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Alaska Cruise Tips

Clothes and packing tips:

It is a casual destination, so during the day it is battle gear and layering. It can be 50ish in the morning, at night and when the ship is sailing. Then 70ish pushing 80 and warm if the sun it out. It can always rain or be foggy.

You will want a waterproof, breathable jacket. You might want some long sleeve tee shirts, a scarf, gloves BUT also shorts and cool tops. I wore jeans every day. Fleece is light and easy to pack. A hoodie can come in handy. BUT not too many items, as you will gravitate to your favorite outerwear.

You will want to take your swimming wear. They have a wonderful outdoor pool if it is warm and sunny as well as great spa/therapeutic pool that is covered and very warm. The spa is supposed to be terrific, but I did not have time this trip.

You will not need hiking shoes unless you have a pair you love that are comfortable and of course look good with your outfits. The norm are tennis shoes or sport shoes. If you do a Glacier, which I highly recommend, they will give you Glacier boots.

For evening, they have 2 “formal” nights, thankfully both on sea days. You will see everything from gowns to slacks and tops, even more casual, which I thought was inappropriate.

Tom did not take a suite, he took black slacks, a black blazers 2 dress shirts and 2 ties. I took a black “cocktail” dress at the last minute as my Mom wanted to wear a beaded dress she has not had an occasion to wear. The other evening I wore a black hang from the shoulder dress, in fact, I wore it in Hawaii so not too dressy and seasonally appropriate.

The other evenings I wore slacks and dressy blouses. I only wore ½ of what I packed for the evening.

You will also want to pack binoculars and a small umbrella. Sun glasses and sun screen.

For sightseeing/shopping:

Your first day at sea is great after Seattle, which I loved. I had not been. I loved the food, shopping and sightseeing. Of course a visit to Pike Place Market is a must.

Ketchikan:

Your first port is Ketchikan, where is rains 340 days a year, so be prepared. We had sunny and mid 60. You may want to check weather.com for the 10 day forecast when it gets closer. However I find this is not always accurate and Alaska weather can change on a dime.

This is the place to motorcycle. It is the only port Celebrity offers it. I did ask a person and his wife who did this and they thought it was WONDERFUL. Remember we had good weather.

The thing I always suggest and everyone who has taken my advice has thanked me, is the Rain Forest ropes and Zip Line Adventure. If you have zip lined other places this might not be of interest. If you have not and can muster the courage you will love it!

The Salmon are running so the bears are active and the fishing divine! So a bear and or fishing trip is always a good option in any port AND the fishing is a great value because the fishing license it included. If the ladies have an interest, they often like it more than the fella’s.

Creek street is the fun shopping area and Dolly’s is worth a visit.

If you are looking for art, starting looking right away. The antique whale bone carvings are very special and soap stone carvings are unique to Alaska. Not inexpensive but worth it! Look for locally owned shops and artisans. Jade is found in Alaska. It is good to help the local economy, haha.

Juneau:

If you are OK with the expense, the thing to do is the Pilots Choice Glacier Exploration, this ranks up at the top of my personal sightseeing list! You can also take the local bus or a taxi out to Mendenhall Glacier, this is very reasonable and another lovely look and photo op. at a Glacier.

BUT the big thing to do is a whale watch. They guaranteed sightings and if they are still “bubble net feeding”, a once a year event, it will be awesome.

YOU WILL SEE TIMES FOR lectures by a Naturalist, the lectures are really interesting, if they are done by Brent Nixon, you are in for a treat. Tom HATED him because he was so animated he got on his nerves BUT his information was excellent. This is where you will learn about Bubble Net Feeding.

I love Tracy’s crab shack here, it is a shack, outdoors and picnic tables but if you love crab? A must. Great Tee shirts also!

Skagway:

I recommend the White Pass Railway. This is very historic, the actual train used in the gold rush. You should do the bus one way and the train the other. We walked off the ship and as soon as you get to town there is a booth to buy this trip with a simple bus trip up and train down for $118.00. The ships cheapest is $145.00 with a gold camp stop, ALSO good but longer and a little cheesy.

You can stand on the platform between cars and get some wonderful photos, however you will not be able to hear the commentary from the platform which was very interesting. If you go up from Skagway on the train sit on the left, if you take the train down from Frasier to Skagway sit on the right side.

My folks stayed seated and when the commentary came on my Mom raised her hand, I ran in listened, then passed on the info to Tom and my sister, on the platform, so they knew what they were taking pictures of.

Skagway is very cute and has some good art and fun shopping.

Victoria:

Victoria is a very short visit but a wonderful place. If you are at all into gardening or gardens Butchart Gardens is a must. It is 50 acres and will take up all your time. OR there is a 3 hour tour that is downtown and Butchart that is 3 hours and $67.00 if you want to do it all quick and reasonable. Try to make it a point to go into the Empress Hotel and see the Government building lighted at night.

IMPORTANT, on the day you cruise Tracy Arm, the tip is to send your early riser to the deck outside the dining room with the wood deck chairs. Make sure to grab the blankets they have available, in fact you may want to get one early in the trip and keep it in your cabin for your balcony.

Choose a table outdoors near the railing. It may be cold in the morning so bundle but if it is not raining this will be a highlight. You can keeping going into the buffet for food and coffee all morning while you hog the best views on the ship! We saw seals on the ice flows and Orca’s Whales and the first sight of the Glacier is breathtaking. Make sure you have your binoculars with you!

As a gift, we received a prepaid dinner in the SS United States. The dining room is a recreation from the original SS United States and is beautiful. The highlight is the food, Tom and I love great food and I never expected such a wonderful meal on any cruise ship, we have even cruised on the Queen Mary! Make sure you have your concierge make your reservations for whatever night you want AS SOON as you board it is very popular and only takes 70 guest a night. We hope you enjoy it!!!

Speaking of food… another DON’T MISS is the brunch the second full sea day, Wednesday Trellis dining room 10AM-1PM, Tom recommends the Bloody ary Bar! I recommend the King Crab Legs! Another dining highlight of the week.

Joy Thrun About the Author: Jill is a recent graduate of Michigan State University and is Classic Travel’s Group Travel Specialist. She’s a PADI certified scuba diver and also enjoys heading “up north” to ski and snowboard. Some of her favorite destinations are Spain and the Virgin Islands. Email Jill: jill@classictravelusa.com