Are you considering a cruise to Alaska? Even if you have done a standard tropical cruise before, getting ready for a trip to Alaska is unlike any other holiday you have ever taken.
Even for seasoned cruise veterans it can be easy to overlook a few things and make a few “mistakes” when sailing to Alaska for the first time.
There are many distinctions between this cruise and a conventional cruise, from the weather to what you do on shore.
- If you’ve never been to Alaska, close your eyes and picture icebergs the size of houses floating by your cruise ship balcony or imagine hearing humpback whales breaching in the stillness.
- Consider its limitless pristine environment, with jaw-dropping glaciers and snow-capped mountains that will leave you speechless. Sure, Alaska has all of this and much more to offer.
It is no secret that an Alaska itinerary is becoming increasingly popular worldwide because several glaciers are found in Alaska. Others can only be seen from the sea. Thus an inside passage cruise is the greatest way to explore Alaska.
But, unlike warmer destinations, the weather in Alaska may be unpredictable, even in the height of summer. As a result, many people who sail the inner passage make frequent Alaska cruise blunders.
If you read this, you have considered or booked an Alaska cruise. Continue reading to find out what to pack and what to expect.
These tips can assist you in avoiding typical mistakes when cruising to Alaska.
We have compiled a list of 7 of the most common oversights plus things to know about sailing to the final great frontier to assist you in your preparation.
We have covered you from packing to choosing the right cruise to knowing when to sail.
Related: What is the best cruise line for Alaska?
1. Bringing the wrong gear
One of the most common mistakes that people make while preparing for an Alaskan cruise is forgetting to pack the right equipment. Because Alaska’s weather can be unpredictable, it is necessary to pack for various scenarios.
The trick is to carry layers and waterproof clothing. Here are some packing recommendations:
- Carry a rain jacket and rain pants: Alaska is famed for its rain, so you need waterproof gear to stay dry.
- Carry a thick jacket and sweater with you: Even in the summer, Alaska can be cold, especially when on the water. So carry a warm jacket and sweater to wear underneath your rain gear.
- Remember to bring comfortable walking shoes: You will be doing a lot of walking on your Alaska cruise, so bring comfortable walking shoes that can handle a variety of terrains.
- A light raincoat with a hood
- Down or “puffer” jackets are excellent for providing lightweight warmth.
2. Forgetting a camera and binoculars
You shouldn’t leave these two “accessories” behind when traveling. On your Alaska cruise, we recommend bringing a small set of binoculars and a good camera.
- Cell phone cameras have come a long way, but you might want to upgrade yours to a phone with a better optical zoom lens if you plan to use it as your only camera.
- Yet, if there was ever a moment to bring out that expensive zoom lens on your DSLR camera, Alaska is it.
- GoPros can also be excellent for easy to use video, but they are only useful for more panoramic or wide-angle shots. They are also great for time-lapse videos, but you will need a good mount.
- Wildlife viewing, distant waterfalls, and glaciers necessitate using a good pair of binoculars.
- Travel size will suffice, but if you are not concerned about luggage weight or bulk, pack whatever you have.
3. Not Booking A Balcony Stateroom
Alaska cruises are spectacular, with cruise ships sailing close to the coast. An interior cabin will save you money, but the luxury of seeing these incredible views from the comfort of your stateroom is hard to put a price tag on.
In my opinion, it is worth the additional money and should NOT be overlooked.
- During glacier viewing days, the ship’s upper decks fill up quickly. So escape the crowds by relaxing in your cabin instead.
- The balcony provides cover during inclement weather and is just a few steps away from your stateroom if you feel chilled.
- Port or starboard cabin? Don’t worry about which side of the ship to book your cabin. On glacier days, the captain will rotate the vessel so that all passengers have equal viewing time.
Note: Remember that those balconies can get quite chilly. In addition, a continuous breeze blows while the ship is underway, adding to the already cold conditions. As a result, you may enjoy the views but not spend as much time on the balcony as you anticipate.
Related: What is the best cruise line for Alaska?
4. Overlooking Motion Sickness
Motion sickness can be a serious problem for some people, causing nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and exhaustion.
While motion sickness can be difficult to foresee, it is critical to be prepared for it, especially on an Alaska cruise where water conditions can change abruptly due to weather changes.
It is a common misconception that motion sickness will not bother you on an Alaska cruise.
Even if you have no previous history of motion sickness, you may have problems in Alaska. Being proactive and preparing for motion sickness is key.
- Alaska cruises primarily travel through the inner passage. As a result, the route between Vancouver Island and Queen Charlotte Sound is choppy.
- If you are cruising a one-way route, there is also an area between Glacier Bay and Whittier that can experience more turbulent seas.
- Stock up on Gravol, ginger tablets, Sea-bands, or motion sickness patches to avoid ruining your vacation.
- Several passengers on cruise ships swear by the patches that attach behind your ear. So bring your favorite motion sickness cure.
5. Not expecting the effects of extended daylight hours on sleep
The prolonged daylight hours on an Alaska cruise are one of its distinguishing features, which can considerably impact your sleep schedule.
The sun may be up for more than 20 hours a day during the summer months, giving little time for complete darkness and upsetting your natural sleep rhythms.
Be prepared for long days if you have never been this far north. For example, the sun might rise at about 4 a.m. and set around 10 p.m. in Alaskan ports.
- The time difference between Alaska and your hometown can make this issue even worse.
- Without the structure of a typical day, you may wake up earlier and go to bed later than usual, affecting the quality and quantity of your sleep. As a result, you may feel fatigued or experience difficulty falling asleep.
- After a few days of adjusting to the prolonged daylight hours, you may find that the lack of sleep catches up with you, and you may feel the need to compensate by falling asleep earlier than usual.
To prevent this, it is advisable to establish a consistent sleep schedule and create a dark environment for sleeping, such as using eye masks and blackout curtains. By being proactive and prioritizing sleep, you can ensure that you are rested and ready to enjoy all the exciting activities that await you during your Alaska cruise.
6. Not Knowing the Difference between Itineraries
The most frequent question regarding Alaska travel is, “how much is an Alaskan cruise?” The cost of an Alaskan cruise varies depending on the month, port of departure, ports of stop, and glaciers the ship visits.
One of the biggest misconceptions people make when taking an Alaskan cruise is needing to understand the differences between itineraries and assuming they are all the same.
- Glacier Bay National Park is a part of the ideal Alaska cruise itinerary.
- Glacier Bay cruises cost more as a result.
- An older ship with a less appealing itinerary typically costs less during the shoulder season.
There are a few different kinds of itineraries ships take on Alaskan cruises. Including those listed below:
- Inside Passage: This itinerary typically begins and ends in Seattle, Vancouver or Anchorage and covers the scenic Inside Passage. The route includes stops in ports such as Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, and Sitka, with opportunities to see glaciers, wildlife, and the rugged coastline.
- Gulf of Alaska: This itinerary often starts in Vancouver or Seattle, with the route covering the Gulf of Alaska. The itinerary includes ports such as Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan, as well as Glacier Bay National Park and College Fjord.
- Northbound or Southbound: These itineraries travel in one direction along the Alaska coastline, either starting in Vancouver or Seattle and ending in Anchorage, or vice versa. Along the way, passengers have the opportunity to visit ports such as Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway, and to see glaciers and wildlife.
- Roundtrip Alaska: This itinerary starts and ends in the same port, typically Seattle or Vancouver, and covers the Inside Passage and other destinations such as Glacier Bay National Park and Tracy Arm Fjord.
If the main reason you booked an Alaska cruise is to see a glacier, then choosing the right itinerary that spends as much time by a glacier should be top priority.
In our article on best cruises lines in Alaska we detail which cruise lines visit glaciers and some tips on how to choose one.
7. Overlooking excursions and not booking them EARLY
Alaska provides many trips and activities you can’t do anywhere else, from whale watching to glacier hiking. Yet, some people make the mistake of not arranging any excursions in advance, or they simply wait too long.
Some of the best shore excursions fill up fast, so if you don’t book them early you may be out of luck.
- Shore excursions are essential when sailing to Alaska. While you can tour the port alone, excursions allow you to do everything from viewing glaciers to gold panning and even running a dog sled. The things you may experience on a shore trip in Alaska are unlike anything else.
- Compared to the options on Caribbean cruises, which are substantially less expensive, many excursions cost hundreds of dollars.
- Again, book as soon as possible for the best shore excursion options and for the best times.
Excursions should be researched and booked ahead of time because some sell out rapidly. Check out the different excursions and select the ones most appealing to you. When selecting excursions, keep your physical ability in mind:
While many cruisers to Alaska will make a few of these mistakes along the way, the biggest mistake of all is not booking that Alaska cruise in the first place.
Pictures don’t do this place justice at all. If you’re’ still on the fence about an Alaskan cruise, just book it, and ask questions later. You won’t regret it.
Related: What is the best cruise line for Alaska?