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Planning an Alaskan Cruise

Discussion in 'Cruises' started by atravels, Jul 8, 2017.

  1. atravels

    atravels New Member

    My 75 -year old mom has unexpectedly booked a Princess cruise to Alaska in mid August. It is a trip she has always wanted to take and it will be her first cruise., but she surprised me by planning it without asking for help from me. A local travel guy has arranged transportation to and from her local airport, made group flight arrangements, and booked the actual cruise. It doesn't seem to be very well planned, and I am trying to help make sure that all the details are covered. However, I'm not sure if I know what all the details are because I have never taken a cruise before either! I thought I would ask for some expert advice. A little bit more backstory...Mom had polio as a child, and walks slowly and tires easily. The gentleman who arranged the travel has scheduled the group of ladies to leave home at 2 a.m., get on a bus, travel to the airport, board a plane at 6 a.m. central time, change planes in Phoenix, and arrive in SEA at 11:15 local time, and then check in for the cruise. I would never make those arrangements because: 1) it seems like they will be exhausted before the fun ever starts, and 2) with so many moving parts, I am afraid they might miss the cruise. Nonetheless, that is the plan, and the money is already spent. I have three main questions: 1) Can anyone think of ways that I might make this go more smoothly for them? For instance, I have already contacted the airline and requested a wheelchair for my mom. 2) What shore excursions would be recommended for someone with her mobility issues? Should they be booked in advance, or after she gets on the ship? (The latter is what her travel guy suggests.) 3) She doesn't have a credit card with trip delay insurance, and her flight was purchased in advance through a group reservation. Should I be looking into some sort of 3rd party trip delay insurance for her? or is there a way for her to apply for a card like CSR, and use the coverage it has even though her flight is already paid for? I suppose having that card would also be useful for lounge access too, if she even has time to drop into a lounge.

    Sorry for newbie questions, but I thank you very much if you take the time to read this and suggest anything that can help my mom have a great experience.
  2. Cmonman76

    Cmonman76 Level 2 Member

    All I can address is the fact that a friend of mine has took his wheelchair bound mother on many cruises and always with Princess. They always had a great experience with the cruise itself.

    The 2am bus ride however sounds rough for anybody.
  3. BuddyFunJet

    BuddyFunJet Level 2 Member

    My thought is to see if you can move the 2am bus to the night before and get an airport hotel for the group to make the 6am flight easier.

    Along with the wheelchair at both ends, talk to airline about PHX transfer.

    Have arrangements been made for SEA to port transfer?

    For contingency planning, look at when cruise leaves SEA. See flight options if the miss flight at start or PhX. Look at next stop of ship. Maybe can catch at next stop if all else fails.

    Given mobility issues, I'd book excursions now. Since fewer excursions fit their needs, they can't easily go on another if their first choice is booked. Doing it now allows a chat with Princess about limited mobility excursions

    Also look at ship to airport on return and airport wheelchairs again.

    While not your responsibility, you might also verify the needs of the others in the group and that there are wheelchairs/excursions/whatever for the group since your mother won't want to leave the group behind if they need chairs also.

    I'm a bit compulsive from my mothers travels and understand your concern/discomfort.
  4. Matt

    Matt Administrator Staff Member

    Just got home about 2hrs ago from our most recent cruise..

    Firstly, @atravels I think your concerns are valid. We just flew to MIA the night prior to the cruise 'just in case'. If your Mom has time on her hands (as most retirees do) then taking a little extra to smooth things out is a really good idea. I also agree with the points raised here thus far in the replies.

    Here's my two cents:

    1. I agree with Buddy about first asking for a swap (free or paid). I'd also suggest looking into alternative flight options independently, using points/miles if possible, but whatever you can work with. If you want to give dates and airports perhaps we can help out with routes.

    I would try to forget about the 'sunk cost' of the already booked flights. If this trip falls apart because your Mom misses the boat, or gets stuck somewhere onroute, the few hundred bucks of flights is going to feel meaningless, and I'd suggest that you try your hardest to ignore that cost as you consider the replacement option of the day earlier, and the hotel cost.

    I'd then compare the above with insurance, 3rd party (not credit card) and see what the prices run like. You might find that a new flight and hotel comes in around $300-800 in points/miles vs perhaps $100 for insurance, but then you need to realize that $100 of insurance is to help reimburse cash for a horrible experience, VS $300-800 to 'almost' guarantee a great one. I don't think a CSR will help, because any trip insurance by a credit card is going to be limited to the components where the credit card was used, and this trip is already paid for....

    2. I also agree about looking/booking in advance. I've not sailed with Princess, but the lines I have allow for online trip planning, so you should be able to log in/sign up and use your Mom's confirmation code/reservation number to peruse Shorex. Cruiselines are typically good with pax who have special needs, and will clearly state what Shorex are appropriate and what are not.


    I'm having a bit of a YOLO phase right now, and trying to really think about the experience over the little things. If your Mom is 75 and this is a trip of a lifetime, get her on the earlier flight one way or another, and a nice hotel, and reduce the stress and risk of it going wrong. This is the sort of thing that points and miles were made for.
  5. atravels

    atravels New Member

    Thank you! I am feeling a bit OCD about this. I called my mom and offered to spring for airport hotel for her group (3 ladies), since I can use points. She is resistant because she doesn't like the idea of trying to rendezvous with the remainder of the group, and she likes the idea of having the travel guy shepherding them from home to airport on the bus/mini van. Although I think it's an exhausting plan, she seems determined to stick with it.

    I am calling Southwest tomorrow to discuss the PHX transfer - great idea! I just found out today that group reservations customer service is only open weekdays.

    Contingency plan is always a plus! I will look at flight options and have some suggestions printed for my mom to take with her.

    My mom has been very reluctant to use a wheelchair, but I explained that it usually expedites security screening, and might even speed up the process for the entire group. At least, that has been my experience when travelling with a friend in a wheelchair. I offered to set up wheelchairs for others, and explained that rushing through airports can be exhausting even for someone in great shape.

    I just got her login information for Princess, and I have some research to do about the shore excursions. You made a great point about booking early after chatting with Princess. I will use the same argument with my mom!

    I'm not sure about the SEA to port transportation, but I will be checking on that tomorrow. Thanks for the reminder.
  6. atravels

    atravels New Member

    First, let me just thank you for the reply, especially since you just got home. Hope you had a great time! I certainly agree with changing the plans so that there isn't so much rushing on the front end. I just don't know how to make this point with my mom. She is anxious about travelling without a guide because she hasn't ever been alone in an airport, and her friends aren't expert travelers either. The only way that I can think of to make the changes to her itinerary would be to take over tour guide duties myself, at least until I get Mom and her two friends to BNA to rendezvous with the others for the 615 am flight. I am willing to do that, but she is adamant that this was her decision, and she is following through with it. At this point, I am simply trying to tie up loose ends, so to speak. However, I am planning a subsequent trip (Hawaiian cruise) for her and a friend using miles/points and hopefully, it will help her see that things can be just a little nicer using miles/points to soften the edges. I just want the Alaskan cruise to go well so that she doesn't back out of the trip I am planning!
  7. BuddyFunJet

    BuddyFunJet Level 2 Member

    In case things get weird, you also need the princess booking numbers for the other ladies in the group and the phone numbers to call for princess as well as the ship in case they are delayed.

    On a different topic, check into your moms cell phone plan about usage in Canada as well as warning her about cell talk and data rates while on the ship. The easiest is if she leaves the phone in airplane/wifi mode during the cruise. Same for iPad or laptop. Our doctor came home to a $2k phone bill due to $5/min ship cell rate.
  8. atravels

    atravels New Member

    Wow! That would be an unwelcome surprise. I will make sure to provide some tech support for mom on this subject. Wouldn't have thought of that. I just assumed her phone wouldn't work while cruising.
  9. BuddyFunJet

    BuddyFunJet Level 2 Member

    Since she doesn't travel much, you might need to discuss luggage. Be sure all meds, essential personal care and at least a day or two of clothes is in carry on. If checking two bags, split clothes between bags so if one delayed, still have half rather than all pants in one bag.

    Ask southwest about porters at SEA since the group will need luggage assistance.
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  10. BuddyFunJet

    BuddyFunJet Level 2 Member

    Princess cell rates are set by the carrier, check your moms, but are usually $3-$6 per minute. There is also the Canadian usage to consider.
  11. smittytabb

    smittytabb Moderator Staff Member

    Just have her put the phone in airplane mode. Have never ever had a charge doing that as someone upthread suggested. And your mom needs a new travel guy. He hasn't a clue.
  12. Suzie

    Suzie Level 2 Member

    You should write a blog for elder travelers - good points and insight!
  13. BuddyFunJet

    BuddyFunJet Level 2 Member

    Thanks. I finally qualify for Hyatt senior rates this week. In the past, I traveled with my mother and tried to improve her poor plans.

    To the topic of the day, also look at making specialty dinner reservations now if you want a good dinner time on a sea day. Go for sea day so not tired or rushed after a shore excursion.

    Look into the alcohol or non-alcohol drink plans. I usually buy a soda plan but I drink several a day. Also look at policy about bringing booze in the luggage.

    On excursion bookings, I'd suggest half days in am when group is fresh rather than full day. If the group wants more touring after a day or two of halfs, can probably book on board. Also, if you book two halfs, can cut back if afternoon turns out to be too much rather than being stuck on a full
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2017
  14. Suzie

    Suzie Level 2 Member

    I don't have any suggestions that have not already been mentioned, but just wanted to say I think it's wonderful that you're doing this for your Mom.
  15. atravels

    atravels New Member

    August 12th Southwest Flight WB4333 6:15 am BNA ->PHX arrive 7:50 am, change planes continue on to SEA on WB 4851 8:50 am, arriving at 11:55 am
    Transfer to port has been arranged through Princess
    Cruise departs at 4 pm
  16. BuddyFunJet

    BuddyFunJet Level 2 Member

    With Southwest, tickets can be cancelled at no charge but funds must be used by that person within a year. No sunk cost loss if she will use within a year. Also, can cancel outbound but leave return intact if those flights are good.

    If there is a problem at Bna, southwest has a flight to sea at 7:20 that arrives before the original one so there is a flight that would work.

    If you are looking at rebooking outbound, delta has a nonstop at 7:35 for $249 on 8/12 but I'd really look at the day before with a night in SEA.

    I don't know if points would work since your mom will want to fly with her friends and "extra" costs might be an issue for them.

    If the problem pops up at Phx, alaska has a 9:50 and aa has a 10:40 to sea that would work but probably not be cheap the day of. Southwest does not inter-line so they will be no help if you switch to aa or AS.
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2017
  17. atravels

    atravels New Member

    Update: I just talked to Southwest, and the gentleman (and I use that term loosely) who was scheduling this trip missed the deadline to get group information submitted. As a courtesy, Southwest has extended deadline to 5 pm tomorrow, and after that they will be cancelling the group reservation and issuing travel credits. Unfortunately, it seems that my mom and her friends have chosen a very unprofessional travel professional. A silver lining, I suppose, is that after 5 tomorrow I can schedule alternative plans including getting to SEA the day before the cruise. Thanks everyone for the valuable input!
  18. BuddyFunJet

    BuddyFunJet Level 2 Member

    No need to wait till after 5 tomorrow since they will lose their return reservation and pricing.

    My suggestion shorthand is

    Look at the return schedule and fare as reserved. If good, book before 5pm. If return fare has gone down, ask for return refare. If return schedule not good, start from scratch.

    For outbound, I'd look at 9am nonstop and book hotel in tourist area so can sightsee on own for afternoon. Maybe ask hotel about sightseeing tours for morning before going to ship.
  19. Matt

    Matt Administrator Staff Member

    I think you've got some great advice here already, and hopefully you can get the flights rearranged to allow for a little more time.

    In terms of hotel/location etc.. we cruised from SEA to Alaska recently, and here's some thoughts from that:

    There were two prime locations for quick sightseeing:

    • Pike Place Market - right on the water and the cruise ship docks close to here. Snag is that there's a big drop down to the market, very steep hill, so a wheelchair would need help. The market street is also coble stone. If there is a hotel on the street somewhere, great, if not, getting down will be tricky. Might be best to stay further away, and get a car to drop them down to the street level.
    • Space Needle - we didn't go up it, but there is a park (Chihuly) around it which was flat and accessible and quite pleasant.
    We stayed in the Hyatt Olive Place, a nice enough hotel (great breakfast for whatever status we had then) but the location was on the end of the 'strip' that leads down to Pike place, not a huge amount to do there, without going a few blocks.

    The best hotel in the points/chain world might be http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/seawf-seattle-marriott-waterfront/

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