I did Alaska while temporarily in a wheelchair, so have some first hand experience.
Most ships have ONE day of scenic cruising out of 7, where people view scenery from the ship's rail. HAL Volendam and Zuiderdam out of Vancouver have TWO days of scenic cruising: one at incomparable Glacier Bay National Park, the other at Tracy Arm Fjord (twin Sawyer glaciers, if conditions are good enough for the ship to navigate that far - otherwise, beautiful scenery and possible wildlife sightings). Port stops in Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan - the usual places.
Scenic cruising days are easier on the mobility challenged. Basically, the scenery comes to you! People are usually polite about letting mobility impaired people get in front to sit by the ship's rail - partly because it's easy to see over their heads.
Returning to Seattle departures, I'd suggest you focus on ships which visit Glacier Bay National Park. If your parents are only going to have a single day to see sights from the ship, this is the "must do" stop, IMO.
All ships visiting Glacier Bay from Seattle will have essentially the same itinerary, with some variations in port times, and order visited:
scenic cruising at Glacier Bay - no stop or shore excursions
Victoria - brief evening visit
The three ships doing this itinerary from Seattle are Golden Princess (which leaves on Saturdays) and Holland America Oosterdam and Norwegian Pearl (which both leave on Sundays).
What month do your parents want to travel? Are they planning on booking a wheelchair accessible room? Cabin availability may help make the choice for them.
Wheelchair rooms will have accessible showers instead of tub and shower, and different furniture arrangements. They are slightly larger than other cabins to allow for wheelchair turns.
However, some scooters are too wide for some cabin doorways, so it's good to get in touch with ship's access and compliance to check all issues connected with scooters. They CANNOT be left outside the cabin door.
All ports have good wheelchair/scooter accessibility. Not every excursion will be suitable, however. Your parents should consider sticking with "ship's own" excursions, as the cruise line will be able to tell them in precise detail how much walking is involved, and which tours can accommodate a scooter. For example, I know Juneau "ship's own" whale watching vessels are wheelchair accessible, but many private whale excursions ships are not.
If you want to get into which particular excursions I enjoyed, I would be happy to discuss that. However, knowing your parents interests would help - what's on their "must see" and "must do" lists?Edited: 2:23 am, January 06, 2011
Sorry - didn't answer your question about "time to go".
Avoid May - it's too cold, and floating ice can still be a navigation issue.
July and August are peak season - the best weather. There are more families with children cruising at that time.
September used to have cheaper prices. and still good weather, but there were fewer September deals last year. Not sure about 2011.
If either of your parents are interested in king salmon fishing, you might want to consider June. Different types of salmon run throughout the summer months.
Planning trip to Northwest with husband who use wheelchair to get around quickly and can use walker in room, etc. We are going to celebrate 75th birthday with an Alaskan Cruise this summer. Just starting to plan, prefer smaller ship, easy access and assistance with transfers, etc. What do you think?
Gypsiescollect, welcome to TripAdvisor and the cruises forum!
Two lines have been doing Alaska longest, and are considered to still do it best: Princess, and Holland America. They have the best dock locations in virtually every port (easier on both of you). They also have the inside track on a variety of other things, like scenic cruising in drop-dead-gorgeous Glacier Bay National Park (number of ships admitted are limited).
As mentioned above, I did Alaska in my temporary wheelchair on Holland America Ryndam (small ship). It seemed to me everything had been thought through and planned for accessibility. However, Cruise Critic rates the larger HAL Vista ships best for accessibility:
Are you looking for a standard 7 day return cruise? Are you considering a 14 day cruise? Or, are you considering a cruise plus a land tour?
Scenic cruising days are far easier on the mobility impaired (and their companions) than port days. So, I still recommend Volemdam and Zuiderdam (one of the ships CC recommends) for their 2 scenic cruising days. Your husband will be able to see from his wheelchair. Passengers on HAL will make room for him at the rail (IME - both as able bodied, and the person in the wheelchair) .Edited: 7:15 pm, May 16, 2011
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