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VetteCity

Windstar Alaska questions

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I have been reading all the reviews of the Windstar Alaska 2018 cruises. We love Windstar and are looking forward to our Alaska cruise in June. I have noted the problems like people were cold aboard the ship and that meals were difficult/crowded. If anyone would like to comment on those things, please do so I might plan accordingly.

 

I have a few questions. Hope someone will advise me.

1. Our ship says it debarks in Seward/Anchorage. What does that mean? Does it mean that it debarks in Seward and then Windstar provides transport to Anchorage?  Is there an extra charge for that?  Could we take a train to Anchorage? We plan to stay overnight in Anchorage and then take the train north. Any suggestions about where (or what area) to stay overnight in Anchorage?

2. What sort of clothing would you pack for a June 25 departure? We have excursion plans nearly every day on the trip including kayaking, fishing, etc. Is a down jacket, gloves and hat too much or too little?

3. Dinner attire- every Windstar we've ever sailed had people dressed well at dinner. I love that. Is that the normal attire on the Alaska trip?

 

Any other tidbits of information anyone has to offer would be welcomed. Thank you

 

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We did the Vancouver roundtrip itinerary last July and loved it so much that we are doing the Seward-Vancouver itinerary this July.  It is an amazing trip!  Windstar can provide transportation to Anchorage, but you will need to make reservations and pay for the transport.  We are using Windstar transportation to get from Anchorage to Seward the day of embarkation.  There is a beautiful train ride that you could take instead.

Definitely take a parka, rain gear, hat, and gloves and some sweaters and/or polar fleeces. The weather is unpredictable but can be quite cold and damp. I only wore shorts one day.  Layers are the most practical way to go.

Passengers in the dining room still dressed in a "casually elegant" fashion, with slightly more emphasis on casual since many wore sweaters.

I didn't notice the ship being especially cold, but that could be because I was wearing heavier clothing than usual.

The only meals that were noticeably crowded were lunches in the Veranda, especially if the weather was too cold or wet to sit outside.  However, you can also eat lunch in Amphora, which is very nice and has plenty of seating.

The Expedition Team really helped make our cruise memorable.  I highly recommend you participate in the excursions that utilize them.

Enjoy....

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We cruised Alaska many years ago and were there the same time you will be. We all packed a 3 in 1 coat. The outer layer was waterproof and the interior layer was a polar fleece. That way we had 1) a rain jacket for the rain

2) a polar fleece if it was chilly

3) combine the two together for when it was cold and rainy.

Now that being said, we live in Minnesota and that jacket was plenty for us. 

 

In addition, we dressed in layers. I had short sleeve tops that could be paired with either a sweater or a long sleeve top/jacket/sweatshirt. I also had long pants and crops that went with everything. 

 

Our cruise ended in Seward and since there were 6 of us traveling, I made arrangements ahead of time with a taxi/limo to pick us up and take us to Anchorage where we rented a car and then did from Anchorage up to Denali, Fairbanks and the Arctic Circle on our own. It was a wonderful trip!

 

And the coolest part of our trip was being there during the longest day of the year. The sun didn't really ever set and at midnight it was still somewhat light out...pretty cool! Enjoy!

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The train you can take from Seward to Anchorage is the Alaska Railroad Coastal Classic. 

https://www.alaskarailroad.com/ride-a-train/route-map/coastal-classic

 

It leaves Seward at 6 PM and gets into Anchorage at 10:15 PM. You can drop your checked luggage at the train station in the morning for the evening train. They also have an area where you can leave carry-ons but it would be best to keep any valuables with you. The train station is close to the dock and there is a free shuttle that will take you there and into town. There is plenty to do in Seward for the day. 

 

In Anchorage, I've stayed in the Hilton which is a short walk to the train station and the museum or at the Voyager Inn. The Hilton is fairly typical Hilton and Voyager Inn is a decent hotel for an overnight in Alaska. Hotel Captain Cook (next to Voyager) is supposed to be more upscale, but for such a brief visit wasn't worth the extra $ to us.

 

We rented a car from Anchorage for the trip north. It gives you more flexibility. We drove round trip from Anchorage - they wanted an arm and a leg for one-way rental from Anchorage to Fairbanks. 

 

Near where we stayed for Denali, we had an exceptional dinner at 229 Parks Restaurant (it's on Parks Hwy near the 229 mile marker). 

 

Like Ski Mom, I had a fleece and a waterproof shell (though mine were bought separately rather than as a 3 in one). I was there in May 2018 which had pretty rainy cool weather and that was warm enough even then supplemented with a scarf, wool hat and gloves. The waterproof shell is good as a windbreaker even when it isn't raining. A fleece is preferable to down because down loses its insulating quality if it gets wet (unless you really mean a synthetic fill jacket).

 

For my inner layer, I sometimes wore a turtle neck and sometimes a short sleeve shirt. I also had a wool flannel shirt I could wear over that when I wanted something lighter than my fleece. For feet, light weight wool socks (so they would provide warmth in case they got wet) and water-proof low-top hiking shoes (Merrill Moab WP).

 

Windstar supplies waterproof pants and gloves for the kayaking and zodiac expeditions. I have short fingers so I brought my own wool mitten-gloves and they worked well enough.

 

Indoors on the ship, it was warm enough other than on the Veranda. Temps in the Veranda can be cool even if you sit inside if people are going in and out a lot. Indoors at the Veranda was crowded at times because people wanted to sit there for the view rather than Amphora and our cruise had cold enough weather that people often didn't want to sit outside at the Veranda. They did have Amphora open for lunch and breakfast. Ours was the first Alaska cruise and at the beginning, there were some service issues as the crew got used to operating both restaurants at the same time for breakfast and dinner but after a few days it got better.

 

Dinner dress was pretty typical Windstar - some wearing slacks and a polo shirts and some dressing up more. 

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10 hours ago, ridethetide said:

 

The Expedition Team really helped make our cruise memorable.  I highly recommend you participate in the excursions that utilize them.

Enjoy....

 

The cruise was fantastic and the Expedition team was a big part of that. I loved the kayak excursions. It was my first time in a kayak.

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Raincoats, gloves, hats, layers are essential in Alaska in my opinion.  Around any of the glaciers it will be cold.  

The train from the port to Anchorage is nice.  The train from Anchorage up to Denali is off the charts.  Reservations would be required in advance.

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We did this on Princess, but most of the land stuff is relevant to you.  We took the train [from Anchorage to Whittier, but Seward to Anchorage would be similar] and enjoyed the ease and scenery very much.  We stayed at the Hilton [we are Gold, so it's a no-brainer], but ate at the Captain Cook [very good restaurants].  For the interior portion to Denali, the advice on the Cruise Critic Alaska forum was definitely: Rent a Car!  Which we did [from Enterprise in Anchorage].  That turned out to be terrific advice:  on the drive up, 'the mountain was out' so we could pull over at every pull-over and gape in awe!  Then we were able to visit Wasilla [not to meet Sarah Palin, but] for the Iditarod Headquarters Museum, and spend a night in Talkeetna [not to meet the Cat that was the mayor, but] for Flightseeing to Denali with glacier landing and the NP Ranger Station where the climbers start their journey, on the way to Denali where we took the NP bus deep into the park [the only day the mountain wasn't out for us, but hopefully YMWV].  On the drive back to Anchorage, the mountain was out again, so we pulled over at all the pull-overs again and again gaped in awe – you can't do this on the train!  [My research didn't turn up anything in Fairbanks that was really worth a detour, and as noted above it was much easier to rent a car for rt Anchorage.]

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My TA is recommending the 5 day pre cruise land tour to Denali but it isn’t cheap. Any experiences?

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1 hour ago, milepig said:

My TA is recommending the 5 day pre cruise land tour to Denali but it isn’t cheap. Any experiences?

 

I recommend a land tour to Denali very highly, but it is easy to DIY.  We flew in to Anchorage and stayed one night [grueling flight from the East Coast], then rented a car from Enterprise and drove up to Talkeetna for two nights [best place for flightseeing of Denali] then on to Denali for two nights [taking the National Park bus deep into the park], then back to Anchorage for another night before the cruise.  You can't get lost, since there is basically only one road from Anchorage to Denali.  You can stop at dozens of places along the road if "the mountain is out" for great pictures.  You can stay right in Talkeetna [the big lodges are very remote] and you don't need to stay in "glitter gulch" at Denali because you have your own car to drive to the park entrance.  You will gain tremendous flexibility and control, and save money too.  For more details, see my blog:

https://jazzbeauxalaskacruise2013.wordpress.com

and the Cruise Critic Alaska forum:

https://boards.cruisecritic.com/forum/33-alaska/

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I just received an email about changed to our Seward/Vancouver ITIN next June.

 

Due to "port congestion"  they're replaced Cordova and Ketchikan with Petersburg and Prince Rupert (BC)

 

Thoughts?

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June 2019 or June 2020?

 

We are doing a Windstar Vancouver to Seward June 2019. I haven't received that email.

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On 4/16/2019 at 7:25 PM, milepig said:

My TA is recommending the 5 day pre cruise land tour to Denali but it isn’t cheap. Any experiences?

 

We planned a post cruise excursion. When we dock at Seward, we are taking a bus to Anchorage, staying overnight. (There is also a very scenic train ride but it doesn't leave until around 6 pm). The next day we are taking the train to Talkeetna, staying a couple days and doing a glacier flight. Then we are taking the train to Denali. We are staying a couple days, doing one of the bus trips into Denali. Then we are taking the train to Fairbanks where we are flying out. We booked the glass dome train ride. Our cruise begins in Vancouver. We are flying in a couple days early, renting a car and doing the scenic highway to Whistler. 

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1 hour ago, milepig said:

I just received an email about changed to our Seward/Vancouver ITIN next June.

 

Due to "port congestion"  they're replaced Cordova and Ketchikan with Petersburg and Prince Rupert (BC)

 

Thoughts?

June 2019 or June 2020?

 

We are doing a Windstar Vancouver to Seward June 2019. I haven't received that email.

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53 minutes ago, VetteCity said:

June 2019 or June 2020?

 

We are doing a Windstar Vancouver to Seward June 2019. I haven't received that email.

 

oops - this is June 19 2020. If this works, here's the new and old schedule:

 

image.png.2e78f3b4264284fb5f98fb5f0dd0c0b5.png

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10 minutes ago, milepig said:

 

oops - this is June 19 2020. If this works, here's the new and old schedule:

 

image.png.2e78f3b4264284fb5f98fb5f0dd0c0b5.png

I will be interested to hear other cruisers opinion of the change in the future itinerary.

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Posted (edited)

Sorry for the total Alaska nube question, but our itin has four days that say ""cruising around..." I assume this means that the ship indeed "cruises" around the area. I do note that some of them also have excursions that pick you up right from the ship. Do you indeed just sort of cruise around the area - is there narration on board?

Edited by milepig

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1 hour ago, milepig said:

Sorry for the total Alaska nube question, but our itin has four days that say ""cruising around..." I assume this means that the ship indeed "cruises" around the area. I do note that some of them also have excursions that pick you up right from the ship. Do you indeed just sort of cruise around the area - is there narration on board?

During our Alaska itinerary last July, during the "cruising around" days, the ship would anchor in lovely places and the Expedition Team would take the passengers out on the zodiacs and/or the kayaks.  If you were not taking the excursions, you just stayed on board and "oohed and awed" at the unending and ever-changing beauty of the surroundings and the wildlife that would appear. I highly recommend the excursions.  They were so incredible.  However, my husband stayed on board and thoroughly enjoyed himself as well.

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On 4/26/2019 at 12:59 PM, milepig said:

Sorry for the total Alaska nube question, but our itin has four days that say ""cruising around..." I assume this means that the ship indeed "cruises" around the area. I do note that some of them also have excursions that pick you up right from the ship. Do you indeed just sort of cruise around the area - is there narration on board?

We did the inaugural season with a longer itinerary last June. One stop was Prince Rupert for about a half day. We did a seaplane excursion which was great. We were there on a Sunday and nothing was open so I would definitely do a ship excursion.  The days that we just cruised were great. It is breathtakingly beautiful. The zodiacs are a must do and the excursion crew also are experts in the wildlife and geology of AK with daily lectures. They made themselves available day and night. Ketchikan was full of big ships but we had a great day there. Private excursions are hard to come by and just as expensive as the Windstar ones. It's a short season and guides commit to the ships for their living. We normally do not take the ship's excursions but did with one exception on this cruise. Loved each one and felt that we got our money's worth. Absolutely do a land tour before or after. The state is mind blowing and the beauty immense. We did the Windstar land tour but there are others. You can also rent a car and go on your own. Its is easy to get around with good roads and no traffic congestion. We will go back and spend a couple of weeks driving but if you only have a short time do a tour. 

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1 hour ago, sb44 said:

We did the inaugural season with a longer itinerary last June. One stop was Prince Rupert for about a half day. We did a seaplane excursion which was great. We were there on a Sunday and nothing was open so I would definitely do a ship excursion.  The days that we just cruised were great. It is breathtakingly beautiful. The zodiacs are a must do and the excursion crew also are experts in the wildlife and geology of AK with daily lectures. They made themselves available day and night. Ketchikan was full of big ships but we had a great day there. Private excursions are hard to come by and just as expensive as the Windstar ones. It's a short season and guides commit to the ships for their living. We normally do not take the ship's excursions but did with one exception on this cruise. Loved each one and felt that we got our money's worth. Absolutely do a land tour before or after. The state is mind blowing and the beauty immense. We did the Windstar land tour but there are others. You can also rent a car and go on your own. Its is easy to get around with good roads and no traffic congestion. We will go back and spend a couple of weeks driving but if you only have a short time do a tour. 

 

Thanks. We’ll do Denali before on our own with a rental car (cheaper than I expected) and stay probably 3 night. 

 

We have 4 “cruising in a bay” days. How would you divide those up? 

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No easy answer to this one. I would let the daily program dictate the day. Definitely do the zodiacs as much as possible.  The kayaks also depart at different times. One suggestion is the earlier the better as most of the animals, bear, moose, etc., are up and about early and less visible as the day warms up. They will depart from below and several times a day. There will also be other activities going on so each day is a bit different.  Weather always figures in as well.  Make sure you bring some good binoculars as the cruising days are through some of the most spectacular places ever. We spent lots of time on the bow with jackets and binoculars. The excursion crew also pops around the ship to point out sisightings and answer questions.  Our cruise was fabulous and hope yours is as well. 

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We have four of these days. Only one is yet showing up under excursions, priced at $185

 

racy Arm & Endicott Arm, Windstar Signature Expedition – Tracy Arm Zodiac Tour (Easy-Moderate)

1 hour, 15 mins - Approximate Tour Departure 8:15 AM • $185.00

 

Four of those for two people can really add up.

 

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We have chosen to do the kayaks rather than the zodiacs. Is that a bad choice? We both enjoy kayaking very much.

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20 minutes ago, VetteCity said:

We have chosen to do the kayaks rather than the zodiacs. Is that a bad choice? We both enjoy kayaking very much.

It's not a bad choice. I did the kayaking at all 3 opportunities and really enjoyed it. The first stop (Kenai Fjords), I also took a zodiac to see how it compares. It was fun, but not better. I preferred the more active alternative of the kayak.

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