Our family reunion cruise to Alaska was with Princess Cruise lines on the “Golden Princess.” We had the best of both worlds - a family reunion and An amazing, incredible trip! Here are my notes on what worked with the family of 22. Yes, that’s right. I said 22…….
What to Pack
Best, if you have it, is a Gortex jacket with layers underneath. Even though the temp might be high 50’s or even 60’s, Alaska has a wind that is brutal and it rains a lot. If the sun is out, it’s beautiful, but without the sun (which is 80% of the time) it’s chilly!! My better half had Gortex and I brought one of those compatible winter coats. I needed it for our balcony at times as well as some locations. All I needed for Ketchikan was a vest and turtleneck (temp and sun both cooperated that day!). My siblings all brought sweatshirts and vests for our anticipated temps of high 50’s, which was fine for the upstate NY crowd, but the Ohio crowd wished for more layers at times and the southerners (me) wore that compact down jacket all. the. time.
Jeans were great (they stopped the wind, too) for the excursions with hiking boots or tennis shoes (whatever you’d like for lots of walking in towns). Evenings I had two skirts with assortment of tops (go out Sat night style) – one sister had a couple of dresses, another wore nice black/grey pants and we were fine. The guys brought a collared shirt with a tie and they still were able to go to the two formal evenings – which we hadn’t planned on BTW, but then the guys heard there was lobster for dinner……
Side Note; Don’t forget the binoculars! In fact, bring a pair for everyone. When the animals are out, everyone will be trying to grab yours! But if you forget, no worries – you can rent them on the ship.
Anyway – we started out with some time in Seattle
The young adult crowd LOVED the Seattle Aquariumwhich had a variety of otters and birds specific to the Seattle region. If you think there might be a good sunset, that’s the best time to do the Space Needle, but any non-cloudy day is great. And the entire family loved thePike Place Fish Market, which is a must for any Seattle first-timer.
Juneau Mendenhall Glacier; Must do!
The better half, our kids and I did the helicopter walkabout tour and it was totally fantastic. We took about a 10-15 minute ride over the glacier before landing, and then took a 45-60 minute tour on foot. It’s especially cold on the glacier, so be sure to dress appropriately. Bring your hat and scarf, the tour company will have a special coat and gloves for you to wear. The tour was great, but can be pricey, so my sister (who is positively KNOWN for being able to accomplish the same thing for less!) rented a car for her whole family and drove to the edge of the glacier at the park. They really enjoyed this at a considerably reduced expense for their whole family and my parents (who were afraid of the helicopter anyway). Point is to concentrate on glacier/wildlife and don’t worry about anything else (like shopping – see more on that in Ketchikan)
Ziplines were a lot of fun (the kids and adults alike had a blast with them) The White Pass Scenic Railroad was considered overpriced by the Patriarch of the family (i.e. my father), but it’s something you have to do because it’s the only way to see the vistas – they’re just gorgeous!! Also, there was some good history as told by our narrator. Best time to go is the afternoon; could get cloudy in the morning or late evening. In Skagway, walk the town until you get to The Skagway Brewery which dates back to 1897. Have a beer and then you can start back to the ship.
We were SO glad to have our balconies all the time, but here it was invaluable. It was one of our best days. We saw whales and bald eagles, dolphins, etc. If you turn your TV’s to channel 45 and listened to the Park Ranger talk, he/she will tell you if something is coming up. At some point you can go to the deck and see it in 360 degrees, but for most of the day, it was so nice to use the balcony and not have to scramble for a seat. The captain turns the boat all ways so you will have a chance to see both the white and black glaciers (yes, I had no idea there was such as thing as a black glacier either!). Point is, that a balcony for an Alaskan cruise was a must for us. Our kids stayed across the hall in a lower-cost interior room, but there was plenty of room on our balcony for all of us. The views are great all day, so get up early, order the breakfast for your room, and settle in on your balcony.
Cutest town ever! Make sure you walk to the bridge to see a cute shopping area with the streams. Check out various totem poles as you go along. The stream was packed with Coho salmon and it was complete with bald eagles diving in to get some salmon for themselves. A truly memorable sight. The guys didn’t have much time for wandering this town as they had to catch a boat for the private fishing trip we had booked. They caught their limit of salmon (had it shipped back home, too) and saw all kinds of sea life and bald eagles. It was a highlight of their trip. We heard that fishing is very good in the other cities, too, but timing worked out better here for us .
Victoria, British Columbia
We decided to just walk and really experience the city with a fun, pleasant, evening strolling through a beautiful city. Our young adults had a touch more high energy and took the Victoria Pub Crawl Tour. They had an absolute blast tasting the beers of British Columbia.
A final thought – there are an incredible number of things to do in Alaska and there is no way to get all of it done unless you spend a month there. So don’t sweat it – get to what you can and don’t look back. YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE A FANTASTIC TIME! It is the trip of a lifetime and worth every bit!!!!
Take lots of pictures and let me know your thoughts when you get back.