June 14, 2013

Alaska Cruise: Picking the Ship. Thank You, Uncle Mike!

I had already decided to cruise up the coast of Alaska. Selecting the right ship for me was the next most important choice, and key to my enjoyment.

I choose to explore the Inside Passage and the Gulf of Alaska after I had already booked an August Mediterranean cruise for four generations of Schappis. Before I made any decisions on that European adventure, I did LOTS of homework.

I consulted a neighborhood couple -- cruise veterans – who are my age. I searched the web. I sought Frommer’s and Rick Steves’ travel advice.

So many choices. Big ship or small? Casual or luxury? Focus on education, entertainment or adventure? Did I want “resort-like ambience”?

An Introvert's Peculiarities

I’m an introvert, often allergic to groups, with a lifelong preference for independent, solo travel. I needed to think about the interaction I'd have with other people on the ship.

On a really small vessel, there’d be lots of time with the same people. A couple times on small tours, a few annoying people really ticked me off. Was that a risk here?

On a large cruise ship, I could “escape” by getting lost in the crowd. But I certainly didn't want a non-stop party cruise. That would be a nightmare!

One cruise line seemed to best accommodate my idiosyncrasies. It was also a pricey choice.

The "Uncle Mike" in this post’s title is Mike Bloomberg, whose Bloomberg News bought BNA, the company I worked for -- and invested in, at a nice premium -- for 40 years. Had it not been for Uncle Mike, I might not have made the choice I did.

Regent's Seven Seas Navigator
Here's what Frommer's says of the ship pictured above:
Luxury in Alaska this year is defined in 2012 by Regent Seven Seas Navigator . . . If you want a more casual kind of luxury (a really nice ship with no tie-required policy), Regent's Seven Seas Navigator offers just that on an all-suite vessel (most cabins have private balconies) with excellent cuisine.
Rick Steves – like all other sources I’ve seen -- gives a similar rave review of Regent. And “Navigator” underwent a recent $31 million refurbishment.

What appeals most to me is that Navigator carries only 490 guests. Most other Alaska cruise ships carry about 2,000 passengers.

The Beauty of NO Tipping
I also like Regent’s “absolutely no tipping” policy. I hate always wondering "Should I tip for this service?" and "If so, how much?" I'm happy to pay Regent’s higher price to escape that aggravation.

I suspect I'll regularly use Regent's 24-hour room service, provided at no extra charge. I identify with Sartre's alleged comment: "Hell is other people at breakfast."

I have a vision of enjoying quiet, leisurely breakfasts on the balcony of my suite, watching glaciers calving into the sea.

I'm ready!!

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