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Cruising from the Northwest

Seeing Alaska by boat without an airplane

Cruising in the Northwest summer includes beautiful views of the Pacific, Alaska and glaciers. Stock photo

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Many people associate cruise vacations with the sparkling blue waters of the Caribbean, but the fact is that the world of cruising is so much more than beaches and Caribbean ports. Cruises go nearly anywhere in the world and allow those on board to explore a variety of ports of call, while enjoying shopping, gambling, and nearly endless food and drink along the way. While many people around the world must fly to get to a departure point, the Pacific Northwest is fortunate to have not one but two major cruise ports within a short drive - Seattle and Vancouver, B.C.

In fact, there are so many options for cruises and cruise lines out of Seattle and Vancouver that first-time cruisers may find the booking process a little overwhelming. It comes down to first deciding what kind of vacation you want to go on.

"So many magnificent cruise lines sail out of both Seattle and Vancouver!" said Jessica Nelson, a travel consultant at Travel Leaders in downtown Tacoma. "Each cruise line is unique in its own way and caters to a certain clientele. For example, certain cruise lines are family friendly, whereas others cater more towards couples. A couple cruise lines even cater towards different age groups and design everything on their ship to fit the interests that their cruisers will share. Select cruise lines will offer specialized or themed cruises, whereas others will have activities that all generations will find enjoyable to do together."

Cruise lines that sail from Seattle and Vancouver alike include Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Holland America, Regent Seven Seas, Disney (Vancouver Only) and Un-Cruise. Destination ports include Kodiak, Homer, Anchorage, Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and Sitka in Alaska, as well as Victoria and Vancouver, B.C. Choosing your cruise line will have a lot to do with whether you want luxury (look to the Regent Seven Seas in that case!), a small ship, a long journey or a short getaway.

Alaskan cruises are definitely the most popular options out of both Seattle and Vancouver, and include stops in Ketchikan, the Tracy Arm Fjord, Juneau and Skagway. If you leave out of Vancouver, your cruise may have extra time to go farther north to the Hubbard Glacier. It's also common to have a stop in Victoria or Vancouver.

If you have more than a week or two to work with, the world really is your oyster.

"If you're looking for something longer and perhaps something other than Alaska, there is an option to also sail out of Seattle and sail to Asia, South America, the South Pacific, or south down the West Coast and through the Panama Canal, through the Caribbean, and end the cruise in Florida, but these cruises can be up to two to three weeks and only operate during certain ‘shoulder' seasons," said Nelson.

As for when to go, summer is the best time of year hands down. You'll spot more wildlife and nicer weather ensures time on deck is just that much more pleasant (unless you enjoy getting rained on). The cruise season in the Northwest runs roughly from May to September with the best prices often at the very start or end of that season. Later June is especially great when the days are longest - a perk for Alaskan where the days are already so much longer than those in the Seattle area.

However, don't wait until summer to book. It's best to book the winter or even fall before you want to set sail to get the best price. If you book through a travel agency, you might even score a better price as agencies often have deals with cruise lines.

"There are often early booking incentives offered and there will be more availability of staterooms so you will have your choice on the type of stateroom you want and where you want to be located on the ship," said Nelson. "If new deals become available in the months prior to your cruise, your travel agent will be able to rebook your stateroom under the new promotion and save you money if the price of your room drops - one of the many benefits to booking with an agency!" 

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