After an awesome cruise northbound in 2012, my wife and I reversed route this year and embarked at Seward for the seven night trip to Vancouver. We went with our version of "premium" in 2012: balcony cabin, significant excursions in every port, three night's in premium restaurants, etc. While we loved it and would certainly recommend this approach for first-time Alaska cruisers, what most impressed us on that trip was the scale and scope of Alaska itself. So we took it as a challenge to see how much we could save the second time around and still fully enjoy ourselves.
We went with an inside cabin, which this time came with a $300 shipboard credit. No doubt the balcony is awesome, but Radiance has lots glass in almost all of the public spaces so we didn't feel like we missed any of the sights along the Inside Passage.
In Skagway, where in 2012 we took the WP&YR train into the Yukon for $225 per person, we rented a car for $80 instead. Not only did we see all the same sights as the railroad, we could stop at the waterfalls and we drove much further into the Yukon Territory of Canada, including Emerald Lake and the world's smallest desert, a highlight of the trip.
In Juneau, we took the city bus to Mendenhall for $16 per person round trip, instead of a pricier city tour with Mendenhall stop in 2012. This allowed us to spend as much time as we wanted at the park, hiking to Nugget Falls and observing lots of salmon and three bears close up. When we returned to our ship, we saw whales right near the dock.
In Icy Straight, where last year we did an expensive but worthwhile bear/whale excursion, we chose instead a pleasant hike around the nature trails and some fresh king crab at the dock.
Then in Ketchikan we spent the day in town, watching the teaming salmon along Creek Street and visiting the museum. Last year we took a boat ride to Misty Fiords.
When it came to dining, we still spent three nights in the specialty restaurants, twice in Chops and once at Giovanni's Table. The meals were delicious and we considered it good value. We pre-purchased a seven bottle wine package, paying an average of $33/bottle for wine that would cost $15-18 at home. Good enough.
Bottom line? Although there's no replacement for the awe and wonder of the first time you see Alaska, we had a fantastic time for half the cost of last year's cruise. It can be done. In fact, we'll probably do it again.
Very minor points: It's past time for Radiance to lose the fake plants in the Solarium; they are dated, faded and dusty. Most everything in the Windjammer looks better than it tastes; a made-to-order salad from Park Cafe was always a better choice. Lastly, hearing the well meaning staff talk about the "quack-quack", the "yummy-yummy" and the need to "washy-washy before "eaty-eaty" comes off as so stereotypical. Let's call a duck a duck and then have dessert, 'K?