During the summer, cruise ships sail in and out of Elliott Bay. I watch them from my window. I’ve probably seen thousands of tourists embark and return from their Alaskan voyages. What were all those people experiencing? I wanted to see for myself. In August, I finally got my chance when my husband, daughter, and I boarded The Ruby Princess and set sail.
As I began to write this post, I realized it might read like a What I Did On My Summer Vacation school essay. So instead of sharing every single event, I’ll focus on some of the highlights. I’m no cruise expert. I’ve sailed on a three-day cruise to Mexico and an overnight end-of-the-season, one-night cruise between Seattle and Vancouver, BC. Yet, in my humble opinion, my Alaska cruise lived up to it’s hype.
Planning for an Alaskan Cruise
The Alaska Cruise season lasts from May until September. A finite number of ships leave from Seattle ports, so a finite number of reservations are available. We booked our cruise a full year ahead. Why? We wanted a balcony. We wanted certain ports of call in Alaska, and specific excursions. Booking ahead brought some advantages-a beverage package, our choice of staterooms, first pick of our onshore experiences. However, a year is a long time to wait.
Then, all the sudden, we needed to pack. I dove into online research. What does one bring to Alaska? EVERYTHING. Layers and coats for cold, heat, wind, or rain. Clothes for lounging, formal dining, hiking. Toiletries, cameras, binoculars. Something to read, three bottles of wine (one bottle allowed per adult). SHOES! Every type of shoes known to (wo)man. Luckily, we didn’t have to follow any airline restrictions. We each had a large bag and a couple of carry-ons. So much stuff!
After boarding, we attended the mandatory lifeboat drill and then headed to our stateroom for a complimentary champagne toast. In my book that’s a good start to any vacation. Our room featured the coveted balcony, a queen size bed, pull-out sofa, two televisions, a small refrigerator, and a bathroom with a full tub/shower combo. We found it bright, clean, and comfortable.
My favorite onboard items:
- Lectures by the onboard naturalist, Michael Modzelewski. See more about him here. He shared Alaskan history, prepared us for our port visits, and narrated wildlife/whale watching onboard.
- Dinner! The food and our friendly waitstaff made dressing up and heading to the dining room a daily event. One evening they held a baked Alaska dessert parade.
- Entertainment! Recent movies, cruise director talk show, exercise programs, and port of call information played on in-room television, musicians played in the lounges, food and drink demos, stage shows, a comic, trivia games. If you got bored, it was your own fault. We ignored the shopping excursions, late night entertainment (due to the EARLY morning activities), the extra-cost restaurants, the swimming pools and the movies under the stars (too cold!).
- The Ship’s library-daily Sudoku games, puzzles and books.
Port of Call
I went to Alaska to SEE Alaska, but it’s a big place. The inside passage cruise only stops at three ports. Hopefully, we will return and explore more in the future. This trip we visited Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan, with a stop in Victoria, Canada, on the way back to Seattle. We chose one excursion at each stop and then spent some time walking around the city. Admittedly we stuck to the touristy instead of the adventurous, but as my daughter says, you do you.
The Highlight of the Cruise-Glacier Bay
If you take one of these cruises, don’t expect to sleep in. The wildlife doesn’t. Most of our days started (and ended) early. My favorite day started with foggy skies and milky white water. The weather worried me because we were headed into Glacier Bay National Park. Fortunately, the skies cleared and we enjoyed gorgeous views and took lots and lots and LOTS of pictures. (No worries, I’ve only posted a couple here…let me know if you’d like to see more.) We saw humpback whales, sea otters, seals and Margerie Glacier. Rangers from Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve actually boarded the ship and narrated our journey via the in-room television. We stood on our balcony and experienced the beauty of Alaska’s wilderness. My best tip for you, bring binoculars and cameras for every person. You WILL use them.
If you decide to try an Alaskan cruise, I recommend you do your research. Determine where you want to visit, what you want to see, and if any special needs can be accommodated. Cruise critic may be a good place to start. If you decide to go, remember to prepare for all types of weather and bring binoculars. You’ll be glad you did.
Have you been on an Alaskan Cruise? What did you think? If you have any questions about my cruise-feel free to ask. Sign up for my newsletter and I’ll e-mail you my next post.