Are you planning an Alaskan cruise with your spouse and/or family? Set sail for family fun, from Vancouver or Seattle, for a breath-taking and relaxing experience! The destination is known for its spectacular glacial activity, beautiful scenery, lush temperate rain forest and plethora of wildlife. With a cruise, you’ll have the opportunity to see it all!
Here are some trip planning tips to help you and your family have a fantastic cruise.
Packing Tips for Alaska Cruises
A cruise to Alaska means you’ve to come prepared for anything! The great thing about a cruise is you shouldn’t have to worry about baggage weight restrictions. As a self-professed over-packer, that was a definite plus!
1) Sea-sickness remedies
First and foremost, if you’re prone to sea-sickness (and even if you’re not), be sure to pack Gravol, ginger candies, sea-sickness wrist bands and/or other nausea-reducing alternatives. It may take a day or two to get your sea-legs.
2) Clothing for every occasion
If you’re the type of person who likes variety, cruising is a fantastic vacation option. You can go from the great outdoors to the on-board disco, in just a matter of minutes. Be sure to take advantage of the various daily activities that are included as part of your on-board itinerary. Make the most of your trip planning efforts by packing the appropriate attire.
- Warm layers – Alaska’s weather can change in the blink of an eye. Pack lots of layers and rain gear; I’d recommend bringing a hooded jacket because an umbrella can be a nuisance when you’re exploring in nature.
- Sun screen and swim gear – While you may think Alaska’s just cold, it can get really warm, really quickly, when the sun comes out. Come prepared with sunscreen, and if you’re keen to hang out poolside, bring your swim gear. It’s lovely watching the mountains go by from the pool or hot tub.
- Active wear – If you’re looking to stay active and burn some energy, there are lots of things to keep you and the family healthy and busy. Most ships have a fitness centre. Our cruise ship also had a basketball court and shuffleboard on the top deck.
- Formal wear – If you want a ‘night out’, be sure to bring your Sunday best. Dressing up for dinner, après-dinner entertainment, and the disco is common practice on any Alaskan cruise.
3) Pack bottles of water in your luggage, before getting onto the ship
Drinking water doesn’t run from the faucets, and bottled water isn’t free on most cruises. Having access to water in your room and bringing it along when you’re off the ship is really important to keep hydrated and healthy.
4) Pack a hand sanitizer
Carry sanitizers with you, even around the ship. Many cruise ships will have dispensers, but you can never be too careful! It’s easy to pass along germs in tight quarters…That being said, if you or a family member does get sick or injured, you’ll have access to a medical team on board.
5) Pack travel medical insurance
Since medical care, treatment and medication won’t come free on the cruise! If you catch the flu, slip and fracture something, or anything in between, your provincial health care plan won’t cover it all. It never hurts to be prepared.
6) Avoid packing alcohol and other taxable items
Remember that while it’s a cruise ship, you still have to go through customs between Canada and the US. That means your bags will be checked every time you re-board the ship; so unless you’re comfortable with paying duty-free, or possible confiscation, leave these items off your packing list.
Cruise to Alaska: My Favourite Shore Excursions
If you’re a planner, you can pre-plan all your excursions online through your cruise company or at port with local tour companies. It’s hard to say whether one option is more economic than the other though. You’ll have to do your research, since tours vary.
Here are my favourite recommendations for alaska cruise excursions:
We opted for the Mendenhall Glacier tour, which we booked on the cruise ship the night before we arrived in Juneau. It was a fantastic start to our Alaskan experience. The visitor center has US rangers on-hand to share the history of the glacier and the surrounding Tongass National Forest.
Glacier Bay, Alaska
When you’re booking your cruise, be sure that your operator sails into Glacier Bay, a sanctioned World Heritage Site. We spent most of the day in the Bay watching glaciers crash into the water.
And while that may not sound exciting, it was the highlight of my Alaskan cruise! We were lucky enough to be the only ship in the area for nearly 2 hours; we got to watch and listen as Margaret Glacier cracked and crashed into the Pacific Ocean.
Skagway is known as the “Gateway to the Klondike Gold Rush”; and while many of our fellow cruisers chose to strike gold with Klondike-related tours, we opted to go summer dog-sledding!
We enjoyed winding our way through the glaciated valley to the tour site (it was REALLY windy, so if you tend to get car-sick, packs meds along with you). From there, we hopped onto summer dog sleds, pulled by teams of Alaskan Huskies. After the sled ride, mushers shared their intense experiences of the Iditarod, a 1,000 mile dog sled race across the Alaskan tundra.
When we arrived in Ketchikan, we didn’t have a tour planned. In port, we bought a trolley tour that took us around the area. Surprisingly, our highlight of Ketchikan was the wildlife. Up until this point, we were kind of disappointed; we hadn’t seen any animals up-close.
Luckily, we saw a mother bald eagle leave the nest for a bit of a break, and expertly pose on the break-water. Shortly after, we stopped near a local fish hatchery, where King and Coho salmon were running, preparing to spawn. Suddenly, a young black bear came out of the bushes, fishing for his lunch. He hung around for a good 15 minutes, giving us tourists quite a show!
Denali National Park
Lastly, we didn’t get the chance to experience Denali National Park, but a number of our fellow cruisers did. From the sounds of it, it was well worth the adventure. It is an extra tour or excursion, so you’ll want to do your research and plan ahead.
I hope you’ve found these tips for trip planning an Alaskan cruise helpful. And if you’re looking to expand your horizons and cruise other parts of the world, check out Three Unforgettable World Cruises: Indonesia, France and Russia.