Cruise Tips ~ Ten Tips for Alaska Cruises

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Dan ans Janean at Glacier BayGoing on an Alaska Cruise?  Here are some important tips that you need to know!  Scroll down to view photos of our Alaska Cruise.  Real experience to help you get the most from your cruise.

  1. Add a land package of 2 or more nights in Alaska. It is worth the incremental cost especially if this could be your only visit to Alaska. Cruise lines offer packages which are highly rated. Many Alaska cruise passengers have told us they enjoyed land-based extensions more than the cruise itself. Options most often include Mt. McKinley and a great wilderness train ride to the Denali area.
  2. To protect against flight delays, arrive at your departure port 1-2 days early. There is much to do and see in the ports of Anchorage, Seattle and Vancouver. This adds an extra day of stress free fun and culture. When cruising from Seattle arrive at the Pier 66 terminal and check your bags; then explore the waterfront freely. Visit the Seattle Aquarium or have a great seafood meal at Anthony’s next to the cruise terminal. Seattle and Anchorage also have fun Saturday markets.
  3. Book your own ground transfers between Anchorage and Whittier or Seward. Cruise lines charge $50-$100 per passenger for transfers. You can book your own transfers directly with the alaskanleopard.com for $19 per person to/from Whittier and $34 per person to/from Seward.
  4. The Promenade Deck is a great area for whale sightings and glacier viewing. Most passengers hurry to the top decks when whales or glaciers are visible. If top rails get crowded, head to the Promenade Deck. It is also sheltered from rain and the aft rail has great wake views for any day of sailing.
  5. There are 4 main start and end ports for Alaska cruises: Seattle, Whittier, Seward and Vancouver, B.C. For U.S. residents, avoid Vancouver and miss the immigration lines. You may pay more for a cruise to or from Seattle, but you save on airfare and time. A cruise to or from Vancouver involves immigration lines, customs forms and hauling your luggage through 2 or more border crossings –all avoidable if you stick to U.S. ports.
  6. If you choose to cruise to or from Vancouver, then use the Vancouver airport. Seattle will tempt you with lower airfare, but a transfer between Vancouver and Seattle adds 5-8 hours and an unpredictable wait at the border crossing. An extra day of headaches and lines is not a fun way to start or end your cruise vacation.
  7. Bring warm clothing. Temperatures will be 50-75 degrees Fahrenheit and rain is likely. Plan to dress in layers to stay warm, dry and comfortable. Bring your coat, sweater or jacket and gloves. A waterproof and breathable shell is ideal. Avoid heavy boots and bring two comfortable pairs of athletic shoes with good traction, in case one pair gets wet. Hats, hoods and sunglasses are great for the intense Alaskan sun if the skies are clear.
  8. Save money and book your cruise in May, early June, late August or September. Surprisingly, the best odds for sunny days in Alaska are in May or September, when prices are lower. We had 7 sunny days on an Alaska cruise the first week of June 2009 and only 2 sunny days on our last cruise in July 2010.
  9. Remember to bring your camera and binoculars. There are spectacular views on Alaska cruises. Many areas you visit are only accessible by ship – even local residents don’t have easy access to these places. You will see abundant wildlife including whales and eagles, glaciers, rugged mountains, waterfalls, pristine bays and more. This is definitely the cruise when you will want your camera and binoculars.
  10. Which Cabin, which side of ship? There is no “right” answer – just book your Alaska cruise and go! We prefer a balcony or better, but if cost is an issue, an Inside Cabin will work fine. Neither ship side is “best” – you will want the views on both sides at different times. Public seating and viewing areas will be your friend. Before the cruise, look at ship maps to find public areas. On day one, tour the decks to spot seats and rails for viewing.

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Glacier Bay Glacier Bay View Glacier Bay
Glacier Bay Dan Glacier Bay Splash
When you get close to the glaciers,
you hope to see and hear the thundering crashes of the glaciers calving.
Glacier Bay Splash Glacier Bay Splash Glacier Bay Splash
We spotted numerous pods of whales and lots of sea lions.
See if you can find the sea lion with a fish in his mouth. Hint: The seagulls are trying to steal a tidbit.
Sea Lion Humpbacks Humpbacks
Of course, the highlights of Glacier Bay and of any Alaskan Cruise are the Glaciers and Whales.
Glacier Bay Janean Glacier Bay Rare photo of Whale Fluke. Photo from Warren Landry.
Glacier Bay Dan Glacier Bay Whale Spouts