Get ready for your Alaskan cruise with these tips for your Alaska cruise, all things that I wish I’d known before my first Alaskan cruise! Everything from what to pack to Alaskan cruise excursions, Alaskan cruise prices, and even the best time to cruise Alaska!
When we first started talking about going on an Alaskan Cruise for my mom’s 50th birthday, I was so excited. Alaska has always been on my bucket list of places to visit, and well, I love cruises. I’ve been on 10 or more Caribbean cruises, so I thought I knew pretty much everything I needed to about cruising.
I was so wrong.
An Alaskan Cruise is nothing like a Caribbean one, other than the fact that you’re cruising on a big boat and everything on the ship is included. Everything else about an Alaskan cruise is different than any other Caribbean cruise I’ve ever been on. That’s why I’m sharing these 5 things I wish I’d known before my Alaskan cruise, so hopefully I can help anyone who is going on an Alaskan cruise soon to be prepared, unlike me, before they go.
Alaskan Cruise Tips
#1 – Seattle is the perfect Alaskan Cruise departure city.
About half of the Alaska cruises we looked at left out of Seattle, Washington and the other half left out of British Columbia, Canada. We chose Seattle because one of my best friends’ families live there, which meant a free place to stay and unlimited pickle ball games. But even if we didn’t have family there, I would’ve picked Seattle anyway because it’s one of my favorite towns ever.
There are also great shuttles from many of the Seattle hotels to the cruise port and a taxi ride from downtown Seattle to the cruise port is cheap. There are also quite a few hotels that offer a park and cruise offer that’ll allow you to stay one night, leave your car while you cruise, and pick it up later. Perfect to avoid having to pay extra parking fees during your Alaskan cruise.
If you have a day or two in Seattle before your Alaska cruise, make sure to:
- Eat your way through Pike Place market
- Make your own glass-blown bowl
- Take a boat out on Lake Bellevue or another one of the many lakes in Seattle
- Explore and shop downtown
#2 – Pack and Dress in Layers for Your Alaskan Cruise
Typically when I go on a cruise, I pack a handful of bathing suits, some cover-ups, flip flops, and a couple of dress-up outfits for the cruise itself. For an Alaskan cruise, you have to pack everything from swim suits to formal dresses (for formal night) to rain coats (it rains a lot) and even hats and gloves.
Just because Alaskan cruises cruise in the warmer months of the year doesn’t mean it’s going to be warm in Alaska or on the boat itself in the middle of the ocean. You could have a beautiful sunny day where you can walk around in jeans and a t-shirt and then other days you could be bundled up in a hoodie, rain gear, and a scarf. Alaskan weather is finicky so pack enough options that you can wear something comfortable no matter what the weather is like.
If you forget a rain coat or don’t want to pack one, you can actually get a nice quality one in Alaska on one of your in port days for super cheap. Both my husband and I ended up buying ones on our cruise to Alaska that we still use today.
#3 – There’s More Down Time on an Alaskan Cruise
Unlike most Caribbean cruises I’ve been on that have shows and activities going on all night long, our Alaskan cruise was dead by about 10PM. The Alaskan cruises prices tend to be more expensive and geared toward an older crowd of people and the entertainment and activities reflected that. I was with a group of about 20 for my mom’s 50th birthday when we went and most of the time, it seemed like we were the only ones awake and walking around the ship around 10PM.
We went on the Princess Ruby, a popular Princess Cruises Alaska, but I’m willing to bet that the other cruises will be similar. So if you want to sleep, there will likely be plenty of time to sleep without having to miss out.
The other downside was also that not only did the activities and entertainment end early, almost all of the food closed early as well. There was one small cafe on our ship that was open all night long, but it only served a handful of small desserts and pre-made sandwiches that were not my favorite. I would’ve loved to see the pizza place or ice cream or anywhere really open after 10PM for those of us who don’t go to bed at 9PM.
#4 – Alaskan Cruise Prices Are More Expensive
Our Alaskan cruise was by far the most expensive cruise I’ve ever been on and it’s not because we chose the nicest ship or the longest itinerary or anything like that. They were all expensive. And the excursions all were too. I’ll be sharing the Alaskan cruise excursions that I thought were worth the money next week but for now just know that you’re going to spend a pretty penny on the cruise, probably about double what you would for a Caribbean cruise.
One nice splurge for people who don’t drink alcohol like me is an all you can drink pass that includes juices, hot chocolates, milkshakes, and virgin frozen drinks if you’re on Princess cruises. And if you’re on another cruise line, they likely have something similar. I guarantee I downed at least 3 virgin pina coladas or daquiris a day and a milkshake or two on top of that. The pass easily paid for itself.
#5 – You go on an Alaskan cruise to see the beauty of Alaska
I already mentioned that the cruise pretty much shuts down at night, or at least ours did, but the other thing I noticed was that most everything on the cruise was just a little worse than other cruises I’ve been on. When we were searching for cruises, one thing that I noticed was that the best of the best ships and entertainment were all being sent into the Caribbean somewhere. All of the ship options that we had were older, less innovative ships.
Alaskan cruises aren’t about the ship and things you can do on the ship like ice skating or zip lining from one end to another. Alaska cruises are about seeing and enjoying the beauty Alaska (and typically somewhere in Canada) has to offer. Once you embrace that and realize that you’re more likely going to be looking for whales alongside the boat or taking photos of glaciers floating in the water, you’ll fall in love with Alaska like I did. It’s breathtakingly beautiful and somewhere that I would love to go back to, maybe not on a cruise, but for sure to visit. Cruising was great, but I’d rather just fly in and have the chance to explore the Alaskan wilderness more than you can in just a few hours.
Most cruises have the option to do an at sea floating through a fjord, which basically means floating on the cruise ship in and out of a little fjord surrounded by beautiful glaciers and mountains. It’s typically super early in the morning and while it’s beautiful, I probably would’ve just preferred to sleep in. But if you’re all about embracing the Alaskan beauty, get up early, bundle up, and enjoy the gorgeous scenery. Or take it one step further and book an excursion to actually go explore the glaciers you can see from the side of the boat instead of just looking at it from afar. That’s the beauty of a cruise to Alaska.
Have you ever been on an Alaskan cruise? What things would you add to my list of things to know before you go?