Almost exactly one year ago, I headed out for the adventure of a lifetime and one I will never forget. Through my own experience in Alaska and planning a cruise tour for 80 guests, I have put together my reflections and a few Alaskan Cruise planning tips so that you can make the most out of your time in Alaska.
You have to first understand, I am a true beach bum and mostly my ideal vacation is pedicured toes in the sand with a drink in hand. I really didn’t know what to expect out of a trip to Alaska. Of course I knew it would be beautiful and cooler, but what I discovered once I was there made me fall in love with Alaska.
First, although it was a little rainy and misty it was not as cold as I thought it would be. Most of our days in port were around a comfortable 55 degrees or warmer. By the way – it IS cold when cruising the glacier though!
Alaska is wonderfully remote. If you love nature, this is a place you must see. The green trees and beautiful water set an excellent background for wildlife such as whales, moose, eagles and sea otters with their babies on top of their bellies.
The port towns are small, laid back and reminded me of the Wild West. It is really like stepping back in time. Shops filled with souvenirs and handcrafted Alaskan treasures and restaurants
with delicious food line the streets.
Fish is the dining specialty – especially halibut and salmon. Although I am not a fish girl, my fish loving friends enjoyed delicious fresh caught delicacies. Some of them also went on excursions where they caught fish that was immediately frozen and packed for them to ship or take home.
Below are my top tips for planning a cruise to Alaska…
I would recommend planning at least one year in advance for better availability and pricing. If you are thinking about going to Alaska next summer, NOW is the time to plan! Alaskan cruises fill up fast and get more expensive the closer to the sailing. Do not wait for a “sale” because in the end the price will have gone up anyway and you will not be saving anything.
Choose a one-way cruise!
Either choose to begin or end in Alaska and extend your time there. This way you are able to see so much more. These cruises usually begin or end in Vancouver, BC. I would highly recommend spending a little time there if you can. It is a great city set in a beautiful landscape with amazing views everywhere you look.
Add a land tour to your cruise for even more beauty and adventure!
We had a land tour at the end of our cruise that included Talkeetna and Denali National Park. I would not have missed these for the world. Once on land, our weather was perfect – 70s and sunny. We were extremely lucky to have had amazing views of Mt. Denali.
Pay more and get the balcony!
My only regret from the cruise would be not having a balcony. I didn’t realize how much this added to the cruise experience. My clients with balconies had front row seats to the wildlife in the water and on the shoreline. In addition, when we were cruising by Hubbard Glacier they could stay in the comfort of their cabin and see the glacier. Otherwise, you will be on the cold deck with just about everyone else trying to catch glimpses and get pictures.
Choose unique excursions that allow you to truly experience Alaska!
The excursions were amazing! There were so many that it was difficult to choose. Alaska is all about adventure – think helicopters, float planes, dog sledding, whale watching and more. My favorite was kayaking and climbing on Mendenhall Glacier. Outfitted in our gear, we paddled out to the glacier. Once there we explored the gorgeous ice caves and climbed up the glacier for some beautiful views.
Take time to respect and learn about the Alaskan culture!
Alaskan culture is SO interesting and some excursions highlight and share a true Alaskan experience such as tribal dances and historical tours.
In Anchorage, check out the Alaska Native Heritage Center for an interactive experience.
Don’t stress too much about packing
I wish I would not have spent so much time agonizing over what to pack. Heading to Alaska, especially your first time, can be a packing nightmare because you just don’t know what to expect.
Pack comfortable and casual. You will need at least 2 nice outfits for formal dinner nights, but for the rest of the time think jeans, leggings, t-shirts and sweatshirts. I would describe my usual attire as sporty - you are on an adventure, right? For the most part, think an average of about 55 degrees and misty/rainy. Glacier cruising days and excursions are the only times you would want a hat and gloves. On the other end of the scale, add some shorts just in case you get some warmer weather.
I hope this inspires you to plan your own bucket list trip to Alaska with a little less worry and a whole lot more excited anticipation!
See more about Alaska in my guest post 5 Alaska Destinations That Will Blow Your Mind
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