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15 cruise errors in Alaska you should never make

2023-05-19  Sophia Zackary

A trip to Alaska aboard a cruise ship is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many people. You don't want to mess it up since there's a possibility that you won't get another chance to try it again. Regrettably, it's easier than you might think to make blunders on an Alaska cruise, and these errors can ruin a trip or prohibit you from seeing Alaska to the best possible extent.

Even if voyages to the Last Frontier are not as exciting as arctic expeditions, the amount of preparation that must be put in makes them more difficult to organize than trips to Mexico or the Caribbean. You need to make sure that you take care of every last detail, from booking the cruise and packing your bags to deciding what you want to do and see while you are at sea.

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The following is a list of activities that are strictly prohibited while on an Alaska cruise. If you can steer clear of these common blunders on an Alaska cruise, you'll be well on your way to having a wonderful time.

Alaska cruise planning blunders to avoid

Regardless of the number of times you've been on a cruise in the past, you might be surprised by the amount of preparation work that's required for an Alaskan voyage. If you get these things wrong, you could end up missing out on the most memorable parts of your Alaska cruise.

Assume that all voyages via Alaska are the same.


This is an easy mistake to make on your first Alaska cruise. However, matching your ship and itinerary to your expectations and travel style is crucial for a successful trip.

Are you looking for a full day of glacier time? Try a mid-season sailing that visits Glacier Bay, National Park. Early- and late-season cruises might be unable to access the glaciers on their itineraries due to ice floes.

Want to see whales? A round-trip Alaska cruise in June is ideal. Do you want to fish for salmon? You’ll want to book at the peak of the salmon fishing season, from mid-June to mid-August. Ketchikan is the salmon capital of the world, and while most cruises stop there, a few don’t, so make sure it’s on the itinerary if you wish to fish.

Are you taking kids on your Alaska cruise? Big ships often have more for kids to do on board, which might be more important than where the ship goes. Expedition-style cruises may have less for youngsters but appeal to independent teens. These voyages offer a more intimate and close-up Alaska experience, with outings on kayaks and Zodiac boats that launch directly from the ship.


Hold off on booking any excursions.

In certain ports of call, making reservations for tours in advance is not something you will need to worry about. Cruises across Alaska are not like that at all.

The spaces on Alaska shore trips go quickly. If you wait until you are on the ship to book your excursions, you run the risk of not finding room on the excursions you had wanted to do. The problem is significantly worse in the middle of the summer, but it can happen even during shoulder season sailings. The only way out of this predicament is to sign up for excursions as soon as registration opens.

Does this imply that you shouldn't take advantage of any last-minute cruise offers to Alaska if you come across any? Of course not. Grab those opportunities while you can, but always be ready for the unexpected by bringing a list of your second and third preferred activities just in case.

Related: How to get the most value out of your money when you plan a cruise shore excursion

Overlook independent excursions

You are not required to participate in the ship's organized shore excursions in any of Alaska's ports of call. During my most recent trip to Alaska, my family and I took advantage of the port of call at Ketchikan to go kayaking on our own. Throughout the voyage, it stood out as one of the most memorable moments. Our transportation to and from the cruise ship was provided by the firm that hired us. We were assured of a prompt return to the ship, and the price was significantly lower than the kayaking excursions offered by the ship.

You may locate several aggregators of Alaska excursions on the internet if you are interested in checking out independent tours, or you can work directly with independent companies. Make sure that you ask about the timing of the trip and give yourself some extra time so that you won't miss your ship even if there is a delay or traffic.

On the day of your departure, book flights for the same day or early morning flights back home.

You do not want to discover that your flight has been delayed, leaving you stranded in the airport at a time when you should be boarding your cruise. If you want to avoid this issue, arrange your flights so that they arrive the day before rather than the same day as the departure of your cruise.

Listen to my most recent terrifying experience on a flight if you don't think it could ever happen to you. On the same day, I was on not one but two flights, and both of them were delayed by two hours due to minor mechanical issues that required us to deplane. My arrival time at my destination was supposed to be 11:30 a.m., but I didn't get there until after 5 p.m. instead. That day was not the day that I was scheduled to embark, therefore the ship would have left without me.

In a similar vein, it is recommended that passengers book their flights home for the afternoon if the ship is delayed in returning to port or is not cleared by authorities on time. If you are flying into or out of Anchorage, be aware that all transportation choices entail several hours of travel to and from the ports of Seward and Whittier. To be on the safe side, you may want to consider spending the night in Anchorage either before or after your cruise.

Don't bother with the trip insurance.

Putting aside the problems with the airlines, Alaska can be a touch risky. Even just walking through the port towns of Alaska can present you with challenges, as there are treacherous slopes and rocky roadways. You may be taking part in more daring activities than you normally would, such as flying in helicopters, hiking across glaciers, kayaking across frigid seas, or ziplining through woods. It is not difficult for something undesirable to occur.

During my most recent cruise to Alaska, I was made aware of two passengers who experienced medical crises. Because their son needed surgery after breaking his arm on the cruise, a family of five had to exit in Ketchikan. I'm sure this put a pretty hefty financial dent in their vacation budget. Later on during the voyage, a sick passenger had to be flown right off the ship by the Canadian Coast Guard before we arrived in Victoria. This occurred before we reached our destination.

If you live in the United States, the likelihood is high that you can use your existing health insurance plan in Alaska. You will have coverage for medical expenditures, but not for any other costs linked with an injury that prevents you from enjoying your trip. If you do not wish to pay for airline changes and medical evacuation out of your wallet, purchasing travel insurance is strongly recommended.

Related: the top travel insurance policies for cruise vacations

Alaska cruise packing mistakes to avoid

The act of packing for a cruise through Alaska might be challenging. Because of the region's erratic climate, one day it might rain and have a temperature of 50 degrees, but the next it might be sunny and 85 degrees. When you add in things like boat rides and observing glaciers from the ship at six in the morning, you have a hard packing job ahead of you. Don't make these Alaska cruise packing blunders.

Toss out your umbrella and raincoat.

Rule number one for Alaska cruises is to bring along rain gear. Even if you don't get a single drop of rain on your cruise, there's a good probability that the weather may turn wet at some point during your trip. When rain does, you will want the appropriate clothing to keep you dry so that you are not unpleasant and dripping with water.

You must wear shoes or boots that are waterproof. Before you pack them, give them an additional layer of defense by spraying them with a water-resistant sealant. During hikes or other outings in which you won't require them, you can keep lightweight raincoats or ponchos and pull-on rain pants stashed away in your backpack.

Don't skimp on the layers.

On an Alaska cruise, the only appropriate way to dress is in layers. Start with some lightweight, base-layer undergarments that won't add bulk to your outfit and will keep you comfortable even if the temperature ends up being higher than anticipated. Because the temperature is expected to rise throughout the day, the last layers of your outerwear should be thin and lightweight so that you can store them in your backpack for the better part of the day.

For the cold weather in Alaska, I find that puffer vests and jackets work the best. You can remove the jacket when it gets warm enough, and then you can remove the vest if it continues to grow warmer. Everything looks better with earmuffs, knit hats, caps, and gloves on top. These things might be unnecessary for a stroll through town, but they are necessary while you're out on the water viewing whales.

Related: cruise packing list: the definitive guide to everything you need to bring on your vacation

Overpack in terms of formal attire.

When compared to cruises to other destinations, those that depart from Alaska typically have a more permissive dress code. Because the days are long and people spend a lot of time outside, there is less of a need to hurry back to the ship and change into formal attire as soon as possible.

Make the switch from your hiking boots to some comfortable flats or formal sneakers instead. Jackets and scarves are great accessories to use with skirts and pants in neutral colors (even jeans) that are more relaxed. You do not need to wear formal attire or high heels; you can leave those at home.

Make an effort to save money on bug repellant.

In Alaska, mosquitoes aren't often a bother, but when they are, they can be a real inconvenience. Because you will be venturing into a tropical jungle, you should prepare for your trip by stocking up on bug repellent and clothes that offer complete coverage.

You should purchase bug spray in the city that you are departing from or the city that will serve as your first port of call if you do not intend to check any bags.

Put away the telescopes and cameras; you won't need them here.

The subject of whether or not it is possible to observe whales and other wildlife from the ship is one that I am frequently asked. The answer is unequivocally and unequivocally yes. The majority of what you will see will be, unfortunately, from a distance.

You just need a pair of compact and lightweight binoculars to remedy the situation. In addition to that, you can use them to get a better look at glaciers up close or to locate eagles in the harbor. It is recommended that each member of your group bring their pair of binoculars since you do not want to risk getting into a dispute over the solely available pair if a pod of whales comes into view.

Regarding the cameras, I strongly suggest that all of the members of your vacation party bring either a water-resistant camera or a smartphone cover or pouch that is waterproof. Because of these two factors, I prefer to use cameras rather than phones. First, compared to most devices, a camera that has been accidentally dropped into the water in Alaska is less of a life-changing loss. My second justification will be presented in the next paragraph.

Related question: Is it possible to use your cell phone while on a cruise?

On your trip through Alaska, here are some common mistakes to look out for:

When you finally make it on board your cruise, you can finally relax and put all of the stress of planning and packing in the past. You've made it this far, and now you don't want anything to prevent you from having a wonderful time on your cruise.

You spend too much time staring at your phone.

A cruise through Alaska is the perfect opportunity to put your digital life on hold for a while. You want to take pictures of the breathtaking landscape, but you know what? You won't be able to capture the full scope of Alaska's natural splendor in most of the photographs you shoot there.

When you look back at your images one year from now, the ones of your travel companions having fun will be the ones that stand out to you the most. Take those, and then spend the rest of your time here immersing yourself in the magic of this location. You can put off reading the news, responding to email contact, and engaging with followers on Instagram until you get back to your house.

Assume that the waters won't be rough.

Even if you've never had motion sickness on a cruise before, you shouldn't be shocked if you get sick when traveling through the waters of Alaska. The broad waters of the Pacific Ocean can be tumultuous, but the Inside Passage is known for its relative peace and tranquility for cruise passengers. During the summer storms, even the bays can get turbulent very rapidly.

Ships also engage in a great deal of maneuvering, often turning full circles, to ensure that everyone on board can take in the breathtaking scenery. Unfortunately, some individuals may experience nausea as a result of the numerous sharp twists.

Get ready by bringing ginger candies, prescription scopolamine transdermal patches, motion sickness relief bands that you apply on pressure points on your wrists, over-the-counter seasickness drugs, and herbal motion sickness patches. These have served me well for many years, with the sole exception of one malfunction on a vessel of relatively modest size.

You can also treat the wooziest with seasickness medicines, which are frequently offered free of charge at the medical center or guest services, green apples from the buffet, or ginger ale from the helpful bartenders on your ship.

Related: How to Keep from Getting Motion Sick on Your Next Cruise

You should not venture outside at any time.

You should start making use of all those layers of clothing now that you've packed them. Likely, the portion of your Alaska cruise during which the ship will be cruising through breathtaking landscapes will be the chilliest. In an observation lounge, you shouldn't be a coward. Prepare yourself for the cold and then head outside to soak in the scenery. Even if having a balcony may give you an advantage over people staying in inside rooms, the only way to enjoy a view that encompasses the entire hotel is to go up to the top deck.

The recommendation that you should purchase a warm throw or blanket at your very first port of call is the nicest one that I've ever gotten for a keepsake. They won't break the bank, and you can count on them being useful during the duration of the cruise. Imagine yourself wrapped up in a fluffy Alaska souvenir blanket, sipping on some hot chocolate, and watching glaciers calve while you're there. It sounds like a dream. When you get back home, every time you get yourself comfortable on the couch, you'll think back to your incredible trip.

Do nothing but sleep during your trip.

This is not a cruise you want to spend sleeping through, and even if that is your intention, there is a possibility that you will have trouble carrying it through. Longer hours of daylight, excursions, and glacier viewings that begin earlier in the day and even your dread of missing out can cause you to get out of bed earlier and stay up later than you might on any other trip.

Sleep-enhancing applications and eye masks may be helpful in this case. I also feel that Alaska cruises are the perfect opportunity to order meals from room service. It is a surefire way to shave a few minutes off your preparation time for morning activities, and it also has the potential to provide you some more time in your cabin for meals like lunch and dinner.

Fail to experiment with anything novel.

Your cruise through Alaska will provide you with numerous chances to participate in activities that you may never have the opportunity to do again. You could walk on glaciers, scuba in a dry suit in the icy waters of Alaska, or even play with sled dog puppies if you went in Alaska. What about taking a ride in a sled that is hauled by a team of huskies? We have already highlighted salmon fishing, which is a surprisingly entertaining activity, especially if you are someone who would never go fishing at home.

It all depends on how much of a daredevil you want to be when you visit Alaska; the important thing is to enjoy the process of finding new things to do. When I was in Ketchikan, I went kayaking with a woman who was on her very first trip to Alaska by herself. She'd never kayaked before. She shrieked with pleasure when our marine biologist guide offered to let her touch a sea cucumber that he had just plucked out of the gin-clear waters to show us. That is the kind of happiness that you might experience on a trip to Alaska.

Bottom line

With a little bit of extra forethought, you'll be able to steer clear of the most common Alaska cruise blunders.

The purpose of this trip is to provide you and your travel companions with the Alaska cruise experience you have been dreaming of. You may accomplish this by selecting a schedule that will allow you to see and do the things you want to see and do, purchasing early for excursions (especially the ones that you have your heart set on), and carrying gear and clothes that will allow you to be comfortable while exploring Alaska.

Stepping outside, taking in the astonishingly fresh air, and making the most of the trip are the three most important things to do.

Making plans for a cruise? You can get started with these tales:

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  • The complete list of items that you need to bring on a cruise
  • An overview of the most well-known cruise lines in the industry
  • 21 helpful hints and suggestions that will make your trip more enjoyable
  • 15 reasons why cruisers are a money pit.
  • The complete guide to picking the perfect accommodation on a cruise ship

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