If you’re preparing for your Alaska cruise, you’re in the right place!
Once you’ve covered the basics* in setting up your trip, what else should you know before your first Alaska cruise? What are the tips that don’t really get mentioned? Especially if this is your first time ever going on a cruise?
There were a few things that would have made me trip completely perfect, if someone had mentioned them to me before. Technically it was one of the best trips ever, but you know, things can always be improved!
If you’re anything like me, here are 6 key things you should do before your cruise. These Alaska cruise tips will help keep you prepared for an unforgettable trip!
Note: 1 and 6 are really specific to Alaska. The rest, including the bonus section, are true for any cruise!
*This post won’t go into questions like “best times to go” and “where to depart from”. If you’re looking for those kinds of tips, there’s a ton of information like that already on the Internet, from Alaska’s official tourism website and official cruise line websites!
Learn more about wildlife photography
You’ll see a ton of wildlife in Alaska, if you’re as lucky as we were.
But, capturing the moment isn’t as simple as snapping a bunch of pictures on your phone, like you might be doing on all your other trips! Animals move around a ton, and they look even further away in the camera. Invest in your skills– get a nicer camera and take some photography classes so you’re able to capture the moment better. Bring a pair of binoculars if you’d like for better viewing too.
This is probably the biggest thing I would change before going on the cruise. The pictures I do have are nothing like what we actually saw. The pictures didn’t capture the memories in the same way.
Take this bear that we saw:
If I knew what I was doing, it might look like this instead:
Plan DIY excursions well in advance
The cruise ship and local tour operators have a ton of exciting excursions.
But if you’re anything like me, you might try to avoid the tours and go on your own. It could save money. You’re doing what you want to do on your own time. It feels less touristy. And if you’re exactly like me, you’ll totally try to wing making these up the day of, based on what people there recommend. Hey, it works for traveling without a cruise!
But the wifi on our cruise at least was so bad, that it makes planning anything hard. You have such limited time at the ports, that planning your own adventures in the moment feels almost impossible. The quick ideas you do think of might be all booked too. My main thing was wanting to do a quick road trip, but all the car rental places were booked the day of! And cruises are weirdly relaxing. You could normally be a hyper focused last minute planner like me, but the buffets and activities will make you feel lazier.
So make sure to plan out what you want to do well before the cruise. This isn’t one of the trips where you can easily plan your own thing the day of.
Save, save, save money!
Yes, you should do this for any trip, but especially for the Alaska cruise. The excursions are way more expensive than typical travel activities. Don’t be like me and let the price tag on the excursions stop you from doing them. Well, we also win tickets to the cruise, or else the cruise itself would probably be too cost-prohibitive.
Everyone raves about the excursions they did. You don’t want to miss any. Save a ton of money so you can do the most exciting ones for you! There are so many once in a lifetime opportunities the Alaska cruise. It’s really once in a lifetime, because they’re one of the states heating up quickly due to climate change.
You can book these in advance. You can book these the day of. You can book them with the cruise ship or with local tour operators. Just try to save so money is less of an issue. This site goes over some of the most popular excursions if you need help deciding.
Note: Norwegian’s cruise ship is filled with tons activities, and you won’t be bored. You can have a blast just staying on the ship. But you have so many opportunities to be in the ship and only a few in Alaska.
Book a place to stay a day before the cruise starts
So many cruise horror stories exist of people missing their cruise. And even more stressful stories exist from people *almost* missing the cruise. Unexpected travel delays and cancellations happen. You can’t control crazy weather, plane malfunctions, air/land traffic, etc!
Be prepared so your vacation’s not at risk. Arrive at least a day early, so you have buffer time in case anything bad happens.
Plus, both Seattle and Vancouver are awesome cities! For ideas on what to do, where to eat, and where to stay in Seattle, check out my Seattle travel guide. If you’re a foodie and are departing from Vancouver, check out my one day in Vancouver guide.
And/Or get travel insurance for your cruise
Did anyone else think travel insurance was needed only for international flights, or was that just me?
Because some travel insurance programs do include coverage for missing your cruise! This is in addition to coverage in case you have to cancel for medical reasons or other emergencies, which travel insurance is always a good idea for.
I’ve never had to make a claim on this before so I can’t speak from having to actually use the insurance, but it’s good to have more peace in mind. You could decide to arrive a day early, get travel insurance, or do both, so that you have protection on your pricey trip.
To help decide, this site has done some analysis on top cruise travel insurance companies.
Pack layers and prepare for light drizzles
For the exact details on what to pack, you can check out a full Alaska cruise packing list.
If you want the short version: pack different light layers, including some waterproof pieces– unless you don’t mind drizzles. Definitely double check the temperatures so you know exactly which outfits to pack before you go, but after living in the Pacific Northwest for a bit, I always expect some light drizzles, even if the forecast says “mostly cloudy”.
Bonus: Try to go with a reputable cruise line
Bonus because you might have already booked your cruise, and it might be too late to do this.
Like all other forms of travel and transportation, cruise ships aren’t good for the environment. But some cruise lines are worse than others and are getting in trouble for illegally dumping oil and plastic in the ocean. Please don’t support them if you can. This is not good for our already dying planet.
I mentioned above that we cruised with Norwegian and I loved them not just for the ship and experience, but also because they do have a program to take better care of the environment. Who knows if they’ll end up making a big mistake like Carnival, but please try to do your research and plan to support a cruise line that is holding itself accountable.