Alaskan Cruise: All your questions Answered!

CATEGORIES: Travel

Those of you following me on Instagram came along on a trip I took with my husband a couple weeks ago:  a cruise to Alaska on Princess Cruises.  I shared a lot of our day-to-day on Instastories and I honestly have never had a response to a travel series as massive as I did this time. SO many messages, questions, and comments- which I loved!  So many of you said that Alaska had never even been on your radar until I shared some peeks into our trip and I was so happy to hear that.   I have so much to show you and tell you about this trip, but before I do, I wanted to answer the most commonly asked questions I saw over and over again.  If I missed any, definitely leave a comment and I’ll answer there! Alaska is absolutely BREATHTAKING.

WHAT CRUISE DID YOU DO?


We did this round-trip cruise on Princess, starting and ending in Seattle, WA.  It’s a seven-day cruise through Alaska’s famed Inside Passage.  It stops in several ports, including Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan, and Victoria B.C. and also includes a whole day sailing through Glacier Bay National Park.  Princess also offers round-trip cruises from San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Victoria, if that interests you.  Click here and you will find links to all the Alaska options! 

IS IT WORTH PAYING EXTRA FOR A ROOM WITH A BALCONY?


I had a lot of people ask me this and I’m a little claustrophobic by nature so I don’t think I could do any cruise without a balcony, but I would say it’s especially worth it on this particular cruise.  The unique thing about Alaska is that a huge portion of your voyage follows land.  While some cruises will just have you out in the middle of the ocean for days, Alaskan cruises have gorgeous vistas of mountains and wild life on a large portion of your trip.  This photo was just snapped on my cell phone one morning off my balcony one day.

Cruise to Alaska

Our favorite thing was waking up each morning and opening the door to see where we were!  There was always a new gorgeous view and we loved having breakfast on our balcony in our pajamas just soaking it all in.   We saw whales, sea otters, and bald eagles often from our balcony.

Alaskan Cruise

WHAT WAS THE WEATHER LIKE?


The weather on our trip was nothing short of phenomenal, but from what I hear, we really lucked out!  We only had 1 day on our whole trip that was overcast and drizzly.  The other 6 days were stunningly sunny.  September tends to be a cooler, wetter month, so we feel so fortunate to have such incredible weather.  
 ALASKA cruise

Alaska’s weather is somewhat unpredictable and often rainy, so you do need to be mentally and physically prepared for a variety of weather conditions.  I’ve had friends go durning the summer months and say it was warm and they wore shorts and t-shirts, but I’d say usually the weather is pretty temperate.  We cruised in the very middle of September (the 2nd to last cruise of the Alaska season on Princess) and while we definitely needed warm coats (and hats were nice!)  in the mornings and nights, the days were rather pleasant, yet cool.  I most often wore a sweater or long-sleeve shirt during the day with a beanie, and birkenstocks. The best thing to do is check the weather in ALL your ports the week before you leave.

Cruise to Alaska

SERIOUSLY THOUGH, WAS IT ALL OLD PEOPLE?


Not kidding, this was definitely one of the most asked questions!  Was it all old people?  No.  Was there a considerably larger demographic of “mature” folks over the age of 50?  You bet.  And we loved it.  The vibe on a cruise to Alaska is different than the crowd you get on say, a Caribbean cruise.  You don’t get the wild “spring break” types, and you don’t have tons and tons of children running around, it’s definitely a little slower paced and calm and we loved that.  

WHAT KIND OF EXCURSIONS DO YOU DO IN ALASKA?
DID YOU BOOK THEM THROUGH THE CRUISE LINE?


The excursions in Alaska are one of the things that makes this cruise so unique.  There are things you can do here that you simply can’t experience anywhere else!  I’ll share more of what we did in another post, but just to name a few things that are readily available there:  float planes, kayaking, fishing, hiking, helicopters, glacier walking, air boats, sled dogs, trains, wildlife boat trips, and so much more.  I noticed there are many “adventurous” excursions that are also wheel chair accessible.

Alaska Cruise We did book our excursions directly through Princess ahead of time.   You could also book your own “off shore”.  There are tons of companies offering excursions right off the boat and in town.  One of the benefits of booking through the cruise line is that should anything happen to deter your schedule, the boat will not leave without you!  

WHAT KIND OF CLOTHES DO YOU PACK FOR A TRIP LIKE THIS?


Ask anyone this question and they will answer the same thing: layers.  For one, the weather can be a little unpredictable (as explained earlier) but it also really changes depending where you are and what you’re doing.  Toward the end of the season, and I imagine the beginning, mornings and evenings are quite chilly.  I brought a big puffy coat and wore it often.  People visiting from places like California and Arizona were freezing, and those of us used to colder weather were just fine, haha.

Alaska Cruise

However, during the day there were many days and times where the weather was perfectly comfortable.  Again, during the summer months it can get quite warm.  You’ll also definitely want a rain jacket.  I brought my big puffy coat for warmth and then a light waterproof shell as a lighter option.  There were many days where a hoodie was perfect.  Bottom line?  LAYERS.  You’ll also want some comfortable shoes for hanging out on the ship, and some sturdy ones for excursions if you’re planning on adventures like hiking, fishing, or just walking through towns.  I also was glad I brought plenty of “cozy clothes” like activewear and casual-comfy sweatshirts and sweaters.

ARE THERE ANY ITEMS YOU WOULD RECOMMEND BRINGING THAT ONE MIGHT NOT THINK OF?


Large fridge magnets- my friend Mique told me about this one.  All of the walls in cruise ships are metal, so they are magnetic!  Large clip magnets are awesome for organizing all the many papers you’ll get during your trip.

Umbrella – might be a duh moment, but bring a small travel one, easy to toss in a backpack or purse. 

Laundry Detergent- You can grab some onboard, but next time I might toss in a small bag of powder detergent just to save money on the expensive single-load packs you can buy on-board. I packed light on some things knowing I could just do a load of laundry in the coin-operated machines and it was super convenient.

Purse or Backpack – another one that seems obvious but sometimes when I pack suitcases and carryons, I forget to bring a good bag for excursions and off-board stuff.  I also brought a small clutch to use when we were attending formal dinners.  

Formal wear.  I always thought formal dress was optional on cruises and didn’t think I’d need any haha.  Turns out you really do need a nice outfit or two.  I just brought this super easy to pack dress that takes up as much room as a t-shirt, and was soft, stretchy, and comfortable!  I hanged it up when we got on board and the wrinkles were out by the next day.  I brought a sparkly necklace and earrings to dress it up and it was perfect.  Also great to have something loose and comfortable when all you’re doing is eating, haha.

WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO SEE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS?


With the unusually clear weather we had, the captain explained it’s what they call “Severe Clear” and gives you the best chance of seeing the northern lights.  You also need to be away from city lights, so a cruise is a great spot if the weather conditions are favorable.  You can find many tools online that will help predict aurora borealis viewing, like this one.  Many cruise ships (and hotels in Alaska) offer wake-up calls if you like, in the event that the Northern Lights are visible.  We lucked out and saw them just before bed time, from our bedroom balcony!  Cruises later in the season, like ours in September, will also give you a better shot than cruises in the summer, because of Alaska’s long days and short nights. 

Alaska Cruise Northern lights

HOW WAS THE FOOD?


I will give you the same answer I gave my trainer at the gym when I returned home and he asked the same question:  plentiful.  Haha!  Like all cruises, there are many, many options for eating on-board the Ruby Princess.  There is of course a standard buffet, and I would compare it to any sort of all-you-can-eat-buffet restaurant.   It wasn’t bad, but it also wasn’t anything special.  I would however say that if I had kids on the ship with me, we’d (or rather, they’d)  be at the buffet every single day- they had a huge variety of options from a ramen bar to tacos, to prime rib, so that’s a great option in some cases.  We only ate at the buffet a couple times because we quickly found some options we preferred so much more.  There was a great pizza place where you can buy brick-oven-style pizza by the slice, and grab a soft-serve cone right next to it.  My favorite place for general meals, from breakfast until late afternoon was hands down a place called “The International Cafe”.  Besides having an amazing selection of baked goods and confections and sitting right next to the coffee shop, they also had perfect light-lunch fare inspired by countries around the globe.  Some of my favorites were a Thai Beef Salad, Greek Salad, and their little snack sandwiches like Ham and Cheese Croissants, Cubans, and Italian Pesto and Cheese.  We ate there ALL the time.  They were open 24 hours so it was perfect when we needed something at random hours of the day.  This photo is a selection of the breakfast pastries we had on our balcony with hot chocolate one morning.  

Cruise to Alaska

When it came to dinners, the specialty restaurants are where it’s at!  Don’t waste time on the buffet, hit up the amazing restaurants like Curtis Stone’s Share, where you choose options to create a personalized 6-course fine dining meal.  We loved this whole experience and if 6 courses sounds like overkill- don’t worry, they’re small, perfectly-sized portioned plates so you can enjoy each and every course.

food on alaska cruise

Our other favorite (and if I had to pick one, THE favorite) was The Salty Dog,  a gastropub born from a partnership with renown chef Ernesto Uchimura.  This burger (fresh ground rib eye and short rib patty, grilled pork belly, caveaged Gruyère, caramelized kimchi beer battered jalapeño, charred onion aioli on a smoked salt & pepper brioche bun and served with Truffle-Parmesan fries WHAT) was named “Best Burger at Sea” by Cruise Critic.  (Below that burger, and also the photo above are some of the dishes from Share so you can see the portions)

Food On Princess cruise shipSo ya.  How was the food?  Fantastic.  If you find yourself on this ship, definitely make some reservations and pay the extra (reasonable fee) for the nicer restaurants, they’re worth it.  I should mention, we also made a point to look up local restaurants in each city we visited and eat in town, supporting the local businesses and experiencing local dining, and we loved that!

WOULD YOU RECOMMEND IT?  


 Heck Yes.  100%.  As I mentioned, sooooo many people commented after seeing my photos and hearing about my experiences on our cruise, that a cruise to Alaska wasn’t even on your radar.  Not something you’d ever even considered, but that you’d changed your mind seeing mine!  That made my day because if there was one thing I was hoping to communicate in photos, it is just how magnificent this place is.  A true place of awe and wonder, and while so close and so accessible, it still feels hidden away, like a special little secret.  So now you’re in on the secret.  I’ll be sharing more peeks into some of the adventures we got into while on this cruise, but I wanted to have all the bases covered here so you started with all the info, and the questions I keep hearing over and over again!  If there’s anything you’d like to ask about our individual ports of call, or anything else, definitely let me know!  No go dream of a cruise…

Cruise to Alaska weather
This post is in partnership with Princess Cruises and contains affiliate links.

15 comments

  1. Ha! I love the cozy looking Alpine looking navy sweater ( was it a cardigan?). With white and red designs…where is it from? I love your site and and all your fabulous recipes! ? Not just the sweater!!

    1. That’s from Target! I got it last year. My husband calls it my old lady sweater and I don’t even care because I LOVE IT. It’s so cozy. If they have them again this year I’d buy more! Oh, just realizing I have 2- both from Target, haha. One was a wrap-around with a tie and the other was just a regular sweater and the design was around the neck area. Love them both!

  2. Count me among those considering an Alaskan cruise now. Wow! How much would you estimate this costs? $5K, $10K? $15K? I know there are a million ways to make a cruise more or less expensive, but I’m just trying to get a range.

    1. So one of the things that makes this cruise cost a little more is the types of excursions they offer in Alaska. I’d say that’s the one area where that can really take the trip into the more expensive range. Things like float planes and helicopter rides can cost around $1000 for 2 people depending on what you do for the whole adventure. I’d say $5-10K (for 2) is a realistic estimate if you want to do excursions at each stop. But ya, as you said it can completely vary. You can also sign up for deals and discounts!

  3. How amazing!! You and your hubby are so adorable. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your trip with us! Come for the recipes… stay for the Alaskan Cruise!! 🙂

  4. My husband and I always order a fancy dinner delivered on formal nights. Neither of us wants to pack nice clothes, but he REALLY does not want to put a suit on during a vacation that is meant for relaxing. Just the way we like it…?

  5. That was our honeymoon destination and we LOVED it!! Planning a trip back to celebrate our 20th and taking the kids. So excited to visit again and see more of the state.

  6. 9 years ago for our 25th anniversary, we went on a Princess Alaskan cruise . It was by far my favorite cruise and would definitely do it again.

  7. It’s been a long time since I was on Princess Alaska Cruise, but it was my favorite! I didn’t reserve a balcony but with your suggestion, will next time. I guess if you’re leaving from Seattle, you would book a balcony on the right side of the ship or East side ( not sure of the nautical term) but is there anything to see when you are southbound and you’re in the same cabin?

  8. What did your husband wear for formal night? Just thinking about all the extras required for that. (Shoes, dress pants, jacket…)

    1. We totally went more casual. No evening gowns and tuxes for us and that’s TOTALLY fine. My husband just brought a nice pair of slacks and a shirt and tie. not even a suit coat!

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