Essentials for Planning an Alaska Cruise


Recently, we began planning an Alaska cruise. After much gnashing of teeth with all of the information available, we figured out a couple things that I thought I would pass along. I'd love to hear about your tips as well...

1. Pick up a wall map.  I can't believe how poor my perception of Alaska and the northwest region was until I started looking at itineraries and maps of the area.  Wow, I was really off kilter.  The map will reacquaint you with the area's layout. If you plan to extend your visit after/before cruising, it is essential that you take the time to understand where you are heading. We just ordered a large-scale world map (vinyl) to mount on our hallway wall as a way to visualize the relative geography of the various places we plan to tour. 

2. Pick up a Milepost. This is a long-established essential publication for Alaska and north country travel. It is published annually and features all kinds of useful information about the geography, routes of travel, major attractions, the various passages, etc. It also covers cruising to Alaska. You can search Milepost and Alaska or go to Amazon and look for one at a discount.

3. Make sure you have the right camera and lenses. These aren't cheap so plan ahead. If you plan on taking nature photography, look at longer-ranged telephoto lenses. I have one to 50-200 range lens but am considering one to 400mm. Why?  Because Alaska is as dangerous as it is beautiful. As much as I love taking pictures, I prefer not to put my life on the line to get a close up shot.

So what are your recommendations?

Tags: Alaska Planning Alaska Cruise

13 Answers

Dress in layers and take rain gear. Temperatures range from sunny and warm to cold and rainy

When I was in Alaska I took my 200 to 400MM and my 28 to 160....this was so long ago it was a 35mm, no such thing as digital back then. I got great photo's but none of them do justice to scenery of Alaska. Now I'm to lazy to carry a big camera and heavy lens around and just have a pocket size digital.

I would also suggest a thin water proof wind breaker that you can take with you in case you get stuck in a quick rain shower.

thank you for responding. We picked up a pack of 10 disposable rain ponchos for our last cruise. When we needed one it came in so handy we have decided to make this one of our packing essentials no matter where we go. Each poncho comes in a ziplock bag which measures about 3"x3". Packing is hardly an inconvenience and they are great padding at the bottom of our travel backpack. No brainer!

Be very prepared for anything. The weather in that region can change in a very short time. I used to call on customers from Prince Rupert to the Panhandle and the Queen Charlottes. On more than a few visits, I was stuck in mill towns and camps because the weather closed in and delays Ferry sailings and small planes. On the cruise ship, I doubt that the weather will be an issue, but for-warned is for-armed. If I do this trip again, I would bring a great camera. I still have a 35mm Pentax and lenses, I hope to be able to us with a new digital model.

johngold - "be prepared for anything" is essential advice for any cruise, right? I plan to heed the great advice shared by my intrepid cruising colleagues!

Be prepared for any type of weather. Yes, of course bring rain gear. Bring plenty of memory cards and batteries. Have fun and be sure to post a review.

How did you decide which itinerary and cruise line to go with? I have a Caribbean cruise in September planned, but feel like i need to start researching Alaska cruises... Something both my BF and I would like to do.

Meghad23. When cruising Alaska you have to consider the travel time. A round trip from Seattle or Vancouver is great for short travel time. When I did Alaska we flew into Anchorage and then a 4 to 5 hour bus ride to Seward. This made for a very long day, the lino picked us up at 8 AM to take us to LAX, after the flight and bus ride we did not get on the ship until about 10 PM, 14 hours travel time. We got lucky and our bus driver talked and gave us a tour on the way to Seward (against rules he stopped for us at a rest stop at the foot of Explorer Glacier, pulled over to show us Eagle nest in trees, Salmon spawning in the river next to the road, slowed down to show where the ground dropped 10 feet from the earth quake and the petrified forest and he stopped at a mini market for us to get drinks and munchies.) My parents were on a different bus they got to the ship an hour faster then us, but the driver they had did not say a word. 4 hours of silence on a bus and not being told where to look and what to see.

No mater what Alaska trip you choose you will love all that you will see, Alaska is beautiful. I want to go back since it has been 20 years for me. Do not worry there is plenty of food on the ship other then Salmon and fish.

We typically will stay the night before. I'm thinking a Seattle port may be easier and return back to the same port (for ease). I have some researching to do for sure. My BF lived in Alaska for some time and loved it, so I'm def psyched to go and take some beautiful pictures as well! A balcony is a must.

I was told that going during the month of July was best, because of all their wouldn't be much snow. I haven't been on an Alaskan cruise just yet.


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