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Pro/Con May Alaska Cruise

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What are the pros and cons of going on an Alaska Cruise in May?

 

I keep seeing good prices for OV guarantees every year and am thinking about booking next year if I can find the same deals. 

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 Some attraction may be not open or closed earlier in May. That is what I found when I was planning for the May cruise to Alaska. If that would be your once a lifetime cruise to Alaska, you may be disappointed by that. The good deal is simply a reflection of supply and demand. Nevertheless, the significant saving in the cruise, airtickets, and hotels in the early season may beat any disadvantage. Also, there will be less school age kids on the ship.

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Posted (edited)

If this is a one-way cruise with land travel afterwards, you will find that some vendors, restaurants, hotels, aren't open. Some Visitor Centers don't open until Memorial Day.  At a real biggie .... the Denali park road doesn't open fully until June 10, to Eielson June 1.

For a RT cruise this probably won't be such an issue. But if you have specific activities in mind you'll need to verify with the vendors.

 

Con -  if a bear viewing tour is a priority, the peak season isn't until July/August when the salmon runs occur.  However in the pre-season, some people have reported seeing bears munching on greenery along the road during their drive out of Skagway. 

Plus - lots of snow in the mountains. The weather gets wetter as summer progresses.

 

If shoulder season is your only option I'd certainly take May over September !  But make it as late in May as possible .

Look thru trip reports from past yrs and read the ones from May to get some ideas.  The first line of the report generally provides the travel date .....

Edited by mapleleaves

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Late May/Early June can *tend* to be dryer, but that's not a hard and fast rule. Alaska weather can be pretty random.

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I’m going May 9th for the first time and the only issue I had was finding one tour operator not open. No biggie, I just selected another excursion. I got my hotel and cruise at a really great deal and I found airfare for $300 RT from Miami to Vancouver. The only thing I may not be prepared for is that it may be chillier than if I went in June. I say go for it!

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57 minutes ago, PittsburghNative said:

I’m going May 9th for the first time and the only issue I had was finding one tour operator not open. No biggie, I just selected another excursion. I got my hotel and cruise at a really great deal and I found airfare for $300 RT from Miami to Vancouver. The only thing I may not be prepared for is that it may be chillier than if I went in June. I say go for it!

Our cruise is one day after yours but we will be at Vancouver before you. After this winter in the mid west, May temperature there would not be an issue to us at all.

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51 minutes ago, Tourist1292 said:

Our cruise is one day after yours but we will be at Vancouver before you. After this winter in the mid west, May temperature there would not be an issue to us at all.

 

I can believe it! I know my family in Pittsburgh had a heck of a winter, and the mid west was even worse. I’m a baby now when it comes to cold weather since I live in South Florida. I still feel it will be very pleasant weather as long as the right clothes are packed 🙂

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Mid to end of May is a great time in Alaska.

 

Some notes - salmon is not running until Mid-July so you will see less bears and you don't want to hit Denali until after June 1st.

 

Otherwise, most things I have done are fully running. This is my preferred time to cruise in Alaska.

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If there is a port day at Victoria, the Buchart Gardens will be closing at 5pm in May. There is no chance for us to get there before closing as our ship arrives around that time.

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Posted (edited)
11 hours ago, AKStafford said:

Late May/Early June can *tend* to be dryer, but that's not a hard and fast rule. Alaska weather can be pretty random.

Sailed Alaska 2012 mid/late May.....rained every day ...never saw sun till an hour before taking off from Anchorage. We didn't see one bear....BUT other than that it was great experience...LOTS snow still around.

Edited by bajathree

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2 hours ago, Tourist1292 said:

If there is a port day at Victoria, the Buchart Gardens will be closing at 5pm in May. There is no chance for us to get there before closing as our ship arrives around that time.

I'm so sorry your ship arrives so late as Buchart Gardens are wonderful.  If you ever get a chance to sail that way again, hopefully the ship schedule would be more favorable (probably would be a good idea to check the port time for Victoria, before booking another cruise that stops there).

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19 minutes ago, BarbinMich said:

I'm so sorry your ship arrives so late as Buchart Gardens are wonderful.  If you ever get a chance to sail that way again, hopefully the ship schedule would be more favorable (probably would be a good idea to check the port time for Victoria, before booking another cruise that stops there).

Indeed, I found several ships arrive Victoria in the late afternoon. It is not a problem after May.

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23 hours ago, Tourist1292 said:

Indeed, I found several ships arrive Victoria in the late afternoon. It is not a problem after May.

That's good!  I assume you mean because it stay light later in Jun-Aug.  However, since the gardens were constructed in what had been a gravel pit (or something like that) I wouldn't count on really good light even though the gardens are open til 10 pm in the summer.  We've only been there in May (cruise) and Oct. (fly-drive to Pacific NW).  Also spoken as a photographer who likes natural light.  It was amazing how different the flowers abloom were between early and late season.  IMHO can't go wrong no matter when one goes.

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I'm having trouble of thinking of any Cons...but OV is the way to go, those views are a huge Pro...

 

 

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3 hours ago, BarbinMich said:

That's good!  I assume you mean because it stay light later in Jun-Aug.  However, since the gardens were constructed in what had been a gravel pit (or something like that) I wouldn't count on really good light even though the gardens are open til 10 pm in the summer.  We've only been there in May (cruise) and Oct. (fly-drive to Pacific NW).  Also spoken as a photographer who likes natural light.  It was amazing how different the flowers abloom were between early and late season.  IMHO can't go wrong no matter when one goes.

As the sunset really late in summer, so there will be sufficient natural light even at 7pm. In the evening, the decorative light will be on. So it would be nice if one goes there in the late afternoon in summer time to see the transition. Too bad that we are going to miss that. Anyway, we have a similar garden in our home state. We will probably go there after the cruise for another road trip.

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Pro: Not as many other tourists, not so many kids as most schools aren't out yet, statistically drier weather (it gets wetter as the summer progresses), if you go early enough you'll often be the 1st or only other ship in some ports, the locals are happy to see you after a long winter and aren't worn out from tourists yet, still some snow on the mountains so it looks like Alaska should, not too cold, not too hot.

Con: Some attractions or excursions may not be open yet. For me, that's the only con. (I've seen lack of bears in early May on other's con lists - I've been on two May cruises and saw bears both times - maybe I'm just lucky...)

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Posted (edited)
9 minutes ago, SuperCrewBear said:

Pro: Not as many other tourists, not so many kids as most schools aren't out yet, statistically drier weather (it gets wetter as the summer progresses), if you go early enough you'll often be the 1st or only other ship in some ports, the locals are happy to see you after a long winter and aren't worn out from tourists yet, still some snow on the mountains so it looks like Alaska should, not too cold, not too hot.

Con: Some attractions or excursions may not be open yet. For me, that's the only con. (I've seen lack of bears in early May on other's con lists - I've been on two May cruises and saw bears both times - maybe I'm just lucky...)

I think the bears in May depend on where you go.  If you look for them at the salmon runs when the salmon are not running you will be out of luck.  We are going on a bear search in ISP in a location where the brown bear population is supposed to be among the largest per square mile in the world.  From what I have been told, the bears are out scrounging for food in May after a long winter and tend to be visible in that area.  Time will tell.  I will try to remember to report back after our trip!

 

We also plan to go to the Bear Fortress in Sitka.  Since they are in captivity (rescued orphaned cubs who would have otherwise been euthanized) it is pretty much a guarantee, although I guess that would be considered cheating for bear sightings, LOL!:classic_biggrin:

Edited by Sunny AZ Girl

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We've done 4 Alaska cruises (3 in May & 1 in September) and mid to late May is definitely our favorite. If I do another it will definitely be a May cruise.

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Not really interested in the conditions in May. On the first ship of the year, we'll hit all three ports while it's still April.

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17 hours ago, Tourist1292 said:

As the sunset really late in summer, so there will be sufficient natural light even at 7pm. In the evening, the decorative light will be on. So it would be nice if one goes there in the late afternoon in summer time to see the transition. Too bad that we are going to miss that. Anyway, we have a similar garden in our home state. We will probably go there after the cruise for another road trip.

As a fellow Michiganian and garden lover, I'm wondering which garden you're referring to.  I'm not aware of any that was established in an abandoned quarry a la Butchart Gardens.  Thanks!

 

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9 hours ago, jlp20 said:

Not really interested in the conditions in May. On the first ship of the year, we'll hit all three ports while it's still April.

Wow!  That is early.  So much demand, so little time to accommodate everyone who wants to see Alaska!  I just looked to see what ships are going in April:  Ruby P leaves LA on 4/23, arrives Ketchikan on 4/27; Norwegian Joy leaves Seattle on 4/27, arrives Ketchikan on 5/1; Star P leaves LA on 4/27, arrives Ketchikan on 5/1; Carnival Legend leaves Vancouver on 4/29, arrives Juneau on 5/1.  Hopefully, you'll post a review of your cruise and what it's like to be in Alaska so early on a cruise ship.  Does anyone know if ships have left for Alaska in April in the past?

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My favorite time to sail Alaska is May (early Spring);  my wife prefers September (last fall cruise, big sales onboard and in many ports businesses).  Hard to make everyone in the family happy - however we dislike late June to early August due to the overload of tourists!

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I considered my May 10 cruise to be early season already, however, there are still 4-6 ships at each port on our arrival dates.

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1 hour ago, Tourist1292 said:

I considered my May 10 cruise to be early season already, however, there are still 4-6 ships at each port on our arrival dates.

It's all about the huge demand for Alaska cruises.  To accommodate that demand:  more ships, longer season.

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30 minutes ago, BarbinMich said:

It's all about the huge demand for Alaska cruises.  To accommodate that demand:  more ships, longer season.

Yes and no. My May 10 cruise is not selling well presumably due to the early season before summer break and competition. The price has been going down crazy and is 20-25% cheaper than the next week or 30% cheaper than the one another week later. In other words, the demand cannot support that many ships.

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