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?