Even non-cruisers get excited about the possibility of an Alaskan cruise. There really is no better way to see coastal Alaska than from the balcony of your stateroom as you glide past glaciers and spot humpback whales off the bow of the ship. It's an amazing experience, but it does require a fair bit of planning and research to make sure you have the best possible time.Here are my top tips for planning and enjoying an Alaskan cruise:
Picking a Route
Most Alaskan cruises depart from either Seattle or Vancouver, but a few are now leaving from San Francisco and Anchorage. As a general rule, the further away from Alaska you start, the more time your boat will spend at sea and the less time you'll have to explore Alaska. It may be worth it to fly further north for a more eventful cruise.Depending on your priorities and your budget, you will want to investigate the different itineraries available. There are several different popular routes along the coast of Alaska. Nearly all of them visit Juneau, Skagway, and some sort of glacier, be it Glacier Bay or Kerry Arm Fjord. Some cruises also offer an extra overland portion that visits Denali.
Get to Know Your Ship
Each cruise ship is its own floating resort with unique amenities, dining options, and more. The key for making the most of your ship is to do research before you even step on board. Check out the cruise line's website for specifics about your boat. Sites like CruiseCritic are also really helpful for learning about and reading reviews of the rooms, restaurants, and activities available.
Book Your Excursions
The quality of your land excursions can really make or break your Alaska experience. You will probably want to book some tours ahead of time, because killing 9 hours in downtown Juneau would be quite boring when you could be out whale watching, hiking, or visiting the Mendenhall Glacier. You can book excursions through your cruise line, but you aren't obligated to. There are many independent tour companies that offer similar port excursions, sometimes at a significantly cheaper rate. Just read some reviews before you book to check for both quality and safety.
Pack for Every Occasion
The weather in Alaskan summer can be highly variable with damp and chilly mornings giving way to blazing hot afternoons. It can be chilly when the boat is moving, but hot when you pull into port. It's important to dress in layers that you can add and peel off as the day goes on. Also throw in your bag: sunscreen, sunglasses, and comfortable walking shoes.
Bring a Good Camera
Most important of all, bring your good camera so that you can capture all the amazing scenery. An iPhone or iPad simply won't do when it comes to glaciers, whales, and other wild animals.
What other tips would you add to this list?
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