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Saving On Alaska Cruises

July 6, 2009 By: Susan Young Travel Agent


Photo by Susan J. Young Clients on Holland America’s Veendam cruise to Glacier Bay enjoy a full day of sightseeing without spending extra for a shore trip

An Alaska cruise is a great buy this year, with some voyages as low as $699 per person. But how can clients reap the savings and enjoy their time ashore without breaking the bank on shore trips? Here are a few tips for your clients.

Avoid the Priciest Trips: Frank Ulbricht, Holland America Line’s hotel manager on the Veendam, spoke to Travel Agent about trends in Alaska cruising this year. He said guests are definitely opting to pass over the priciest shore excursion trips and choosing more moderately priced choices. Tell clients that not everyone who sails to Alaska must do dog mushing or a helicopter glacier landing. Cruise lines offer an array of rewarding and experiential shore trips at a lesser cost.

Relish Scenic Cruising: By selecting an Alaska cruise that spends a full day in Glacier Bay National Park or other scenic areas, clients may cut down on port days and, thus, onshore trip expenses. For example, on a recent trip aboard Veendam in Glacier Bay, a U.S. National Park Service ranger was onboard to answer questions and provide commentary, while guests stood at the ship’s bow to view Marjorie Glacier and scenic vistas.

Suggest Walking Tours: The Alaskan destinations of Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway are highly walkable. Clients may easily develop a customized walking tour based on personal interests. Advise them to look for visitor kiosks or CVB offices near the cruise piers. Better still, recommend they visit CVB sites—i.e.,, and—before they sail.

Seek Out Value: Book now through July 31 and Regent Seven Seas Cruises will provide guests with free unlimited shore excursions on the Seven Seas Mariner’s Alaska voyages during July, August and September. Agents may also showcase cruise lines that offer lucrative onboard credits, usable for shore trip purchases.

Pay Attention to Ratings: Advise clients to do more than simply read the trip description. As with any purchase, compare pricing. Some lines use a helpful cost rating system with “$$$$” symbolizing the priciest trips, “$” the most affordable ones.

Opt for Non-Cruise Line trips: Talk with outside operators who offer commissionable shore trips at low prices for consumers. For example, offers a Sea Crab Fishermen at Work trip from Ketchikan; a Taku Glacier Lodge Flight and Feast from Juneau; and a White Pass Railway/Scenic Coach trip from Skagway for $509 per person. That’s a savings of $143 per person from the $652 a client would pay if booking the trips on a major cruise line.

Vary the Excursions: Advise clients to vary their day tours in style, substance and length. Clients might take a moderately priced outdoor adventure in one port, an inexpensive self-guided walking tour in another and perhaps a pricier experiential trip in a third.

Consider Trip-Change Penalties: Remind clients that booking back-to-back, full-day shore excursions can be tiring. They might overcommit. A good option is to plan a robust full-day tour, followed by a shorter half-day tour, or perhaps an easy-paced, self-guided one. If clients cancel a pre-booked shore excursion even 48 hours in advance, they may still incur a cancellation fee.

Compare similar Trips: If your clients covet a highly priced shore activity such as flightseeing, suggest they compare the trip to other similar options before booking. For example, a Misty Fjords adventure via floatplane/boat from Holland America costs $355 per person. But that line also offers a more affordable Misty Fjords boat-only tour at $175 and a floatplane-only tour at $253.

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