As I was doing my research on the best priced plane tickets to an interesting destination to start off my worldwide travel, I found out that due to new taxes imposed upon visitors to Alaska, cruise ships sailing that way will be forced to charge additional $50 per passenger, making this cruising option less attractive to travelers. Because of that, many of major cruise line companies made public statements that they will be discontinuing or limiting their Alaska cruises and will instead move their ships to the Mediterranean Sea where demand and income from have been continuously growing. This was supposed to take place at the beginning of 2010.
I’ve always wanted to visit Alaska so when I realized that many of the cruise ships that used to serve this area will not be there as of January 1st, 2010, it became clear that prices for Alaska cruises will go up. Those few ships that will still serve the arctic state will have little competition so they will be able to jack prices up plus there will still be that additional $50 per person fee imposed by the state of Alaska so if one were to take an Alaska cruise, they should do it before the end of 2009 or have to pay significantly higher price.
This prompted me to start looking into available options. I wanted to visit Alaska and take an Alaskan cruise before prices become too unaffordable. But at the same time I thought of combining it with other adventures to make it a roadtrip of a lifetime. I thought of doing the following:
- Rent a car in Edmonton
- Drive up the breathtaking Alaska Highway all the way to Anchorage – a 3,000 km long journey that would take about 4 days to complete
- Enjoy the scenic views and make stops at interesting locations along the way, such as the Liard River Hot Springs
- Enjoy the nature and scenery of Alaska for a day or two
- Drop off car rental and board a southbound cruise ship sailing to Vancouver
- Take a mesmerizing 7 day cruise exposing the beauty of Juneau, Glacier Bay, Ketchikan etc. while it’s still cheap
- Spend a day or two in Vancouver, known as one of world’s most beautiful cities (which I have not visited in my life yet)
- Rent a car to drive back to Edmonton
- Drive across beautiful British Columbia enjoying the mountains
- Make a stop at Frasier Canyon known as one of world’s most exciting white water rafting areas
- Drive across Canadian Rockies
- Drop off rented car in Edmonton and savor the road trip of a lifetime you have just finished
This seemed like the ultimate roadtrip, the ultimate adventure, the trip that combines some of the best and most coveted areas of the world in one go. And because time was against me, I could not put it off as prices for cruise ships were bound to rise significantly come 2010. So I started doing my research to make this roadtrip come true but hit a solid wall when I started phoning up car rental companies.
First of all, hardly any of the worldwide rent-a-car companies has an office anywhere in Alaska making it impossible to drop a car off there. Secondly, the few that do would charge an arm and a leg for drop off at a location that’s different from pick up location. I wasn’t quite aware of this fact prior to this research. I’ve rented a car many times before in different countries, but have always dropped off where I’d picked it up. But because many big car rental places have offices worldwide, I thought it was a no brainer that you could pick a car here and return it there. I was wrong. Unless it’s some kind of special, drop off at a different location will incur an extra cost – often multiplying your initial cost by a large factor. But if you intend to drive across the border and drop it off in another country, that’s when it starts getting ridiculous.
Alaska is a US state whereas I would be starting my roadtrip in Edmonton, Canada. That means I would be renting my car in one country, but dropping it off in another. Most of the time you can’t even do that. Rental terms and conditions restrict the use of a rented automobile to the same country. Crossing borders is not allowed, unless some special arrangements are made or it is a company that specializes in car rentals for people who need to drive internationally. Either way, after many phone calls and no luck finding a company with the office in Alaska, I was eventually able to trace some down, but dropping off a car registered in Canada in the United States state would make it an extremely costly venture. Similar extremes would apply to the car I would rent in Vancouver to drop it off in Edmonton. Vancouver is located in British Columbia, whereas Edmonton is in Alberta. Again – these are two different provinces, hence different license plates and registration cards. A lot of hassle involved so the cost of it would be very high.
The only other option I had was to rent a car for an extended period of time (3 weeks) in Edmonton, drive it up to Alaska, board the cruise ship and pay also for the car to get on board, then get off the ship in Vancouver and drive the same car back to Edmonton. This was an option that was priced a little better than the other one, because it eliminated high international drop off fees, but was still extremely expensive. Cruise ships are intended for vacationers. They specialize in sailing people, not cars. If you want to take a car with you, you’d be looking at a very high cost, which totally defeated the purpose of trying to get on the Alaska cruise ship before prices go up in 2010. And if I were to do it, I would have to shell out a big chunk of cash to have my rented car on board the cruise ship and while it is there, I wouldn’t even be able to drive it, but the cost of the rental for the time while I’m on a cruise ship would still count, hence I would be normally charged by a car rental company for those days whether I’m driving it or not.
In other words, while I’m on the cruise ship, I would not be able to use my rental car, but I’d be paying big bucks for each day of having it, plus I’d be paying super high cruise ship fee to have the car on board. All of that made the cost of my awesomely planned, but impossible to execute roadtrip sky high. The plan was top notch, but it was impossible to carry out unless your pockets are big.