Monday, March 28, 2011

Alaska Cruise Primer

A cruise to Alaska is a voyage into America’s pristine wilderness!  From the icy blue glaciers and white snow-capped mountains, to the rich green forests just beyond the shore line, spectacular scenery will envelop you throughout the journey.  The deep fjords and densely wooded islands you cruise by are home to abundant wildlife including bald eagles, brown bears, dolphins, sea lions and whales.

 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.         
When to cruise to Alaska:  Cruising to Alaska is a short season that begins in May and ends in September.  There are advantages to traveling in the shoulder months of May and September, the least of which is that it is the most affordable. The temperatures in May are a bit cool, but the wildflowers are in full bloom. The wildlife viewing is also excellent in May since the larger animals are migrating and in lower elevations where the snow has disappeared.  The months of June, July and August have long, long days and warmer temperatures, but expect larger crowds in port as the summer is always prime family travel time. It’s also an expensive time to cruise. September has its own beauty, as fall comes early to Alaska and many of the deciduous trees are bright yellow and blazing red by Labor Day. However, late August and September usually see more rainfall.

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."

No comments:

Post a Comment