First cruise to Alaska May 2005 on HAL Statendam. This will be our 5th cruise, first on HAL and first to Alaska. What should we pack? Any tips greatly appreciated! This is quite different from Caribbean and Mexico cruises and I don't know quite what to expect. Thanks, Dixie.
Alaska weather is funny. You have to pack for all things, but still be sparing.
Clothing in layers: T-shirt, sweatshirt, fleese and light jacket ought to do it while letting you have flexibility to shed layers. For pants, I went with jeans and shorts (definitely made use of the shorts). Some prefer windpants for quicker-drying.
Sunscreen, hats and sun glasses. 1 bathing suit.
Binoculars. Hugely important in Alaska. We took 1 strong pair for use on the ship and on more stationary excursions (ie. whale watching). The strong pair make a huge difference in seeing otters and seals, etc. We also picked up a couple of small binoculars so that (1) the other person could look simultaneously and (2) we could both carry binoculars while in port/hiking/etc without luggling around heavy stuff.
Lots and lots of film/digital memory. Camera with a good zoom on it.
Yes, you are right, packing for an Alaska cruise is totally different than packing for a Caribbean cruise. Just be sure to include some kind of rain gear, most likely, you'll see some of that wet stuff, a simple windbreaker may be fine and or a poncho. Once there, most of the shops will be selling them. I basically wore jeans, t-shirts, sweat shirts and a jacket, also include some gloves/hats if you are planning a trip to a glacier. You basically can layer your clothing and take off a layer as the day warms up.
A great deal can depend when in May- mid May won't be shorts weather. Later- maybe a day or two- they take up very little room anyway. Necessary- lightweight lined jacket, knit hat and glove, 2 pair of walking shoes, rain gear, layers of clothes, I am one that never takes jeans- key is quick drying. I also always do my laundry off ship in Skagway- can be done in a little over an hour with their fast propane dryers- nice conversation too. Greatly cuts down on bulk.
I was going to take Karen16's advice and do my laundry in Skagway. However, it was pouring rain and really cold (snowing at the top of the pass). The thought of trying to deal with it was more than I could handle. Opted instead to do some of the lighter items on board the ship. Like everyone says be prepared for weather changes and make plans accordingly.
It is such a pleasure to hear from people who are strangers but have the love of cruising in common. People who take the time to freely and willingly share advice, tips and just plain well-wishing are wonderful to have around. Thanks for all the good info - not just from my query, but for all the responses given on these boards.
My husband and I have been on 31 cruises, but our first one to Alaska was this past August. I was going crazy trying to figure out how to pack. I read all the Alaska packing lists, etc., and I ended up packing way more than we needed. We were on a 5 day land tour and then 7 days on the ship, so it was a real challenge to pack the right things.
On our trip, we packed mosquito repellant, but didn't need it.....all the posts said we would, but we didn't see any. Also, we had rain jackets so we didn't need the rain ponchos we took, but it's better to have them than not. One funny story. On our last day heading to Vancouver on the ship, the sun came out and it turned into a warm day and everyone was in the ships pool outside, instead of the covered Lotus pool. We were on the Island Princess. I was in my bathing suit on a lounge chair and my husband was sitting beside me in a sweater and jeans. I told him he looked ridiculous sitting there in warm clothes and he just said to me; if I go and change the weather will change again and it will be cold. We would start out in the morning very chilly and it would warm up quite a bit later in the day. The saying about "layering clothes" reallly holds true because the weather changed more on our Alaska trip, than any cruise I've ever been on. I found Alaska remarkable and very beautiful. It might be a once in a lifetime cruise for us, as we took all the tours we wanted, because we didn't know if we would ever get back again, and they were expensive. I overheard at breakfast one morning in the Horizon Court Buffet, a lady said to her husband that she wished she had booked more excursions because they really hadn't seen much of Alaska, but she didn't because of the cost of them. Well, the whole cruise was expensive; the way I looked at it, you're already there so see what there is to see. We took the helicopter glacier landing, two sea plane excursions, three or four different train rides and a few more I don't remember right now. Our weeks bill for the tours were as much as a one week cruise to the Caribbean. Our bill wasn't drinks or bingo (we did just a little of each) but the biggest cost was the tours. Like I said, don't be like the lady who said she wished she had booked some tours, because she was there and didn't really get to see the real Alaska. If you just get off the ship and walk around, you will just be seeing the shopping areas (which are nice) but you have to go further to see the real sights. We also took a bear watch tour which was one of the highlights of our trip; along with the helicopter glacier landing. My advice, don't hold back; it might be your only time there.
1..Tshirt, long sleeve shirt, sweatshirt,jacket with hood (see the layer affect?) I wore Jeans the entire time (except for ship dining). If jacket not waterproof, poncho, although you can buy the 10 dollar one on the ship (you know , the one thats 4 dollars at Walmart), bathing suit if you swim. I was on HAL and although known for the more classic cruising, most men didn't wear tuxes on formal nights , many suits and sportcoats. My wife wore a lot of short sleeve blouses, sweatshirt and jacket with hood. Mostly jeans but sometimes whatever the women's equivalent of dockers would be called. Many women wore dresses for formal nights, other nights were moslty pantsuits. Comfortable shoes for walking,,but didn't need 2 paris, but who knows.
2. Binoculars,,I didn't bring them, could see how they would have been helpful for deck viewing
3. I took 25 rolls of film (35 mm guy) so in digital terms , whatever memory stickk holds about 300 pictures, I also have a mega-zoom lens,,really handy
4. $$$$$$$$$$ for excursions and if you go nuts and want some jewlery (and I would say fur but you know how we folks in California feel about fur)
5. Stretch pants,, manditory for anyone traveling on any ship
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!!
Thanks, Anita, for the advice. I am so excited and cannot wait to go. We have until May next year to get ready. This will be our 5th cruise, but a lot of time involved in planning and decision-making along with the cost of the cruise, so I want everything to be as right as I can get it so we can make the most of it.
Okay, I'm a real newbie. I have never been on a cruise and I have never been to Alaska. I am going on the Princess Dawn 12 day cruise leaving May 30th. I am almost more nervous about the "dress" aspect of the cruise than anything else. It appears, from the literature, that there are formal nights (are they mandatory?) and casual dress days. I keep wondering about how large a suitcase and how many suitcases I'll have to pack to bring so much "dressy" wear....as well as comfortable clothes. And I am concerned about how you transport so much luggage about when doing the land tour portion of the tour. I am really looking forward to much of the cruise...most especially the nature and wildlife viewing. But I really must admit that my idea of a good, relaxing vacation isn't spending much time in formal wear, nylons, heels, etc. Can someone give me some personal insight into this problem?
You'll get plentiful answers from the female point of view as what to wear and what is acceptable (and thats great because I am clueless) but what I will tell you is no,,nothing is manditory. The dress code is for the main dining room and there will be formal nights, informal nights and casual nights. If you don't want to dress up you eat at the buffett or even have room service.
My wife and I didn't want to play on formal night so we just brought a coat for me for informal night (she wore a dressy pantsuit) then casual is just that (but jeans would have looked out of place,,dockers for men).
What did feel wierd though , was on formal night walking around the public areas in my casual clothes while the bulk of the passengers were in their formal wear,,but that was in my mind I think,,because no one gave me any dirty looks !
We did do a land tour,,had 4 suitcases and 2 carryones (the max allowed by our cruiseline). You luggage is moved around for you so there is no sweat. As a cruiseline employee told me,,they use the airlinees as their screeners. What ever you can take on a plane,,will fit on their busses.
You know whats important,,,have fun and do what you feel like doing!!!!
I had similar fears and while I slimmed things down, I still brought too much. Between the 2 of us, we had 2 suitcases + 1 suit bag + 2 backpacks for a 7 day cruise on the Island Princess + 6 day land tour independently. [This includes a fair amount of camera equipment and space for souveniers.]
You don't want to be fumbling with the bags in the airport, the cabin, and on the land tour, so minimize. The key is planning on doing laundry during the trip. With a longer cruise, I would do the same amount of clothing and just plan on more laundry. Some do laundry in port. I found that I was waking up pretty early to watch scenery, so it was no big deal to have the laundry bundled the night before, and first thing the next morning get all of the laundry done with 3 simultaneous loads. By the time I was putting my clothes in the dryers, the laundry was in high demand. We then went for a nice breakfast and finished just in time to pick up our laundry. (Double check that the Dawn has self-serve laundry, of course) From now on, I plan to pack even less and plan on doing 1 big laundry session and 1 smaller one.
As mentioned, the evening-ware (Princess divide this into formal nights and smart-casual nights) is a dress code restricted to the dining rooms. I had late seating, and walked through the early crowd milling outside of the dining room while I was in jeans and t-shirt without flinching. In the dining room, it is mandatory. However, I would highly recommend you bring appropriate evening-ware Personally, I hated the buffet ... found it too oily, etc. We started thinking Princess called it the Horizon Court because the good food was just beyond the horizon. Others eat there all the time, so ... [Plus, I'm generally wary about buffets and particularly when there are concerns about Norwalk...but thats my own neurosis.] At any rate, some of the best dining room food (and dessert!) is served on formal nights. I'm willing to dawn formal-ware for a couple of hours for FAR FAR FAR better food. For 2 formal nights, I brought 1 suit, 2 white shirts, 2 ties, and semi-formal black shoes (so that my shoes could double with the suit and dockers for normal dinners). My girlfriend brought 2 dresses (both of a material that took up very little room) + 1 pair of heels (basically take no room) and she could have gotten away with 1 outfit if she really wanted to.
Smart-casual dinners (in the dining room ... again) is what I overpacked on. Dockers and a sweater work great. To mix it up, I sometimes did a button down shirt while my girlfriend wore a turtle-neck. No heels or nilons for women's footware on smart-casual nights (but it does force women into an extra pair of shoes). Both of us should have planned on reusing dinner clothes more than we did.
The other killer in packing is warm-wear. Don't get me wrong, you definitely need to do the layered-thing, but I could have done with 1 sweatshirt and fewer long-sleeve shirts that I put over t-shirts. Maybe my perception of this is off because we had a pretty warm cruise. Early monrings/evenings on deck/balcony I needed a long sleeve shirt + sweatshirt + fleece jacket + lined jacket. Otherwise, I didn't wear the sweatshirts at all, so maybe that skewed my beliefs on the number that of sweatshirts & long sleeve shirts I needed.
Linda...I thought I had mentioned but didn't and I have to agree with JRASK,,,dining room food is a much better then the buffett (I was on HAL) so thats why I did eat there every night except formal night. Some people will post saying its the same food,,on HAL it is not. But,,there was one lady on formal night (the night I did eat in the buffett) that was dining and I overheard her say to one of the waiters she was having her first dinner then (about 6) and having her other dinner at the late seating!
Also consider what I always do- do some laundry. I'll assume your 11 days- is via a cruisetour- my opinion it is too short- too much time in transit and most of these tours only include the usless- Natural History tour- going only 16 miles into Denali Park- do you really want to travel all that way and not see it???? Little if any wildlife likely. I find it very difficult to rationalize a 3 hour tour when it takes at LEAST 7 hours to get there from Whittier???
i will be in alaska in may also. when i went to glacier bay last sept i took sweaters, a hoodede sweatshirt, an unlined nylon hooded windbreaker, comfy sweats and a nice pair of black pants with two different tops for casual diner and of course two formal outfits. t-shirts can be bought in the ports very cheap if you need them. BE COMFORTABLE. that is the key for this trip. and no matter what, take your most comfortable pair of shoes for the ports and tours. i am going to take my cuddles ( top and bottom ) this time for out on the deck. also i am going to take my very lightweight pair of gloves and head wrap for the deck on glacier day. the most important thing to take is -- a great fun attitude, anticipation for the cruise and more money than you think you will need. and of course lots of film or memory sticks for pixs. we are going to have a wonderful time and like you i cant wait to go. have a great time.
I've been on one cruise, to Alaska last May. We are going again in May '05. I agree with most of the packing list mail I've read, but I suggest some additions, depending on shore plans.
Your absolute most comfortable walking shoes.
10X50 binocs (the bargain Nikon at Ritz camera is super)
If you are going into the interior, temps can be below freezing, so take something to cover your ears. I bought the big fur hat with ear flaps in Carcross, Yukon territory. It was perfect. I also used it on deck in Tracy Arm. I was voted most appropriately dressed.
I'm extremely cold natured, so I wore a wool thermal undershirt as one of my layers in the Yukon.
My wife and I made one change for '05. We have replaced our water resistant wind brakers with Gortex guaranteed to keep you dry breathable unlined windbrakers with hood.
For digital camera users, you have an option on Princess, The ship will have a photo lab on board and they can download your memerory card to CD for a reasonable charge. We had 2 256MB cards and 1 64MB card and we did allright with 500+ photos at medium resolution. Our camera (Panasonic Lumix) has a 12X stabilized optical zoom which worked very well under all conditions.
I took two pair of casual slacks and shirts to mix and match at dinner, a dark suit and the rest Jeans and flannel shirts.
Above all take a ton of optimism. Even it the cruise starts badly as ours did, Alaska will work its wonders, it you let it and you witll have a wonderful time.
What happened on your cruise that started it out badly?
We are sailing on HAL Statendam. Glad to hear that the insect repellant is not needed. I don't mind cold weather at all - just hope it is not raining. Live in Alabama and this year has been the worst for rain, rain and more rain and the mosquitos have been tough this year too.
Have seen the Gortex jackets and, yes, they do appear to do just as described, so we have added them to our list of things to buy.
We are currently shopping for a good digital camera. I appreciate the info.
The May 15 & 22 '04 Diamond Princess cruises are well documented on various cruise wed sites. We were on the May 22 run. In summary the Diamond damaged one of its drive props in Victoria, BC the night before it was to return to Seattle. It made port around noon while we were waiting in Seattle center for some word concerning our cruise. We boarded at 6:30 PM instead of noon. Late arrivals did not board until near midnight. Between 400 & 500 passengers, had a shouting match/near riot with a hotel staff officer around midnight and about 300 left the ship, This because we found a letter in our cabin saying we were going to miss Juneau and Victoria and have two hours in Skagway, becuase the ship would not leave Seattle until 3:00AM and could only travel about 2/3rds speed.
We did find out the the Skagway time was a misprint and we got full time there, But we missed two ports. As every Alaska posting on this site says, for Alaska, intenerary is everything the ship is seconcary. An extra day at sea did not thrill us.
Most things got better when we hit Skagway. Divers fixed the prop so we were back up to speed. Our shore excursion was just wjhat we needed. Miles and miles of sights we had never seen before. Our bus driver knew we were tired and hostile. After he was done we were relaxed and refreshed.
Back on board the ships crew had recovered somewhat and began to show us what cruising was alll about. We heard an anoucement that we would dock in Victoria after all. That night the whole ship was a party.
Of course, in the end, we missed Victoria because the big beautiful Diamond could not sale a stright line in the high cross wind of victoria harbor. But by then most people had had a good time and the disappointment was not so much.
On the camera, check out the Panasonic, our 4MP Lumix was low end of the price range for the quaility of the camera. They have just come out with a 5MP version. You may be able to get the 4MP on a close out somewhere. All of our pictures were taken in Point and Shoot auto mode, ;and in the end we erased three. Two of those we were pretty sure would not come out. They were taken in extreme low light and the subject moved.
On the Gore-tex. we fournd the best price at LL Bean. $100.00.
PS the HAL ship in Victoria had no trouble with the wind.
Wow, hopefully that is a once-in-a-lifetime incident! I would have been quite upset - so much anticipation and excitement for things to turn out like that as I'm sure you felt also. I don't imagine it's like an airplane, where one can quickly be brought in to replace another with just a few hours delay for the passengers?!
I appreciate the info on the camera.
Ordered a L.L. Bean catalog earlier today. Even here in the hot and humid south, we have days during the winter months where a Gortex windbreaker would be perfect. I don't want to put together an entire wardrobe of clothes that I would probably never wear again, so we are shopping carefully. I don't want to freeze my bottom or anything else off either! Just want to be comfortable.