To maximize our time in Anchorage we chose mid-evening flight out that got us into Seattle in the wee hours of the morning. We then had to wait for a seven am flight from Seattle to Vancouver. On paper and preplanning it seemed like a good strategy, but in reality it was badly flawed as we didn’t factor in that we would have to be at the airport by 6 pm to collect our luggage from the cruise ship holding area. That meant we could have booked an earlier flight and spent less time waiting around in airports.
The Anchorage airport is clean, bright and modern, but not all that big. It doesn’t take a lot of time to wander through it and check out what there is to see. That means a lot of time sitting, reading a book, watching the crowds and reflecting. Of course, the thing foremost in my mind was the cruise we’d just completed.
Alaska cruises are very popular and I’d highly recommend taking one. To avoid disappointment, though, there are some things I’d recommend.
Pack for all weather and don’t go crazy on the fancy stuff. According to the Captain’s Log, the temperature in Ketchikan was 15 degrees C or 59 degrees F. I dressed for a cool day, but as we walked around town, it felt much hotter and I had to take off my sweater. Later that day, sailing through Snow Pass and standing on deck to look for whales, I could believe it was 59 degrees. The wind bit through my clothes and my ears were cold.
I brought a heavy sweater, a medium weight sweater, a spring and fall all weather coat and tee-shirts. Lots of them. Jeans and running shoes or, if you’re like me, sandals. The tiny towns that hug the panhandle coast are casual and informal. No one is going to look askance if you show up at a restaurant or a shop dressed in jeans, hiking boots and a sweater. Whether it was the cruise line, or the Alaska destination, the dress on the ship was also fairly informal, much more so than when we did the Greek Island cruise a couple of years ago. That meant that we didn’t need the very formal evening clothes for dinner. Business casual worked fine.
Prepare to be awed. Alaska cruises aren’t about towns, shopping or man-made sights. They’re about amazing, glorious nature. Watch the coast slip by. Enjoy a skyline that puts the highrises of the world to shame. Watch the sun glitter on the icefields, or the mist obscure them. Look for wildlife, at sea or on land. There are fascinating people here too, a native culture to be explored, a history that is all about determination and challenging the landscape and the elements.
Take an excursion. Get off the ship. Go beyond where your feet can take you if you just walk off the dock. Go whale watching. Follow the trail to the White Pass. Alaska is big and spread out. A lot of what is exciting happens in the wilds outside of town. Give it a try.
Research before you go. You’ll get information while you are onboard ship, but the internet connection is expensive and slow. You can use your phone on land, but connecting at sea seemed to be an issue for many people.
Checking with Princess to find out more about the luggage drop at the end of the cruise would have been a good idea too. We might have saved ourselves a few hours in the airport. But then we would have missed a glorious west coast morning while we waited for our Vancouver flight, with the sun glinting off Mt. Rainier, then a cloudless flight up the coast from Seattle.
An Alaska cruise is all about nature, so enjoy what nature dishes out. Sunshine in Ketchikan. Rain and cold in Glacier Bay. Fog in College Fjord. It doesn’t matter. There’s beauty and wonder in all of Alaska’s myriad of moods.