What have I done?????????????
Booked a cruise - first one - to Alaska!
Leaving from Seattle on July 16th for 7 days.
We've gone to Cancun and Hawaii, but most of our trips are by auto and at our own pace.
I'd appreciate any tips or warnings.
We are an older couple.
I was very hesitant to go on a cruise, until my husband finally convinced me in March. Now I am absolutely hooked!
It is so nice to have a "home", instead of packing up every night and heading to another hotel. It is also nice to leave the navigating, cooking and clean up to someone else (no arguments about which way to turn). People on the ship are friendly ... everyone is in the vacation frame of mind. You can dress up, or not, every night and sit in a pretty dining room where the servers know your name and want you to be happy. Your room will be cleaned at least twice a day, and bed folded down every night (probably with a chocolate on the pillow). If you're hungry, check out any of the available restaurants.
I hope you love it as much as I did. We've booked our next cruise for September, and are looking at Christmas ones now!
RCCI Mariner of the Seas - Western Caribbean - March 2006
Next up ... Mariner of the Seas - Eastern Caribbean - September 2006
What have you done? Just let yourself in for the time of your life, that's all You're gonna love it Bon Voyage
PS If you go to Skagway, do the White Pass railway tour. takes about 3 hours and it's great. If Juneau, Helicopter to Mendenhall glacier. If you don't have a balcony, find a nice place at the rail aft, or the top lounge forward for each relaxing sailaway!
Landlocked in Denver, but cruisin every chance we get.
Polynesia, Carib. '86
Cr. Odyssey, Scandinavia, '91, 30 Day S Pac. 2002
Crystal Harm, Aust., N.Z., '94
Royal Odyssey, AK,'96
Old Cr. Pr. Canal, '97
RCCL, Carib, 1998
Volendam, Car, 2000
Ryndam, 35 day S. Am., Antarctica, '03
Is. Pr., Canal, 2004
Statendam, 34 day China, Japan, AK '06
Cr.Pr., Carib. 08
Eurodam, Atlantic, Med. '10
i like that you only have to unpack once and you don't have to drive to diner then show and back to the hotel and you can make your vacation
the way you want it the only tip is watch your spend things can add up fast
and have a good time
You booked the best way to see Alaska! I never wanted to go to Alaska, but hubby talked into an Alaskan cruise and I fell in love with it. Plus, there are areas that can only be seen by ship.
Big thunderstorm coming in so I need to get off PC. I'll post some of my suggestions later.
I'm sure that a lot of this is somewhere else on this board, but I couldn't find it. So, I'll try to suumarize what I remember and what we experienced.
Alaska is perceived as very cold, but the Inside Passage, which is where the cruises go, is much warmer than you might think. Parts of it are actually classified as a temperate rain forest.
A waterproof wind breaker is essential, as it can be very, very rainy. Beyond that, go for layers rather than big bulky cold weather wear. I've gone from bundled up to t-shirt in the course of one day in Alaska. You might also want a wrap of some kind for evenings. The sun will be "up" almost around the clock, but if you like a stroll on deck after dinner, which can be gorgeous, a nice shawl can be nice (for your wife, I mean).
I would also suggest binoculars, if you have them. If you like wildlife, there are some fabulous opportunities in Alaska.
Jumping to another topic, I suggest you buy transfers from airport to/from cruise ship through the cruise lines. It will make things a lot simpler, as they will be waiting for you and can help with baggage, etc.
If either of you is mobility impaired, don't hesitate to ask for help getting on or off the ship. Find a cruise rep and they will take care of you. They really do try to spoil you.
I recently did an extensive write up for a friend who is doing her first cruise, also to Alaska. So, if you want, send a PM (Private Message) to me and I can get your email address and send you the whole thing.
You're about to go for the vacation of a lifetime. I'm so jealous...I would love to go again.
The following is a tad disjointed and really long. It is a compilation of e-mails I wrote to friends who are doing their first cruise, also to Alaska. Hope it helps. If you need more info, ask away. SOmeone on this board will have an answer for you
When you get to the pier to board, you will turn your large luggage over to baggage handlers. Same drill as airport. Same tip. Do NOT expect your luggage to be in your cabin asap. It can take hours for them to sort it all out and get to the right cabins. It can happen that a tag with cabin # on it will get torn off. In that case, the bag is taken to the pusers office, where you can claim it. I've had that happen to one bag in 30+ cruises, so don't worry until you need to.
When you get on the ship, someone will take you to your cabin. I always tip because the grape vine on ships is tight and your cabin steward will know if you generous or not! More on tipping later.
Your cabin will probably have 2 twin beds in it. Tell your cabin steward that you want them made up as a king. He will be your go to person for almost everything! You can also ask him for extra hangers, pillows, towel, etc.
Tipping of dining room waiter and asst waiter (busboy is what they do, but they don't like the term) and cabin steward is traditionally done the last night of the cruise. The exceptions are room service, which is free, but if someone other than your cabin steward delivers it, I feel they deserve a token tip. There will be cards in your cabin that allow you to pre-order continental breakfast. You put in on your door when you go to bed and they bring it whatever time you specify. I prefer just going up on deck and having my coffee, and food there. The other tip as you go are the spa and salon.
Did you buy cruise insurance with your booking? I don't, as anything severe enough to keep me from going has to be something so bad that losing my cruise money will be the least of my worries. Plus, it's insurance and they have a million ways to get out of paying. Pre-existing condition in this case can be a friggin' hangnail! However, what I do buy is emergency evacuation insurance. If someone is injured and sick and the ship doc does not feel he/she has adequate facilities to provide proper care, they will evacuate the patient via helicopter. Prices START at about $10K. I use a company called CSA
1-800-348-9205. I get what they cal l a Silver Paln, aka zero value, meaning I am not looking for reimbursement for the cruise itself. It also covers medical expenses and Medicare has zero coverage outside the US. I know Alaska is US, but Victoria is not and you sail through some Canadian waters. The cost is cheap..about $45 both of us. Since Alaska is US, it is the safest and
friendliest place to do things on your own if you like. Example, in Juneau, DH+ I wanted to see Mendenhall Glacier. Instead of ship's tour, we got off the ship and there were buses that would take you, wait for you and bring you back for $10. Just make sure to watch your time. The ships wait if ship tours are late but not individuals on their own.
Pratical stuff. The last night, passengers are asked to put luggage outside their cabins before going to bed. The reason is that it takes a long time to get that much luggage, so they move it to the hold during the night. When the ship docks in morning, they move it to the pier and drug dogs sniff it out. You will be given color coded baggage tags the last day and people are allowed off the ship by those colors. Luggage is organized on pier by color. The colors are based on return flight times. You will need to have one small bag that you can carry for whatever you need the last night. ALso, if you buy anything fragile,
do NOT pack it in regular luggage, as they throw those around like the old gorilla commericals. You need to
be able to carry off fragiles stuff, last night stuff and valuables. Not a big deal, but better to be able to plan in advance. I pack a collapsible duffel that I bought on a HAL cruise in case I buy something that I want to carry off that won't fit in "overnight" bag.
One thing I like is disposable ponchos' as I can throw them in whatever bag I'm carrying even if the day starts out sunny. I hate cold (as you know)but was only cold a couple of days out of both my trips. Got sunburned in Glacier Bay
The following are general packing tips for cruises. Some are mine, some came from other folks. Cabins generally only have one electrical outlet. So, power strip or extension cord will make things easier.
Inside cabins can be very dark, so small nightlight can help.
I prepack a port bag, so I'm not running around getting
organized on the ship. I carry protein bar, extra med's, sunscreen, poncho, bug repellant (yep, even up there), small bottle of hand sanitizer...I'll think of the rest eventually.
When you check in, they will ask for credit card, which they use to preapprove on board spending. Doesn't hurt to let credit card co. know that you will be making charges outside your usual pattern. SOme will deny credit these days if they think maybe someone stole your card. The cruise line will then make your room key your on board credit card...everything from shore excursions to spa, etc. So, that's all you really have to carry around on the ship. It also acts
as your boarding pass to get back on from ports. You also need photo id to get back on.
I also carry any OTC's I think I might possible need. Shops on board carry minimal OTC and sundries. Don't buy anything you can take with you.
They charge a lot for that stuff. You can usually get aspirin, etc. free from infirmary on board. They have doc and nurses, but they charge extra. Cruise lines are paranoid about anything that even might be contagious and will quarantine people in their cabins. They give away sea sick pills and I carry some on me and take them the minute I get even a touch of dizziness, as that is usually first symptom. Not likely in inside passage, as these are smnooth waters.
Worst part of any cruise is the boat drill. Legally mandatory and usually happens as soon as you sail. Theory is that people then know where to go in case of emergency. One tip I just got and will try on our next cruise is that Target now has gigantic
Ziplock type bags. You can pack clothes in them, then roll the air out. I've heard that the more expensive ones aren't worth it. Travel irons are NOT allowed, but steamers are. Most ships have small laundry room with irons if you feel you must be all spiffy! I've obviously never done that. Also, Downney's wrinkle release in a small bottle can help.
The ship will also do laundry for you, but I'm too cheap for that.
Overall, dress in Alaska is pretty casual. Exception is dining room, especially at dinner and more so for formal nights. You will have 2 of those. But, formal is relative these days. I often take black slacks, 2 tops, one dressy and one that I just accessorize.Most guys wear nice suits on formal night.
Sitka is charming. It was the capitol when Russia owned Alaska and still has a beautiful Russian Orthodox church that you can go into. Large collection of icons. I did a nature boat tour when we were there and can't say I recommend it. Very peaceful and serene and we saw bald eagles, but in Sitka, eagles are as common as crows...seriously, they are considered a pest!
In Ketchikan, you can do a tour to native village. Their chief was really smart. He filed for their village to be recognized as a US town, so they are still living in the same place, no reservation here. ANd, they do a charming tour of folk music/story telling and totem pole carving. Then, some shopping on Creek Street. Used to be red light district for miners, now is full of tourist shops. Some are too pricey( ex. gold nugget the size of a football), but Alaska folks are so laid back they don't care.
Juneau must-see's are Mendenhall Glacier and maybe whale watching, depending on your mom. Victoria, I
know nothing about. Actually, it was added to the Seattle itineraries because of an antiquated law that says a ship owned by another country can't go from US port to US port without stopping in a foreign port. Intended to prevent foreign nations from taking over US shipping way back when. Glacier Bay, I've already run on about.
On the ship, well worth paying a tad extra one night to try the Pinnacle Grill. The first night, you can sometimes get in for 1/2 price, as they want the word of mouth to get going.
FYI, the roundtrip from Vanvouver or Seattle is called Inside Passage. There are barrier islands along the coast and it is usually very smooth sailing. Suggest you buy transfer from ship to airport at end of the cruise. It makes customs easier since they are used to do the big cruise groups and it is cheaper by far than a cab.
Okay, now the "bad" news. There is a type of flu called Alaska flu that crops up every summer. It is Type A so there is a med for it, called flumadine. No vaccine, as not enough demand to make a profit for drug co's. I caught it once and really was worried about being able to get back homei with bus and flight, etc. Had gotten flumadine from my doc before, started taking it asap and was okay within 24 hrs.
colorcrazie gave you a great "itinerary" to go by. I may have missed it in reading her post, but be sure and have a carryon with what you will need from the time you get off your flight until your checked bags arrive at your cabin....meds,sun lotion, reading glasses, book etc. I carried a small backpack on our Hawaiian cruise and it was lightweight and wherefore it didn't matter if our checked luggage arrived a little late to our cabin.
You two are going to have the time of your life. Don't get too used to all the pampering. My DW and I are a little on the older side, I am 68 and she is 65.