Dream Vacation: Alaska! Part One

Tips and observations from our dream vacation to Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.


I am sitting on the deck of our cruise ship, sipping a diet Coke, while my husband and kids are zip-lining through miles of Alaskan wilderness. Zip-lining just seemed too athletic for me. Tomorrow we tour Skagway – much more my speed!

For a woman who has never left the Eastern Time zone, planning an Alaskan cruise trip was a Big Deal. Months of reservations, choosing ships, excursions, hotels and more, and of course, figuring out how to pay for it all made me a bit desperate that we all have the time of our lives. Some things we lucked out on, and some were just mistakes. Perhaps our experiences can help you plan your dream vacation.

Travel advice: Plan a few days before sailing to adjust to the time change.
Never having visited Seattle, we flew there three days before our cruise. This was perhaps our best decision to date! Seattle was unexpectedly beautiful. We toured the waterfront and harbor, topped the Space Needle, and checked out the fabulous aquarium. Expecting rainy weather, we were delighted with three sunny, 70 degree days in a row. My husband, the photographer, took nonstop pictures, including the sunset over Puget Sound, where the weekly sailboat race was taking place. By the time we boarded the ship, we had adjusted to Pacific Time.

The very first thing we noticed upon leaving port is that the travel brochures really downplay the Alaskan weather. What is listed as “variable conditions” actually means “cold as hell.” Sure, there was a high of 58 degrees yesterday, but the 30-knot headwind over the water really made that feel sub-arctic. The bartender at the pool bar was wearing a parka.  We noticed snow flurries mixed in with this morning’s drizzle.

Travel advice: Pack the Northface. It’s colder than you think.
Our family, with a computer expert and two teenagers, is very “plugged in.” We brought the laptop, the iPad and the Kindle, as well as our cell phones. Other than the Kindle and this laptop, I am using as a glorified word processor, our electronics have been expensive paperweights. The WiFi on board the ship is just too expensive for the kids to post to Facebook or for me to check my email. Cell service on the North Pacific is non-existent, and pretty spotty at our ports of call.

Travel advice: Unplug. Really. You are on vacation.
Look for more photos and updates to this blog in the coming days.  We are headed for Skagway, the Tracey Arm Fjord and British Columbia!

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Marcia Worth August 12, 2012 at 11:38 PM
I can't wait to read more and follow your journey!
Jane Yager-Baumrind August 14, 2012 at 06:27 PM
Went last year and started in Seattle too. Was also surprised at how beautiful it is. Best meal I've had at top of Space Needle. Cold on the water is right, I felt like we were on the Titanic with everyone sitting on wooden deck chairs, wrapped in blankest. LOL


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