Cruises to Alaska are extremely popular, with good reason. The scenery is breathtaking and it’s an adventure you won’t soon forget. Keep reading, for a few tips to consider during the planning process. You’ll be glad you did!
Consider Your Options
The cruise company you book with is one of the most important aspects of planning your vacation at sea. In this case, there are several to choose from.
The cruise line you decide on determines some of the aspects of your overall experience, including what type of amenities you get access to, as well as age and demographics of other vacationers on the ship.
Pick the Right Route
There are lots of route options and embarkation points for Alaska cruises available so read each one carefully. Two of the most popular ports available are Vancouver and Seattle. If you want to add on a few land days before or after your cruise, your port is important. Many cruise lines offer a land component to your trip. Don’t forget your passport if your itinerary starts or disembarks at any location in Canada, or they won’t let you on the ship. You can also fly to Anchorage and sail around Alaska from there. This port will allow you to take full advantage of a land package either before or after your cruise – enjoying a few days in Anchorage would be ideal.
When it comes to the majority of cruises, there are many benefits to booking your trip ahead of time, even years in advance if possible! Cruise lines sailing to Alaska typically put itineraries on sale up to two years before the sail date.
Taking advantage of making reservations early not only ensures you get a bargain rate, you also get to choose from a bigger variety of staterooms on the ship.
It’s important to keep an eye on rates throughout the year, when booking so far ahead. There’s always the possibility of a fare drop, as your sail date approaches.
If this happens, call the cruise line and request a price adjustment. Depending on policy, you’re generally entitled to the lower rate or a complimentary “perk” to compensate.
Upgrade to a Balcony
Because of the spectacular views, you may want to consider upgrading to a balcony stateroom. It’s so much easier to take great pictures of the beauty Mother Nature provides. Depending on when you book, the price difference may not be as much as you think.
While Alaskan cruises share similarities with other destinations, there’s one important factor to keep in mind when packing for your vacation; the weather. Temperatures on Alaskan cruises fluctuate a lot, which means you want to pack clothes for varying degrees of weather. Ideally, clothes that are easy to layer if need be and even multi-functional clothing such as a winter coat that turns in to a lighter jacket or gloves that can be fingerless or full coverage.
Most of us rely on our phones to take pictures these days but a trip to Alaska is the time for a better camera. You will definitely want the ability to zoom when you see seals lazing on the ice, bald eagles swooping in for fish, or humpback whales cresting up out of the water.
Take Advantage of Information on Board
Most cruise ships sailing to Alaska offer seminars given by naturalists on-board to provide you with all the information you will need on the scenery and wildlife you will encounter. It’s definitely worth the time to participate in one of these seminars. They are usually full so sign up early.
An Alaskan cruise for me would be a huge splurge and the added excursions can be expensive. However, think of it this way – is this something I will be doing again or is it a once in a lifetime trip? Add on those excursions and really splurge! You may never get back to Alaska again! Fit in as many as you can.
Wear a Watch
What? A watch? Along with your own home time zone, you will be going back and forth between Pacific Standard Time (PST) and Alaskan Standard Time (AKST) during the cruise. Only having the time on your phone just won’t work. Only having phone coverage at the ports, your phones may be regularly messed up. This is definitely one of those vacations where you will want to unplug the phone.
On Board Activity
Although each cruise line has its own agenda and itinerary, you can count on traditional shipboard activities taking place, from silly trivia games to Broadway-quality evening shows. The difference – many of these will be taking place indoors. If you are used to cruising to a warmer area like the Caribbean, you will be surprised to see that the pool decks will rarely be used on an Alaskan cruise. Many ships will provide blankets and hot chocolate on deck while most shipboard parties will be inside.
When to Sail to Alaska
The Alaska cruise season runs from late April to September, with high season typically June through August. June, July and August are the warmest months (with highs ranging from the 60s to 70s in most of the state). July and August can be a bit rainy. The further into the summer, the better your chances of seeing wildlife on your excursions. May and September offer cheaper fares and fewer crowds; however, due to more unpredictable weather, shore excursions have a greater chance of being canceled. September offers the best possibility for cruisers to catch the Northern Lights and also offers great end-of-season shopping deals for souvenir-hunters. Unfortunately, September can also bring the choppiest time for the Gulf of Alaska and not recommended for travelers who get seasick. It is also possible that certain sections of the access road to Denali National Park to be closed due to snow in September.
These are just a few things to think about when planning a cruise to Alaska. It’s not something you want to do quickly. The key to having the most enjoyable trip is to consider all of your choices.