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Where to go? How to go? And how long for?

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Hampshire, United...
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Where to go? How to go? And how long for?

We're in the initial stages of planning a 2 week holiday in Canada the second week of which would be an Alaskan cruise. Whilst the cruise company can arrange a land tour we think we would prefer to 'do our own thing'.

It's been suggested to us that we should fly in to Calgary and then Banff and Jasper are the places to visit. We don't like coach travel but would be prepared to do some driving ourselves although long distances are a no no. The cruise would depart from Vancouver and we would like to spend 2 or 3 days there. I know we can travel by train from Jasper to Vancouver but I understand it is an overnight sleeper service and that's ok if we have private facilities (shower and loo) but I don't think they are available so it may be we have to go back to Calgary and fly on to Vancouver.

Any suggestions as to where we should go and how and also how long is needed in each place? Our 2 weeks could extend to 16 or 17 days if absolutely necessary but no longer.

Many thanks for any help you can give.

Vancouver, Canada
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1. Re: Where to go? How to go? And how long for?

Hi kaleg ~

If one of your weeks is on the ground here, you would be best to fly into Calgary, visit the Rockies (3 nights Banff, 3 nights Jasper, 1 night Banff) then back to Calgary to fly to your cruise in Vancouver. 7 days is just not enough time to visit the Rockies, drive the 2 days it takes across the province (850 km) and visit Vancouver as well.

You could arrange a self drive for:

arrive Calgary, 1 night if necessary, otherwise drive straight away to Banff

3 nights Banff

3 nights Jasper

1 night Golden, BC

1 night Kelowna, BC

2 nights Vancouver (really needs 4 nights)

7 day cruise

1 night Vancouver, if necessary before flying out

Map of this idea in which you can see the driving routes, times and distances in the left sidebar: http://goo.gl/maps/dcfJm

Check into Canadian Affair for a one way car rental with no one way drop fee: http://www.canadianaffair.com/en/car_hire/

Or you could fly to Vancouver and spend 7 nights split between Vancouver (4 nights) and Whistler (2 nights) before your cruise and if necessary 1 night after your cruise before flying home.

Wow! so many forum posts.

Edited: 8:05 pm, September 15, 2013
Vancouver, Canada
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2. Re: Where to go? How to go? And how long for?

The Rockies are spectacular, and certainly the Rockies and and Alaska Cruise are a typical itinerary. But I have to question why you would go one place in order to see another. Allow me to offer some perspective.

The distance between Vancouver and Banff is almost exactly the same distance as Brighton to Dundee, Scotland. If I posted on the UK forum and said I was going to be in Brighton, would you suggest that I go and visit Dundee as a primary destination? Probably not. Scotland is quite lovely and well worth visiting, but so is Brighton and environs and, at some point, you have to decide if you are visiting Scotland or are you visiting the south of England.

If you are coming to Vancouver, shouldn't you see Vancouver and environs?

Hampshire, United...
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3. Re: Where to go? How to go? And how long for?

Thanks MultiMixandmatch! Your response is really helpful and hubby and I will sit down and look at all the links this evening.

We are really only in the initial stages of planning this holiday so it could be that we forget the cruise bit and spend more time on land. Can you give me your opinion of what we would see on an Alaskan cruise. The cruise ship experience we know all about having done several cruises so I'm thinking of Alaska itself and what it has to offer? Also, what would we be doing and seeing in Vancouver if we spent 4 days there?

Thanks again and I look forward to anything further you can advise.

Thanks Vancouverite67! Whilst I see what you are saying, with no disrespect to either Brighton or Dundee, if you were travelling thousands of miles across land and sea for a 2 week holiday in the UK they would not feature among my suggestions of places for you to visit. So I'm left wondering if you are in effect saying that Banff and Jasper would not be high on your list of must-see Canadian destinations? I do know the distances involved but as this is likely to be our one and only holiday in Canada we want to see as much as possible.

To turn your question around, if you were coming to London, shouldn't you just restrict yourself to London and its environs? I can't answer for you but I doubt that many travelling all the way from Canada and the US would answer yes to that. At least we're not attempting to fit Halifax, Toronto and Winnipeg into the 2 weeks as well!!

Vancouver, Canada
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4. Re: Where to go? How to go? And how long for?

Hi kaleg,

Have a look at this article from the Alaska Forums Top Questions. It will give you helpful info about choosing a cruise. The Alaska Forum is for all questions Cruise.

tripadvisor.com/Travel-g28923-c194064/Alaska…

For what to do in Vancouver, look in the green menu bar across the top. The button for Things to Do is the place to suss out what things appeal to you. Oh, and have a look at the Top Questions too.

Also on the BC Forum, read the Trip Report Collection, linked in the Top Questions to the right of the page. Much food for thought there. Our BC online tourist info website is:

www.hellobc.com

As you are pondering, 16 nights in the last half of June or the first half of Sept would make a pretty solid AB and BC land vacation. 7 nights in the Rockies, 5 nights across the province and 4 nights in Vancouver. But do read the cruise article.

Hampshire, United...
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5. Re: Where to go? How to go? And how long for?

Thanks again MultiMixandmatch. We now have a lot of reading to do. For various reasons we are likely to visit in July or August (rather than late June or early September as you suggest). Are there any pros or possibly more importantly cons to those months?

I mustn't keep quizzing you as it must be past bedtime now in Vancouver but I'll be glad to hear from you again when you are able.

Greater Sydney...
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6. Re: Where to go? How to go? And how long for?

G'day kaleg.

Mufti has given some very good advice, and I will just chip in with my thoughts. I chose to answer this on the BC forum rather than the Alberta one because you raise the question of cruises here.

I would regard the Rockies to be the "must do" for a week or so on land as they are the jewel in the crown of western Canada, and then also an Alaska cruise as a "must do" seeing as you are travelling so far as we had to do also. The packages for both are extremely popular for very good reasons, and both experiences are quite different and very rewarding IMO. Not that I recommend a package tour.

I can highly recommend reading the Alaska cruise link posted by Mufti, but then again I am a bit biased as I am the co-author of that. With the time you have available you should look at a round trip cruise from Vancouver, not Seattle (inferior experience) and not a one-way as you do not have the time unless you drop the Rockies and I would NEVER advocate that.

The order of priorities for choosing an Alaska cruise should be 1 - itinerary, 2 - itinerary and 3 - itinerary. From my research of the 2014 season offerings it is my opinion that HAL Voledam and Zuiderdam share the best itinerary, followed closely by Pacific Princess. The reason I place those ships at the top of the list is that they all cruise the extremely beautiful Glacier Bay National Park where only two ships each day are permitted to enter due to the sensitive eco system. HAL also offer an excursion for Tracy Arm which is a narrow fjord with great scenery and the twin Sawyers Glaciers at the end. An Alaska cruise is not about the cruise, it is about some not otherwise easily accessible regions of SE Alaska for wonderful scenery and activities.

I could go on all night about both regions, as Mufti and Vancouverite can attest, but will leave it there until you might like further advice which, if about the Alaska leg,should be asked on the Alaska forum.

(Edit) The only downside with July or August is that they are the peak of the season hence more costly, and school holidays. However there is a lot of room in Alberta and Alaska to accommodate people. You would be amazed how a town like Skagway with 800 permanent residents can absorb 4 ships each with 2000 + passengers. :)

Edited: 7:03 am, September 16, 2013
Hampshire, United...
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7. Re: Where to go? How to go? And how long for?

Hi Frommy

Thanks for your input. I think we are inclined toward Princess as we have cruised with them before and, whisper it, we found them to be far superior to the other line we have been with, that being their sister company P&O. I believe that they (Princess) too are offering Tracy Arm on selected dates in 2014. And yes, we would want to do a round trip from Vancouver rather than exiting Seattle.

At the moment I think I'm more confused than before I posted my question but that is because already so many of you good people have given us so much to think about! Thanks again for what you have said.

PS Sorry about the Ashes!!!

Greater Sydney...
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8. Re: Where to go? How to go? And how long for?

P&O is a poor cousin of Princess within the Carnival cruise family, so no worries there. Please be aware though that it is not infrequently that the larger ships cannot get access very far into Tracy Arm due to floating ice in the narrow fjord, and hence that is why HAL offer a side excursion where the ship is met by a catamaran from Allen Marine who do the trip up the fjord, while the ship sails on to Juneau to be later rejoined by the passengers off the catamaran.

From my reading of the itineraries the Pacific P, as the only P sailing R/T from Vancouver, does not offer any option for Tracy Am, but the Seattle sailing of Grand P does. The P one-ways do not offer it.

Give HAL a go. It is also another of the Carnival family but the old world style of their presentation is great, and we loved the service and tucker. The Wednesday sailing of the Volendam, which is about a third less in size size of the Princess ships, is great as there are then two of the ports of call with none or only one other ship in port as most sail on Saturdays and Sundays.

Ashes? What are they. :( If you get some decent weather over there we may be able to salvage some pride with the one day games. :)

Edited: 8:12 am, September 16, 2013
Hampshire, United...
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9. Re: Where to go? How to go? And how long for?

Thanks for the extra info. We live about 30 minutes from Southampton where the ODI is today. Weather is currently chilly and windy but sunny also. Showers about though. May the best team win!

Vancouver, Canada
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10. Re: Where to go? How to go? And how long for?

No, not what I meant at all. Just trying to make some comparisons about distances, as this is often underestimated when people come from Europe in particular. The Rockies, the Coast, and the cruise all are wonderful destinations with plenty to see and do. Its just about making choices as to where to spend your time.