Cruising to Alaska? Some Tips From A First-Time Cruiser

Alert blogmeister Jon Moore, a scientist in Cambridge, Massachusetts, got in touch last week to tell us about his recent cruise to Alaska with a Celebrity cruise ship. It was the first cruise that Jon, his wife Lonnie, and sons Daniel and Jamie took, and his comments were instructive for anyone considering a cruise vacation this summer. There are still several weeks left in the Alaska cruise season and bookings are available on several lines.

"Don't expect to use the pool," was one of Jon's first comments. His image of a cruise vacation before he left involved lots of lounging, walrus-like, around a pool while being served tall, fruity drinks. But Alaska cruises are surely not about the weather; it was too rainy and chilly to get in much pool time. If pools are a big part of your dream vacation, consider a ship, like Holland America's newer models, that have an all-weather canopy over the pool, ensuring warm temperatures anywhere.

"Alaska itself was great," he added. The family took floatplane excursions over Juneau and Denali National Park, hauled in salmon and halibut on fishing expeditions, which Jon booked from dockside vendors, and saw moose while riding the train to Skagway. Tours were crowded and in some cases, the family had to hustle to procure lunch for the kids before embarking on long bus rides, so they preferred to book smaller trips just for themselves. The downside was that the cost of seeing Alaska this way nearly doubled the price of the cruise for the Moore family. "Well, we figured that it was something that we would just do once in our lives, so we should do it right," he said.

He added that booking a single cabin for his crew of four, with two growing boys, made the sleeping part of the trip less than ideal. You might want to re-direct some of your sightseeing budget to purchasing an upgraded room category, with more space for everyone, to avoid feeling cramped in your stateroom.

I would add that booking your trip later in the season, such as this coming September, will lessen the crowds considerably, and getting away to remote areas – as the Moores did with their floatplane tours – is a great way to appreciate the vastness and overwhelming natural beauty of Alaska.