Alaska’s rich culture is diverse and has both Native American and Russian influences. Tlingit and Tsimshian Indian’s history is reflected in the towering intricately carved totem poles that dot Southeast Alaska. In addition, Russian settlers left a legacy of onion-domed churches, while village shops still sell traditional nesting dolls, wood carved St. Nicholas statues and gleaming lacquer boxes.
There was once a time when the only people who cruised to Alaska were retirees and the sight of children on these ships was an anomaly. That is so far from present-day reality! Today, an Alaskan cruise is a great family vacation, a romantic honeymoon destination, or an adventure trip for the courageous. Let’s take a close look at what you need to know when planning your trip.
Understanding the difference in itineraries: There are two different itineraries to consider when choosing an Alaska cruise. One is no better than the other, but each meets different needs as far as what you are hoping to see.
- The Inside Passage: Probably the most popular route, on this seven-night itinerary ships sail round trip from Vancouver or Seattle to the southeast panhandle of Alaska. Ports of call may include Skagway, Haines, Icy Straight Point, Juneau, Ketchikan, or Sitka. Visiting glaciers is surely one of the highlights of a journey to Alaska. All cruise ships spend the better part of a day at Glacier Bay National Park, Hubbard Glacier, Tracy Arm or Sawyer Glacier.
- Northbound / Southbound Cruises: These seven-night itineraries are sometimes called Gulf of Alaska cruises. The northbound cruises depart from either Seattle or Vancouver and end in Seward, Alaska. The southbound cruises begin in Seward and end in Vancouver or Seattle. Ports of call are generally the same as the Inside Passage cruise. The difference regarding this itinerary is the opportunity to explore the interior of Alaska. This is the cruise you want to take if you’d like to add a land tour before or after the cruise portion. You could not work in a visit to Denali National Park on an Inside Passage cruise. It is worth mentioning that since your embarkation and disembarkation cities are different, airfare may cost more than it would if it were a roundtrip ticket.
What to pack: Since mornings are generally cool, but summer days can sometimes climb up to the 80’s, its best to bring clothing that can be layered. Add or subtract layers as necessary. Tee-shirts under sweatshirts or sweaters are a good choice. I love silk undershirts because they are light weight, but keep you toasty warm. A waterproof jacket (a hood would be great) is a must regardless of when you go. Gloves are also good to have for glacier viewing day as it can get quite chilly being on deck all day snapping pictures! If you don’t already own a pair, I suggest you purchase a pair of binoculars for bear or eagle sightings. It seems everyone has a pair hanging around their neck. If you’re going inland bring insect repellant and although many people forget, pack sun block… its just as important here! Last but not least, BRING A CAMERA!!!!
Next week I look forward to telling you about the ports of call you will visit on a cruise to Alaska. Please join me! In the interim you can check out itineraries and pricing at the Direct Line Cruises website."