If you want a big-ship experience at a smaller price, take a one-night cruise between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., this spring or fall.
Some major cruise lines are offering the short trips at the beginning and end of the Alaska cruise season.
From May to September, the ships shuttle out of Seattle on weeklong Alaska cruises that easily can cost $900 per person in summer.
But in early May, late September and early October, several cruise lines offer much cheaper Pacific Northwest cruises, starting for as little as $39 per person (meals and entertainment included, although taxes/fees double the base price) on an overnight cruise from Vancouver to Seattle.
•Holland America offers one-night cruises from Vancouver to Seattle on May 2 (aboard the MS Amsterdam); May 8 (Oosterdam); and May 13 (Zaandam).
For the May 13 cruise, rates begin at $39 per person, double occupancy, for an inside cabin on the lowest deck (plus taxes and fees of $41.76 per person). Or to sleep in luxury, veranda suites start around $200 per person.
In the fall, Holland America has one-night Seattle-to-Vancouver cruises on Sept. 18 (aboard the Rotterdam), Sept. 26 (Oosterdam) and Oct. 1 (Zaandam). Base rates for an inside cabin, double occupancy, start at $79 or $99, depending on the sailing.
•This spring, Princess Cruises has one-night sailings from Vancouver to Seattle on May 14 (Golden Princess) and May 15 (Sapphire Princess). Prices start around $69 per person for an inside cabin, double occupancy.
Princess has one-night cruises from Seattle to Vancouver in the fall, including Sept. 13 (aboard the Royal Princess), Sept. 19 (Sapphire Princess), and Sept. 25 (Golden Princess). Rates on all three cruises start at $99 per person, based on double occupancy, for an interior cabin.
•Princess also offers a longer, and more expensive, cruise. Its “Northwest Sampler” is a four-night, round-trip cruise from Seattle departing May 20 with all-day stops in Vancouver and Victoria, B.C. Rates begin at $549 per person, double occupancy.
•Holland America offers a four-night “Pacific Coastal” round-trip cruise from Seattle on Sept. 20 aboard the Amsterdam with port calls in Astoria, Ore., and Victoria, B.C. Inside cabins begin at $349 per person, double occupancy.
•Longer cruises along the Pacific Coast are offered in spring and fall, mostly between Los Angeles or San Diego and Vancouver, B.C., as the cruise lines reposition ships before and after the Alaska season.
Among them are Norwegian Cruise Line’s “Pacific Coastal” cruises, four-night or longer trips from Vancouver to Los Angeles in mid-September and early October. (There’s also a six-night April 24 northbound sailing from Los Angeles to Vancouver.)
Other cruise lines have similar repositioning cruises.
Contact a cruise line (find links at www.cruising.org) or book through a travel agent who can give advice on ship styles, best cabins and more. Ask about discounts, often available to those older than 55, previous customers and police or military personnel.
If booking online, some cruise lines’ Web sites automatically may include charges for cancellation insurance and transfer fees to/from cruise terminals. If you don’t want those services, phone the cruise line to get them removed.