Alaska is a popular travel destination, and it's one that is often explored via a cruise. Since many lines offer competing Alaska cruises, offering options that include airfare is one way to help cruise lines set themselves apart.
Luxury All-Inclusive Alaska Cruise Packages
AlaskaCruises.com from iCruise.com has all-inclusive Alaska cruise packages that include air, hotel, cruise, and more. Cruises take place on Regent Seven Seas Cruises and start at $4,799 per person. For that price, you can expect:
- Airfare, a night at the Hilton Anchorage, and transfers/baggage handling
- Unlimited fine wine and premium spirits, Wi-Fi, pre-paid gratuities and specialty dining
- Unlimited shore excursions
- $300 shipboard credit per suite, American Express gift card
- Reduction in deposit
If you book Concierge Suites and higher, you get additional benefits like pre- or post- cruise land program on select voyages, priority online shore excursion reservations, 15 minutes of free ship-to-shore phone time, and discounts on select purchases. Penthouse Suites and higher enjoy Concierge-Level amenities, plus an iPad and iPhone docking station, butler service, and choice of L'Occitane or Hermes soaps, shampoos, and lotions.
Examples of the Alaska cruises that fall under the special package include:
- Luxury on the Frontier 8 Nights/9 Days: Starts in Vancouver and ends in Anchorage. Prices for suites start at $4,799.
- In the Wake of Humpbacks 11 Nights/12 Days: Starts in Anchorage and ends in Vancouver. Prices for suites from $7,469.
- Season of the Brown Bear 12 Nights/13 Days: Departs from Vancouver and ends in Anchorage. Prices for suites from $8,299.
Air Inclusive Program
Airfare is included from U.S. and Canadian gateway cities including popular hubs like Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, New York, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Seattle, San Francisco, Toronto, and Vancouver.
Ponant Cruises is a French cruise ship operator founded in 1998. Ponant has five small cruise ships operating under the French flag. Their cruises operate all around the world, including some itineraries in Alaska. These ultra-luxurious cruises also include airfare in some cases: generally domestic flights, but also some long haul international options.
The Northwest Passage
The Northwest Passage is a 23-day/22-night cruise departing from Kangerlussuaq, Greenland and arriving in Nome, Alaska. It includes flights from Paris to Kangerlussuaq and Nome to Seattle (economy class). Several ports include:
- Sisimiut: Second biggest town in Greenland
- Ilulissat: UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Inalik: Heart of the Bering Sea, between Alaska and Russia
- Fairway Rock: Small rocky island between Russia and Alaska, home to many marine birds, seals, and walruses.
- King Island: Once inhabited by the Iñupiat, but now the Alaskan island is abandoned
- Nome: Westernmost point of Alaska, once a former gold-mining town set in the middle of the wilderness
This is a luxury expedition cruise that goes off the beaten path and visits ports most other cruise lines can't. One thing to note with Ponant cruises is that due to the remote nature and length of time at sea, you need to provide a medical certificate from your doctor no more than 45 days prior to departure, as well as a completed medical questionnaire.
Prices start at €24,450 (about $29,000 US) for Prestige Deck 4.
Oceania Cruises offers several Alaska itineraries, including the Great Northwest, which is an 11-day voyage departing San Francisco and ending in Vancouver. Like other Alaska cruises, these stop in popular places like Ketchikan and Juneau, while cruising through the Inside Passage and Hubbard Glacier.
Rates in the OLife Fare category include airfare from approximately 20 cities. Rates start at $3,049 for an Inside Stateroom and go up to $11,649 for the Owner's Suite. Without airfare, the same cruise is $2,399 to $10,999.
With the OLife Fare class, you get additional benefits depending on cabin class. Free internet is provided on one device per stateroom, while Owner's, Vista and Oceania Suites receive access for two devices per suite. Some shore excursions are available, and voyages of this length get six free shore excursions.
Booking Airfare Through Cruise Lines
In some cases, you won't find bundled cruises and airfare packages like the aforementioned examples, but some cruise lines offer the ability to book your airfare in conjunction with your cruise. This is often at a discounted rate and can be bundled in one payment with the cruise line directly. Most require you call an 800 number to book your airfare, but Princess Cruises lets you compare airfare online when you're deciding on specific cruises.
With Princess Cruises, you can explore the Inside Passage on a seven-day round trip cruise from Seattle or Vancouver, a 10-day round trip from San Francisco, and a 12-day round trip cruise from Los Angeles. One-way cruises last seven days, departing northbound from Vancouver or southbound from Anchorage.
Some examples of pricing, including adding on airfare with Princess EZair flights, are:
- 7-Days Seattle / Inside Passage with Glacier Bay National Park: Rates start from $864 for an interior stateroom. Flights from Newark are $401.21 (flexible) on United Airlines, making the cruise $1,265.21 per person. Flights from Denver on Alaska Airlines are $154.24 (flexible), making the cruise $1,018.24 per person.
- 10-Days San Francisco / Inside Passage: Interior staterooms start at $1,399. Flights from Atlanta are $421.89 on American Airlines, making the cruise $1,820.89 per person. Flights from New York (JFK) are $254.67 on Delta, making the cruise $1,653.67.
2018 is an ideal time to choose Princess Cruises for your Alaska cruise as they are really ramping up their offerings. They will have 130 cruise departures, with more than 75% sailing to Glacier Bay National Park. There are also over 22 cruisetour options that give travelers the option to visit the interior of Alaska. There is a full season of visits to Icy Strait Point, which are included on all seven-day northbound Voyage of the Glaciers itineraries.
Pros and Cons of Cruise Packages
There are lengthy discussions on sites like Cruise Critic about the pros and cons of booking air/sea packages. In some cases, you don't fly with major carriers, and benefits and customer service can be minimal. You also give up flexibility in some cases as the cruise line/airline chooses the route, which could mean connecting through two to three cities rather than a direct flight or flights with only one layover. The other risk is if you are booking close to the cruise departure time, you may not have an actual assigned seat and find yourself bumped off the plane in favor of a paying customer who booked earlier.
Choosing the Right Alaskan Cruise
If you have decided an Alaska cruise air and sea package is right for you, it's important to compare each option carefully, price the airfare on your own, and talk to your travel agent to make sure you're getting the best deal and verify the most current pricing.