Our Alaskan Cruise

A Guest Post From Melanie Wade

My husband and I recently retired and a trip to Alaska was first on our travel bucket list. After doing a little research, we decided to do a 10-day Alaskan Cruise and land tour.

Using a travel agent, Jamie Early, we began the process of planning last September for our cruise the following July. Throughout the year we obtained passports, made payments and scheduled shore excursions. We also purchased travel insurance.

It was so exciting to not just talk about a trip! We planned it and went for it!

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As our Alaskan Cruise approached we received a lot of packing advice. The best packing tips were: bring multi-plug strips for charging electronics; Dress in layers; And roll clothes to pack a suitcase. I also chose a black and white theme with pops of color for my clothes. This allowed me to mix and match for formal and casual without overpacking.

We traveled to Vancouver to board our ship. We learned a couple valuable lessons on Day #1 (before we even boarded the boat!) Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. The Vancouver seawall has a walking lane and a bike lane. Stay in the correct lane if you do not wish to be run over.
  2. Buildings in Vancouver go all the way to the sidewalk and therefore, there is no green space. You will only find plants and tress on patios or roofs.
  3. Cell service is international in Vancouver. Unless you have contacted your cell service for an international plan, don’t use your cell phone.

After our brief time in Vancouver, we boarded our Princess Alaskan Cruise ship.

One tip I would highly recommend is to book a balcony room! Thankfully we received an upgrade from our window room to a balcony. This was HUGE. We spent so much time enjoying the view from our balcony and we couldn’t imagine not having that experience. My husband and I both agreed that the price difference is not enough to forgo the balcony experience.

Everything about our trip was exactly like I hoped it would be! Here are a few fun facts we learned and things we specifically enjoyed:

  • Our ship had a wrap around deck for walking (Deck 7.) It was neat to experience gale force winds, but also nice to know that the Starboard (right) side is heated.
  • Don’t forget to pack your binoculars. We used them every day (except for our day on the train!)
  • Unless you pay extra for internet, you will not have it during your Alaskan Cruise. With your phone on airplane mode, it will not change time when you change time zones. We went through 4 on our trip! Make sure you have a regular watch to rely on.
  • In the early morning hours, be on the lookout for bald eagles and waterspouts from whales.
  • Mendenhall Glacier is Juneau’s most popular natural attraction and one of the oldest glaciers to survive. You can’t walk on a glacier unless you take a helicopter ride to land on it. But certainly worth the walk out to view the glacier and being close enough to appreciate the size of the glacier.
  • During our excursion in Juneau, we passed a school with a double fence surrounding the playground. The driver said the fences were there to protect the children from bears coming out of hibernation. Can you even imagine?
  • At Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park Visitor Center we watched an informative film and then took a guided tour of the town. Without the guided tour I don’t think we would have seen all the hidden gems. The shops overwhelm the side roads and historical sights!
  • Glacier viewing is incredible! Our ship announced wildlife sightings and explained the glaciers. Icebergs are like clouds; you can imagine their shape. We saw icebergs that looked like a sea turtle, a shark, and a dragon. Use your imagination!
  • Alaska is one big marsh with 3 million lakes. 1 in 7 Alaskans own an airplane. We passed houses with airplanes parked beside them. All were located on a shared airstrip. You will also see lots of old telegraph poles!
  • In Juneau take the time to learn the story of the dog, Patsy Ann, and find the statue to rub her head. It is on the boardwalk, past the ships.
  • The only way to see Denali National Park is to take a bus. The driver should interpret the sights around you. You may not see much wildlife, so focus on the scenery- which is beautiful. Know that you are on the tundra and seeing the Taiga, also known as boreal forest or snow forest. When you get off the bus, walk off the path and on the ground. The permafrost has a spongy feel beneath your feet. The permafrost allows grasses and shrubs to grow to attract caribou and moose.
  • The name Mt. McKinley was changed back to Mt. Denali in 2015.  President McKinley never visited Alaska. The Denali bus tour is 4 hours, but you will have several bathroom breaks and photo opts along the way. (We did not experience mosquitos but apparently they can be bad, so be prepared with bug repellant.)
  • Mt. Denali is very illusive. Only one out of three who come to see the mountain actually see it.  The mountain creates its own weather and storms can be fierce! It takes 2-3 weeks to climb. There are 1500 climbers every year, but only half reach the summit. You are 200 miles from the Arctic Circle.

Without a doubt, our Alaskan Cruise was the best vacation of my life!

Melanie Wade and her husband both retired this year and the cruise was a gift to themselves! Melanie was an exceptional education teacher and speech therapist for 40 years. She enjoys adventures and camping with family. When their children were young, they camped through the western national parks for almost 4 weeks. Melanie now enjoys lots of special time with her 6 grandchildren!

Melanie also happens to be the mother of one of Mom With A Map’s favorite guest posters, Allyson Hughes.

Read more about Allyson’s travels:

Camping With Kids

EXTENDED Camping With Kids

An Insiders Guide To The Virginia Creeper Bike Trail

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