When I thought of the title for this post, A Trip of a Lifetime, my initial thought was – no, I don’t want to call it that. Because I still (hopefully) have a lot of ‘lifetime’ left.
And then I was inspired. Each trip, each vacation – should be the trip of a lifetime. That means we need to keep raising the bar. Right? Right. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been wanting to take an Alaskan cruise. Now that I live in Arizona, nothing appealed to me more than escaping our July heat and going to Alaska!
So here’s the good and the bad.
Alaska? AMAZING. It’s what everyone says it is. It’s beautiful, it’s graceful, it’s peaceful, it’s where nature goes to rest, it’s one of the amazing places on earth. The wildlife takes your breath away and humbles you in ways you’d never expect.
The cruise? Eh.
I’ve been on a couple of cruises and one of the things I love about cruises is that once you pay for the cruise, you don’t have to worry about anything. Or you’re not supposed to. But the Alaska cruises, in my opinion, have become one big fat tourist trap. By the time we were done – not including shore excursions – we paid about $800 in on board fees. Ouch! Also, Holland America? Not so great. But I’ll save this review for another day.
I’m not sure I’d recommend a cruise to Alaska to anyone because it’s like trying to go shopping in Tijuana for cheap clothes and items. It’s just not what it used to be. It’s a tourist trap and the shops have become leeches feeding on the googley eyed tourists. With that said, it’s almost worth it to deal with to get the awesomeness of everything else.
So in a quick recap, here’s my top 10 suggestions from what I’ve learned on this trip.
- Find a cruise that has longer port times. You really need about 8-14 hours at each port because each port has at least 1 (or 2) shore excursion you want to take advantage of, and each of those are about 2-4 hours. Then if you want to walk around and enjoy the port, you’ll need about another 1-2 hours.
- Yes, you definitely want hiking shoes, but you also want comfortable sandles. It’s not as cold as you think it’s going to be.
- Layers, layers, layers! Depending on the wind, it can go from freezing to shorts and t-shirt weather from day to day.
- Go on a bigger boat. You spend a lot of time at sea since there’s quite some distances to travel. So the bigger boats that have more things to do will be something you’ll be thanking me for later. It’s worth the extra money for the better ships.
- Do a lot of research on the ports beforehand, especially if you love wildlife. Surprisingly, you don’t get as much info as you’d like while on board.
- Book your shore excursions at port when you get there. The cruises over charge.
- Don’t book transportation from the cruise. Cabs are always at the waiting and are about a third of the price, especially if you’re traveling with 2 or more people.
- Take an extra suitcase! There’s a lot to buy, especially smoked salmon. Although most places will ship for you, it’s just cheaper to go the extra suitcase route.
- If you’re staying an extra few days, do it at the end of the cruise. Trying to get a flight out on the day all the cruiseships come back to port is a nightmare. (We spent 12 hours waiting at the airport to go home)
- Last but not least. Take binoculars and a good camera, or two. One with good zoom!
One thing we learned? We love adventure traveling. Next stop? Either Easter Island or Antartica.
What’s been your trip of a lifetime? Your dream vacation you’ve yet to go on?
My top favorite moments on the trip?
Watching whales Bubble Net Feeding
Seeing the hundreds (yes hundreds) of bald eagles
Of course spending time with my husband and son – but especially seeing how much our 7 year old LOVED the trip
Going to Seattle for the first time and having dinner at the Space Needle
Spotting a brown mamma bear with her two cubs on the shoreline
Seeing the hundreds (yup, that too) of Humpback whales. The sound of their breathing is so sweet
Hiking through a rainforest!