CruiseMates Newsletter
 
Princess Cruises
Save up to $1,000 on cruises to Europe, Asia, the Caribbean & beyond with Princess Cruises' World of Savings event.

Special Celebrity Promotions
Bermuda cruise from $699, Caribbean cruises $599, Alaska from $799, Holy Land from $1099.
Celebrity Cruises

Holland America
Special Offers

Bermuda from $699
Caribbean from $599
Alaska from $499
Mexico from $639!

Holland America Line

Carnival Cruises Early Savers Program
Early Saver's Program
Sail for less that $70 per day!
3-Day Cruise $169
4-Day Cruise $229
7-Day Cruise $449
Book Your Carnival Cruise

NCL Bargains Here!
See the best NCL Special offers here - book now for shipboard credit.
Book Now at NCL.com

CRUISE NEWS


WHERE THE BARGAINS ARE


We want your cruise reviews!
CruiseMates started publishing our readers' cruise reviews long before other web sites even thought of it. We already have thousands of reviews online, but there are never enough! CruiseMates and our sister site cruisereviews.com both want more of YOUR cruise reviews. So, please send them to us:

kiplingers

Kiplinger's Magazine named CruiseMates to its Top 25 Best Value Travel Sites

CruiseMates is the most useful cruise-review site. We especially like its advice columns, which are written for people of different ages and interests.


 
05.05.2011
Got a nose for bargains? Last minute Alaska cruises are starting at just $499!

Alaska Cruises for $499!
Once again we are seeing great bargains on Alaska cruises - if you are willing to go at the last minute. The shoulder season in Alaska; May and September, offers the best deals.

You can sail Norwegian Jewel for as low as $459. Star Princess sails May 15 on a five-day "Alaska Sampler" cruise to Juneau and Ketchikan from Vancouver starting at just $499 per person, $999 balcony. Carnival Spirit is once again the price leader for seven-day Alaska cruises with inside cabins for $529 and balcony cabins as low as $929 per person!

First-time Alaska cruisers need to a few tips to get the most out of an Alaska cruise. Cruises sail from Vancouver or Seattle through the Inside Passage - a 500 mile sea route within the barrier islands along the Canadian coastline. This is where you find the Alaska capital city Juneau plus Ketchikan, Sitka and Glacier Bay.


NCL Bargains Here!
See the best NCL Special offers here - book now for shipboard credit.
Book now at ncl.com

A few northerly cruises go to Seward, Homer and even Anchorage - but those are the exceptions. These cruises are usually part of a cruise-tour, which is a combination of a cruise with a land voyage by rail car or motor coach. "Cruise-tours" visit Denali National Park, home of Mount McKinley, the highest peak in North America at 20,320 ft. You eat in restaurants, stay in lodges and eventually return to either Anchorage, Seward or Fairbanks where you can fly or cruise back to the lower 48 states.

No matter how you travel, nature is the main attraction in Alaska. Every cruise visits a glacier at the point where it flows into the sea. Guests assemble on deck for hours to watch large sheets ice "calving" off of the glacier. It is an unforgettable experience - and the ice is the most beautiful color of blue.

Glacier Bay National Park is considered the best place to see glacial calving, but the park only grants a limited number of permits each year. Holland America and Princess get most of the permits, and some small cruise lines even get permits to remain overnight. Still, other glaciers like Hubbard Glacier and Tracy Arm are also good and every ship visits a glacier long enough witness some activity.


See all of the great special values from Holland America here!
Bermuda from $699, Caribbean from $599, Alaska from $599, Europe from $599, Mexico from $639!
Holland America Line

Wildlife
Brown bears and eagles populate the inside passage. You can spot wild bears chasing running salmon at Mendenhall Glacier Park near Juneau and along the way you will see lightposts with eagle's nests. While cruising through the upper regions of the Inside Passage it is possible to see humpback whales, dolphins, orcas and sea lions from your ship. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees of wildlife sightings on large cruise ships because they must stay on schedule and whales don't care. In truth, large cruise ships will not seek out or stop for whale watching. If you are lucky enough see them from the ship it is usually a rare and fleeting opportunity.

So, the only sure way to see whales is to go where they are spotted. You can do this on a shore excursion from Juneau or Sitka. A twenty minute bus ride from the Juneau pier will get you to Dolphin Tours in Auke Bay - a popular whale watching company that takes small boats (about 50 people) to the whale feeding grounds. Sightings are guaranteed. It's about a three or four hour trip in total, and the bus leaves directly from the cruise ship pier. Go to the Dolphin Tours company web site to see how to get this tour at the best price.


Carnival Cruises Early Savers Program
Early Saver's Program lets you sail for less than $70 per day! 3-Day Cruise $169; 4-Day Cruise $229, 7-Day Cruise $449 !
Book your Carnival Cruise!

Another fun activity in Juneau, which you can book on the ship or on your own, is "flightseeing" over Mendenhall Glacier. A helicopter will fly you over the glacier - which is just outside of the city of Juneau, and land on top of it. You get out and walk on the ice and sip from the freshly melted water running along the top. The helicopter ride itself is an amazing adventure where you can see for hundreds of miles as you whirl over ice covered peaks. You can even guide a dog sled along the top of the glacier on a similar but separate flight-seeing tour.


Special Celebrity Promotions
Bermuda cruise from $699, Caribbean cruises $599, Alaska from $799, Holy Land from $1099.
Celebrity Cruises

Alaska Expedition Cruises
To really see the best of Alaska you can't beat smaller, expedition cruise lines. These smaller boats, generally 50 to 100 guests, do not make port stops. They explore the inside passage on a loosely timed schedule seeking adventure opportunities. When they find whales, for example, they load the guests into rubber Zodiacs and may follow them for hours.

The best whale watching is a spectacular activity called bubble net-feeding. A dozen or so whales encircle a school of small fish with bubbles far below the surface. As the bubbles rise the whales swim beneath the fish and trap them within the "net." When the fish are trapped on the surface all the whales break through with their mouths wide open to swallow thousands of fish in one gulp.

We watched this activity for hours one day on American Safari Cruises, which is now going by the name InnerSea Discovery Cruises. With an underwater microphone we heard the lead whale coordinate the trap with short vocalizations followed by a long and higher pitched "scream" which cued the whales to spring the trap. Within seconds a dozen whales would rise through the surface to gulp the small fish and then dive deep - showing their fabulous fluted tails.


Princess Cruises
Save up to $1,000 on cruises to Europe, Asia, the Caribbean & beyond with Princess Cruises' World of Savings event.
Princess Cruises

Watch my Humpback Whale bubble net-feeding video.

Other small Alaska adventure cruise lines include Lindblad Expeditions and Discovery Voyages. If you take one of these cruise you generally have to fly to Juneau. We stayed in a lovely guesthouse overlooking Auke bay called Hillside Haven. Not only did it have cable TV, free hi-speed Internet, a spacious bedroom with a king-size bed and a full kitchen, it also had the most alluring bathtub ever invented (with steam, whirlpool, side jets and even music). Highly recommended. Read more about our Juneau Adventure.

Seagoing vessels are truly the best way to see Alaska, but getting the most out of your Alaska cruise requires planning. Be prepared to pay extra for up-close encounters with wildlife. In the end you will feel it was money well spent.

gray hr

new feature articles

Carnival Magic - Live Reports
CruiseMates' own reporter Linda Pearl is on the brand new Carnival Magic Inaugural Cruises- and her first trip to Europe. Read her first impressions here! May 1, 2011 blue arrows

Magic is the first sister ship to Carnival Dream and will be followed by Carnival Breeze to be introduced in 2013
Magic is the first sister ship to Carnival Dream and will be followed by Carnival Breeze to be introduced in 2013 blue arrows

Crystal: All-inclusive plus Standby Fares
Just before Bill Smith left Crystal Cruises for Virtuoso Travel, we spoke to him about the New Crystal all-inclusive policy and standby fares. blue arrows

Carnival Magic - Best Carnival Ship Yet?
Carnival Magic is the sister ship to Carnival Dream, first of its class introduced in November 2009. blue arrows

Rock Legends Cruise
The Rock Legends Cruise coming next December has ZZ Top, Molly Hatchet, Marshall Tucker, Steppenwolf, Dickie Betts, Edgar Winter, Johnnie Winter. blue arrows

gray hr

Read about CruiseMates

NEW YORK TIMES:
"Many sites that offer reviews are selling cruises, which raises questions about impartiality. An exception is CruiseMates."

FORTUNE MAGAZINE:
"The Web's best site for articles, advice, or chatting with Cruise People. Self-financed and run independently of the industry, so their opinions are impartial"