Anita is absolutely right about the excursions. We just got back from our first cruise, to Alaska on HAL, and the highlight of our trip was the floatplane trip to the Misty Fjords in Ketchikan. There are many other excursions and yes, they're expensive, but you're up there and it would be a shame to not take advantage of the opportunity to see so much more than the ports of call. Most of the excursions are not for the full time that you are in port, so you should have some time to shop if that's what you want to do, but I thought most of the shops had a lot of the same merchandise, so in each of the three ports we could have bought the same things. I told our float plane pilot that I would much rather spend the money on that flight than on jewelry (which, again, you can buy in every port or on the ship). Another tour we did and loved, on our own, was the Raptor Center in Sitka. You can just walk off the ship and find a guide at the visitor center parking lot, who will take you up there. The price was about the same as the tour price from the ship, but we had more time flexibility and could have stayed longer had we wished to do so, which would not have been possible on the ship's tour. We did a whale-watching tour combined with the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, and that was pretty much something we could have also done on our own. We have seen the whales in Baja so actually could have passed this one up, but think the glacier helicopter tour should not be missed (we had already done this in NZ years ago and didn't feel the need to repeat it). Anyway, save your money for the floatplane and helicopter excursions (which also can be booked on your own, although I believe the prices are similar to those done through the ship); they are well worth the money and the experience. As for packing, we took WAY too much stuff!! I did a wash on the ship once midway through our seven days so could have done with less of almost everything. Two or three pairs of pants should suffice, with several more shirts. I found that taking three jackets, two of which were just basically overshirts, was a great idea, as well as having a rain jacket with a hood (essential!), a rainproof hat and gloves for the cold worked great. We had a verandah room and I spent a lot of time out there, but also found the bow of the boat was often uncrowded and occasionally not too windy. We had a wonderful time and I can't wait to go back, but further north next time!! Our trip was billed as inside passage, but we were outside for two days and it was quite rough. I usually don't get seasick but was definitely queasy. HAL recommends several things for this but the green apples they provide in the room were the ticket for me. My husband gets extremely seasick, so he had the patch, and never felt a thing!! See above for good advice about anything I missed here! And I agree with you; I learned SO MUCH before we cruised from everyone who takes the time to help on these boards! Have a GREAT time!!