It was on vacations that I first started to use my camera more often. I felt the need to capture places that I had never seen. In those experiences I began feeling comfortable with shooting. It is because of those memories that travel and planning hold a special place in my heart. They gave me a reason to click and shoot in the first place. Now they give me a reason to write and share stories and show a part of my planning skills, which I absolutely love.
I am a reader by nature so I often do quite a bit research when looking into trips. I think about quite a few aspects… What places are good to see? What are some great restaurants in the area? What spots just aren’t worth the money or time? I also love hearing what others think. It is through those conversations that you can figure out great tips. Today I’m sharing a little bit of my planning insight on Alaska in case you are heading that way soon.
Why Alaska? To be truthful, Alaska was more of my mom’s destination choice more than anything. Not that I didn’t want to see the area, but this trip was something that she had been thinking about for awhile now. She just never felt the right time presented itself until this summer.
Why did you choose a cruise to see Alaska? Research led us to this decision. Certain parts of Alaska can only be reached by plane or boat, and we took that into consideration. We toyed around with the idea of staying in one city or two and renting a vehicle or something. But, truthfully we felt the cruise gave us more bang for our buck with the amount of cities we docked in. With this being our first trip to Alaska we wanted to see as much as possible, and the cruise allowed us to do that.
Would you cruise again? Let me give you a little background on my cruising experiences. This was my the third cruise I have taken (first two were in the Caribbean). This was my first cruise experience on a Princess Cruise, and I have no complaints – we had great service, lots of activities onboard, excursions were spectacular. However, I am not a huge fan of cruises. Usually by day 5 on a ship, I’m content. For our first experience to Alaska, I absolutely think it was a great decision to cruise because of all the cities we were able to visit. If I were to go back again, I would probably choose to stay in one city or two because I know what to expect from the cities. It all depends on what you want to get from your trip.
How was the weather? The most common question I have been asked since being back. And this was one area that puzzled me prior to the trip as well. If you read about Alaska, you will see that you need to be prepared for all weather types: sunshine, rain, wind, cold, etc. And it’s true. We happened to luck out with a week filled with sunshine. Almost every tour we took mentioned how this had been the best weather they had seen this season. On the ship and in the mornings, it was chilly (upper 50s/lower 60s). In the afternoons, it warmed up quite a bit to around the 70s. Our coldest day on the trip was the day we did scenic cruising along the Tracy Arm Fjord where it was overcast and misty, which required us to throw on a thick jacket, earmuffs, and lots of layers. Which brings me to my next point…
What do you pack? The question that plagued me for months. I did tons of reading on this because I knew with the unpredictable weather and my suitcase limitations (meaning I couldn’t pack my entire closet in two suitcases) that I had to be strategic when packing. I made sure to pack tons of layers (tanks, short-sleeve shirts, long-sleeves shirts, vests, scarves, and light jackets) because in the mornings it was rather chilly, but by the afternoon it warmed up quite a bit. I packed one all weather jacket to handle those rainy/cold days, which I used maybe two or three times on the ship. And I wore a white vest more than anything because you could throw on a long-sleeve shirt and a vest for the morning weather and remove the vest in the afternoon when it warmed up. For dinner on the ship, it was very casual. I packed maxi dresses like these, white jeans, and statement necklaces like this to keep my outfits stylish for night. And of course comfortable walking shoes were a must because we did quite a few excursions that required us to hike.
Any additional tips? I’m glad we decided to take a few days in Seattle prior to us leaving on the cruise as we didn’t feel rushed. July is prime cruise season for Seattle and Alaska. We had delays at the airport both arriving to and departing from Seattle. So, be prepared to deal with the airports. On the Saturday we left Seattle, we had four other cruise ships that were disembarking at the same time. The lines at the airport were rather long. We decided to do EZ Check In aboard the cruise ship. They took our luggage the night before, checked us in for the flights, and printed our boarding passes. This saved us a lot of time that morning at the airport. Depending on what time your flight leaves, you may want to consider taking advantage of that service. Also, think about what you want to see when you head to Alaska on a cruise. I know it was important to us to see whales so we made sure to book in prime whale season (July). However, you can save a little bit of money by booking at the beginning or end of the cruise season. Lastly, we lucked out with great weather along the trip. Almost every tour we took mentioned that it was some of the best weather they had experienced this season. However, Alaska can be very unpredictable when it comes to weather so keep that in mind.
Would you visit Alaska again? Absolutely. It is one of the most scenic areas I have photographed, and it was BEAUTIFUL.
- Day 1: Wednesday, July 1st. Arrived in Seattle around 2:00 p.m. Grabbed an afternoon/early dinner at Purple Cafe & Wine Bar. Walked around downtown exploring the area. Stayed at the Marriott (downtown Seattle). You can see the post associated with this city here.
- Day 2: Thursday, July 2nd. Woke and had breakfast at the hotel (it was really good). Boarded tour bus at 7:15 a.m. to tour Mt. Rainier for the day with Tours Northwest. Arrived back at the hotel around 6:00 p.m. Grabbed dinner at Blueacre Seafood. You can see the post associated with this city here.
- Day 3: Friday, July 3rd. Woke and had breakfast at the hotel. Boarded the tour bus at 10:00 a.m. to take a 3-hour city tour of Seattle with Tours Northwest. Grabbed lunch at Athenian Seafood Restaurant and Bar. Walked around Pike’s Place Market and did a little downtown shopping for the rest of the day. You can see the post associated with this city here.
- Day 4: Saturday, July 4th. Woke and had breakfast at the hotel. Headed to Pier 91 to board the Crown Princess around 11:30 a.m. Set sail at 4:00 p.m. You can see the post associated with this city here.
- Day 5: Sunday, July 5th. At sea. You can see the post associated with this city here.
- Day 6: Monday, July 6th. Arrived in Juneau, Alaska (Arrived at 11:00 a.m and departed at 10:00 p.m.). Excursion for the Day: Whale Watching & Mendhenhall Glacier Photo Safari. Grabbed dinner at Tracy’s King Crab Shack. You can see the post associated with this city here.
- Day 7: Tuesday, July 7th. Arrived in Skagway, Alaska (Arrived at 5:30 a.m. and departed at 8:15 p.m.). Excursion for the Day: Yukon Expedition & White Pass Scenic Railway. You can see the post associated with this city here.
- Day 8: Wednesday, July 8th. Scenic cruising in the Tracy Arm Fjord aboard the Crown Princess. You can see the post associated with this city here.
- Day 9: Thursday, July 9th. Arrived in Ketchikan, Alaska (Arrived at 6:00 a.m. and departed at 1:00 p.m.). Excursion for the Day: Wilderness Exploration Cruise & Crab Feast. You can see the post associated with this city here.
- Day 10: Friday, July 10th. Arrived in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada (Arrived at 7:00 p.m. and departed 11:59 p.m.). Excursion for the Day: High Tea at the Empress Hotel & City Highlights. You can see the post associated with this city here.
- Day 11: Saturday, July 11th. Arrived in Seattle (Arrived at 7:00 a.m.). Disembarked the ship and arrived to the Seattle airport around 10:00 a.m.
And that concludes all my Alaska thoughts and tips. I hope you enjoyed following along this past week on my experience, and thank you for letting me share this with you! If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment and I will do my best to help. Enjoy your day, friends!
P.S. I’m looking into planning a trip to Colorado (Denver and Steamboat Springs) for the beginning of next year. If you have any recommendations/tips for the area, I would love to hear your thoughts… Feel free to leave a comment!