Our Alaskan Cruise Recap: Part 1

Hi friends! It seems like it has been weeks since I last posted and since our trip to Alaska! Each time I sit down to write this post I get distracted looking through all of the pictures so this has taken much longer than expected!  It was such a great trip, and I learned a lot about cruising, specifically to Alaska, so I thought that I would share some of my tips and experiences with you in a multi-post recap!

Like I mentioned in my Alaska Packing List post, Jody and I were not intentionally planning to take another big trip this summer. In fact, we had originally planned to either go back to the Caribbean or spend the week at a cabin in Maine. However, when my parents shared that they were planning to cruise to Alaska with my grandparents, we knew that this was an opportunity that we couldn’t pass up. Months of anticipation and 12 people later, we were on our way to our Pacific adventure!

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We sailed with Princess Cruises, on the Ruby Princess ship, following their 7 Day Inside Passage itinerary, roundtrip from Seattle. Our calls of port included stops in Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan, and Victoria, British Columbia. We also were able to sail through Glacier Bay National Park, with up-close glacier viewing. We actually decided to sail with Princess for that reason – Princess has priority in Glacier Bay among all of the cruise lines since only two cruise ships are allowed to pass through Glacier Bay a day.

The whole family flew into Seattle, the day prior to setting sail. If you are coming in from the East Coast, I suggest you fly in a day early as well, just in case your flight is delayed. Jody and I enjoyed our time in Seattle, but were not overly impressed by the SeaTac airport — more on that in the coming weeks! We all stayed at hotels near the airport, which was actually more useful than I anticipated because so many people who visit Seattle are also cruising, so most airports have shuttles or can arrange shuttles to bus you to the Ship Terminal the day of your cruise. My parents organized their hotel + transfer to the terminal through Princess, but Jody and I did it on our own. Either way is great — if you plan through Princess, it is done in advance which makes your trip a little more relaxing, and if you organize it on your own, you may save a little money, like we did. Either way, it was less than $40 for Jody and I to catch a bus to the terminal, which is about 45 minutes from the airport.

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Our boarding time wasn’t until 1pm, however, when we arrived at the ship terminal around 11:30am, we were surprised that we were allowed to board immediately! We were excited to have more time to explore the ship. One of the dining rooms were even open for guests to enjoy their first lunch buffet on the ship, but Jody and I had just eaten breakfast, so we decided to grab a drink instead while we waited to be able to access our room. I had packed my swimsuit in my carry-on hoping to go to the pool, but it was just too chilly!

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Once we were able to go to our room, we dropped off our bags and headed to the safety drill before heading back to the top deck for the Sail Away Celebration, complete with a signature cocktail and live music.  It is always so cool to pull out of port and watch the city skyline disappear in the distance, but it was even more breathtaking to watch us pass by the mountain ranges as we headed out to sea. We were filled with anticipation and excitement as Seattle disappeared in the distance; ready for what was to come as we embarked on our Alaskan adventure.

Shortly after the Sail Away Celebration, we headed to our assigned Dining Room for dinner! Following our three-course meal, we headed to the theater for a comedy show before relaxing in one of the lounges for the remainder of the evening.

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The first full day of the cruise was not anyone’s favorite by far. We were at sea all day, sailing through the Pacific, north towards Alaska, (ahem, where Deadliest Catch is filmed), most of our party was so seasick. I’ve struggled with motion-sickness my whole life (primarily while in a car), but it has never bothered me on a boat. I did come prepared with Sea-Bands and Dramamine, which helped, but the roughness of the ocean could be felt from most places on the ship. The only place that made me feel better was sitting out in the cold air. Figures!

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Honestly, though, I was still able to walk around and do things during that first day. I know a lot of people had it way worse. The medicine did help, although it did make me tired. We spent most of the day walking around the ship, looking in the shops, watching movies on the top deck and sitting in the dining hall. We did take a nap before getting ready for formal night, but that seemed like the most fitting thing to do for our day in the misty ocean.

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After dinner, Jody and I made our way to the atrium staircase for the Captain’s Welcome Aboard Party, complete with a champagne waterfall. While we decided not to wait in line to add a little bubbly to the tower, we did grab a glass to sip on before heading to the theater for the evening’s musical performance. I love a good live show! We turned in early, knowing we had a full day of exploring ahead.

Fun fact: we did learn a secret to fighting sea-sickness. Apparently, eating green apples prevents you from feeling nauseous. Our waiter told us the entire crew eats one every morning!

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The following morning, June 24th, we awoke to smooth waters and breathtaking scenery. I snuck out to our balcony while Jody slept to soak in our first views of Alaska. While it was chilly, I couldn’t believe that the sun was out. Out of all of the things I read in preparation for this trip, every single one said to be prepared for the rain. Just like our wedding day, exactly two years prior, we were anticipating rain and woke up to a beautiful, sunny day.

Jody joined me on the balcony after he ordered coffee and tea to our room. We sipped on our beverages our of our Yeti tumblers that we bought for this trip – it was a great way to keep our drinks warm – while trying to ingrain the image every mountain peak and crystal blue water in our minds! It is hard to put our first views of this great wilderness into words; it was just breathtaking.

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We didn’t actually arrive into Juneau until 11am, so Jody and I went for a late breakfast, thinking we would probably skip lunch since we would be out exploring. On the way out the door, we noticed that our room steward had decorated our cabin door in honor of our anniversary, complete with a sign and balloons! We exchanged anniversary gifts sitting next to a large window overlooking the passage we were sailing through. I had been anxiously waiting to give him his gift as I was for the actual trip. Since it was our second anniversary, traditionally recognized as the cotton anniversary, I bought him two pair of socks, one with a picture of my face all over it! They were hysterical!

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We ended up not booking any excursions prior to the cruise (partially because we never had time to sit and decide what we wanted to do and also because they are expensive through the cruise line), but I also knew that tours would be available in every port, typically with booths set up near where the ships dock. Since we didn’t know exactly what we would be doing in each port, we instead had a list of experiences we wanted to have while in Alaska, one of which was to go hiking. Unsure of how the weather would be in the days to come, and how clear it was already in Juneau, we decided that today would be our hiking day.

My mom had talked to one of the naturalists on board about great places to hike and learned about a trail on Mount Roberts, which was accessible by foot or tram. We opted for the tram so we could enjoy the view going up the side of the mountain. I was amazed by how fast this little cable car was pulled up the side of the mountain! Once we arrived at the top, we looked at some of the displays around the visitors center, including one where we watched two gentlemen carve and paint totem poles.

As we headed up the trail, which wasn’t nearly as challenging as I thought, we started to get warm, especially considering we were wearing layers. It was in the 50s when we got off the boat, but the sun was really warming up the air – it hit the 80s before the end of the day! The trail may have also seemed less challenging because we kept stopping to take one thousand pictures and try to soak all of the beauty in. The only picture we didn’t get was one of the bear that was ahead of us on the trail!

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After our hike, we spontaneously decided to grab lunch at Tracy’s King Crab Shack, which is a well-known restaurant in Juneau for their Alaskan Crab Legs and other seafood bites! My dad and sister met up with the rest of us who were hiking at the restaurant following their helicopter excursion onto the Mendenhall Glacier. We all ordered a large crab bucket to share, which included enough for each of us to have a crab leg, roll, and coleslaw. Honestly, these legs were big enough that one was completely satisfying! Jody ordered a flight of local beer to taste, as well. It was a bit pricy but was honestly the best seafood we had on the trip, so it was worth it! Others thought so as well — it was packed!

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After lunch, we quickly ran over to the tour companies advertising near the cruise ships, looking for a shuttle. We realized we were going to be cutting it close on time to get back to the ship in time for our 5 o’clock dinner seating and make the trip out to Mendenhall Glacier. The glacier is one of the most accessible glaciers in North America and only 13 miles from downtown Juneau, so we decided to take our chances. We took a bus to the Visitors Center to find the trail for Nugget Falls, which is a two-mile roundtrip hike that not only gets you closer to the Glacier but also the powerful Falls that empties into Mendenhall Lake. After almost venturing down the (very) wrong path, we enjoyed an easy but brisk hike out to the falls. Once we made it out to the falls, we stood in awe of how small we felt in comparison to the magnificent glacier, massive waterfall, and surrounding mountains.

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While we didn’t make it back to the cruise ship for our dinner seating, we were able to enjoy dinner in the anytime dining room, where the dining staff sang for our anniversary and presented us with an anniversary cake. We ended the evening with a few rounds of celebratory drinks in honor of the occasion. It was a great end to such a beautiful day, just like our wedding day, two years before.

 

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