional and let them guide you to the perfect trip.

Got travel questions? E-mail the thetravelprofessor@gmail.com.