Holland America. Best choice of Pre & Post Land Tours,most comfortable dome cars,seamless linkeage with lodges & transportation.Seem to get priority on docks and permits to the best glacier points too.Best time. September to catch the fall colours and clear blue skies if in luck.
We cruised Alaska this August with Celebrity Mercury,booked a concierge cabin, it was superb. The ship and scenery were 1st class, we flew out to Vancouver the day before to join the ship. We had good weather on the whole but it is a bit of pot luck. Alaskan cruises tend to be from about mid May to mid Sept. Most passengers were from USA, Canada with a few from UK and most we spoke to always cruised Celebrity. We would recommend them too. Suggest you read some cruise reviews, they are very helpful to get different opinions. Hope this is helpful and enjoy if you go.
We cruised with HollandAmerica line to Alaska in July and the weather was great. We also did the rocky mountaineer from Calgary to Vancouver before boarding the cruise shi.
We have cruised twice with Princess and were happy, but not tried any others... when to go... thats difficult.
We went at the end of May. Had glorious weather for the most part and saw bald eagles so close we could virtually touch them.They were hanging round the salmon cannery outlet as it was prime canning time.
We went again in August. This time we got to see wales, both humpback and killer, and bears fishing in the salmon ladders (both quite expensive excursions but well worth it). You will still see the odd bald eagle about, but not as nearly as visible or accessible.
So..... it depends what you want to see and do.. again the weather was good, but Alaskan weather is never guaranteed.
If you can afford it get a cabin with a balcony. If you are going up the inside passage, into fjords etc you can sit on it and watch the views glide by.
Another brilliant excursion is the train that goes over the White Horse Pass.. you can train up one way and come back by bus if you prefer. Firt time we did train both ways, second time we took another expensive excursion and when we got off the train we were taken on into the Yukon. Great to say we had been there.
Holland America did it well - but whichever you chose do get a balcony cabin - it really is worth it as you can relax on your own with the scenery. Perhaps more importantly you dont have to rush up on deck at 6 am when the ship enters the bay. I suggest that you do the one way from Seward rather than to and from Vancouver etc as you see more.
Go for the best you can afford and make sure you have a balcony to really get the most from your Alaskan cruise. We went with Princess - superb but Silverseas do one which I believe is second to none if you can affort it. They only go May September and I would suggest you do not leave it too late as weather is changeable.
Ncl are good/princess too be sure to take the helicopter trips that take you to the dog teams sledging on the glaciers unforgetable also the sea planes thro the glaciers and lakes. you will then only know what alaska offers late august is bes.
We cruised with Norwegian Line last May, weather was fantastic,we left Vancouver me on our balcony in my bikini 70c, NCL cruiseline is great, freedom to do what you want on ship, eat anytime not restricted, we had a fantastic holiday going back next year,and when we arrived at Ship we'd been up graded to Cabin with concierge at no extra cost. Tip...dont book excursions on ship,cheaper at dockside and with locals.
We cruised with NCL out of Seattle in July 2005, the freestyle programme was great if you don,t want formality,the weather was great, the excusions can be pricey but it is easy to do your own thing in each location,just do some reserch befor you go. The ship was great,cabins good size,we choose inside as we were only in there to sleep and change,far to much going on to spend time in cabin. Entertainment was good with a British team,but was aimed at the americans who where the the main customers, but they treated us with great respect,try it ,you will not be disappointed.
Try NCL - they are excellent.