Alaskan Whale Watching

DSC_0947 DSC_0950 Bubble Netting…from far awayWe took a shore excursion in Juneau after docking with our Holland America cruise line.  There were many Whale Watching excursions to choose from.

I turned to TripAdvisor.com to help me research the reviews other people had left for various options of shore excursions for each port of call.

About 2 months ahead, I booked with “Harv & Marv’s Outback Alaska” .  Book early.

There are 2 camps: Pro or Anti “Cruise Ship Shore Excursions”, or the excursions that are offered through the same company you are cruising with.

There is a large consensus that “Cruise Ship Shore Excursions” were NOT to be done.  Why?

  • Too many people
  • Too expensive
  • Not as “intuitive” because it’s not a “Local” company
  • There are less options on time, where to go, when to come back

There were also some good reasons IN FAVOR of “Cruise Ship Shore Excursions”:

  • If the boat is late, you don’t loose your money
  • If for any other reason that the excursion doesn’t happen, you are also protected and don’t loose your money
  • You can make your plans all in one place, all at one time
  • It’s simple to check on your excursion as you are arriving…because the leaders are on the ship and know what the plans or changes in plans are. (keep in mind that  there is no cell phone or internet access…so you have to go “Old School”, trusting that your excursion people are waiting for you if you pay a local company)

I decided to go with a local company because I wanted a smaller boat that would help my husband want to come:  less people, less boat motion, more freedom of where to go, and less restriction on what time to leave and/or come back.

Harv & Marv’s had great reviews and they answered my questions quickly.  Making a reservation was easy, and I decided to go for it.  I chartered a boat that could carry 12 people, but we only had 8 go with us. The price was still comparable to the Cruise Ship options. They met us at the port and our round trip van ride included some sight seeing and a stop at Mendenhall Glacier, which is a great perk.

Here is my review of Harv & Marv’s from TripAdvisor:

“Worth Extra to Have Private Tour!”
5 of 5 starsReviewed June 30, 2013

Captain Sean took us out on the Alaskan, with hydraulic seats & big windows. Great ride! FYI, even though it was a heatwave of 78 degrees on land, we needed jackets to stay warm on the water. We were thankful that we brought them along.
Snacks & water/soda is provided if you are interested, but most of our time was spent watching the Humpback Whales bubble net feed over and over.
Thanks, Sean & Jaqulin for making it possible to witness up close such a wondrous show of these graceful animals. You are truly lucky to see this over and over.
As we watched in peace from our boat, asking questions of Captain Sean & learning oodles, the packed cruise boat next to us was tipping from side to side as groups of people rushed to one side of the boat for a glimpse of the whales. Lines of people were jumping up and down in the back, trying their best to see something. Then, they would rush to the next sighting, rocking the boat again. This is exactly why we were happy to be on our own boat.
Video taping will get more out of your time than still pictures, in my opinion. I took 2000 pictures, yet the video taken by my 8 year old caught the moments better than the still pics.

Visited June 2013

Is the Suite Worth It On a Cruise to Alaska?

DSC_0004It’s roughly $2000 extra for a suite… added to the regular price of the 7 day cruise. This was on Holland America, but I think roughly the same amount would apply on most cruise ships for 7 days.

What does that include? Obviously more space, but is the extra space worth it?

Here was my thinking:

This is a “once-in-a-lifetime” type of trip.  I’m going ALL IN!

My husband does not enjoy traveling as much as the kids & I do, and this upgrade was mainly for him to feel more comfortable.  He is claustrophobic, needs alone time & quiet time, and he doesn’t like crowds.  Sometimes he doesn’t even like people.

The suite turned out to be the perfect amount of room for him to feel relaxed and comfy.  Not only was the room spacey enough to sit & read or lay down, but also the private verandah was large and lovely.  He spent hours and hours on the verandah, staring at the beautiful sites.  Just for this reason, the suite was worth the extra massage hours I put in to pay for it. To watch him leaning on the verandah rail, calm, relaxed and happy was great and a small price to pay for him to enjoy the time.

For us it was worth it for several other surprising reasons:  The daily laundry service! OMG, I’ll take it! Pick up, wash, dry, fold & deliver?? Are you kidding? Awesome!

The breakfast delivered in bed…yes please!  We really enjoyed this feature and took our food out on the verandah to have breakfast with the ocean.  So lovely to drink tea out there!

The concierge!  She helped us with dinner reservations, any questions we had about the trip, our room, etc.  She checked on our shore excursions even when they weren’t booked through the ship!  And she was in the Neptune Lounge which had snacks, drinks, movies, computer access, magazines, etc, right across the hall from our room.

The daily High Tea delivered to our room!  Yummy!  Can you say “weight gain”? I felt like we never stopped eating!  But the food was delicious.

Is the suite worth it for you?  It really depends on:

  • How much time you want to spend in your room…some people are only in their rooms to sleep
  • How comfortable you are in public spaces…because there are some LOVELY public places all over the ship, so staying in your room is not really needed.
  • Is a verandah important to you?  Again, there are many places to sit and watch the views/water NOT in your room.
  • If the verandah is important to you, do you need a big one?  Because you could get the smaller verandah for much less.

 

Cons:

  • The price

Pros:

  • More space
  • Large verandah
  • Extras that come with the suite: laundry service, food delivery, concierge, luggage delivered first in/out, and list of more.