This was my very first cruise experience, and it would be a lie if I said I wasn’t a little nervous. Me and boats aren’t particularly a good fit, but given that I decided to organize a family vacation, a cruise seemed like the most logical type of vacation. My husband and I are active travellers, meaning we seek out adventure. Our parents prefer less strenuous activities, and they feel more comfortable being lead around – tours, tour buses, anything guided is their preference. Cruising is a great option for group travel as it allows everyone to do what interests them and it gives individuals personal space while you are vacationing together. This is especially important when some of the travellers in the group are introverted. We’d share dinners and some lunches together, and we did one land excursion together, but hubs and I also had the chance to do things that excited us, like biking in the rain forests of Alaska (yes, that exists), and snorkelling in Alaska (the water was surprisingly warmer than expected). We also spent two evenings drinking wine in our room and watching TV. On this cruise, each guest was allowed to bring on board a 750 mL bottle of wine, to be consumed in your room.
We sailed with Princess on their Coral ship. When I finally set foot on board, I was mesmerized by the size of the vessel. The awe wears off quickly, and you look forward to port days, just to get off the boat. But I’m a restless person. Our seven-day cruise was one-way to Alaska, through the inside passage, stopping at only three ports. My neighbour had done this cruise last summer, and told me that it was awful for her because she suffered from sea-sickness the entire journey. I prepared myself for the worst and purchased the sea-sick patch, which my husband discouraged me from using because of the list of awful side effects. I didn’t want to use it either, and thankfully I didn’t have to, even though I did suffer from a bout of sea sickness on the second day while we were sailing in the more open waters. The solution for me was simply to go to bed. I spent the entire afternoon in our stateroom, and only emerged for dinner. Luckily the waters had calmed and I was steady on my feet again.
The weather was not what I had hoped for. It was overcast most of the trip, with some rain. This was one of the contributing factors to getting bored on board, because it could be too wet or too cold to sit out on the decks; however, the weather was much improved on the days that counted. Sunshine in Glacier Bay National Park made for spectacular glacier viewing. The captain would get as close as possible, anchor and pivot 360-degrees for 1-2 hours. A ranger from the park had boarded and was broadcasting information over the ship’s speaker system. It made for a phenomenal experience, and knowing that our parents got to see all of this was important to me.
First port: Ketchikan, Alaska
Activity: Snorkelling at Mountain Point, Alaska US$125.95 ** just me & hubs **
Outfitter: Snorkel Alaska
Description: You’ll observe and handle a variety of multicolored sea stars, urchins, sea cucumbers and the giant sunflower star during this one-hour guided marine-life tour. You’ll discover the myriad of fish and colorful invertebrates that inhabit these waters while you snorkel over a kelp forest.
Rating: 4/5. It’s a cool experience to snorkel in 15C waters. I have never touched jellyfish before and had no idea how solid they would feel.
Second port: Juneau, Alaska
Activity: Whale watching & salmon bake, US$184.95 ** family affair **
Outfitter: Cannot recall
Description: Join your captain and onboard naturalist aboard a state-of-the-art 48-passenger vessel custom built for whale watching in Juneau waters. Immediately following your cruise you’ll board a motor coach en route to the Gold Creek Salmon Bake. In a historic gold rush setting complete with authentic mining artifacts, you’ll arrive to the aroma of wild Alaska salmon grilling over an open alder wood fire.
Rating: 3/5. Poor visibility weather aside, I did not appreciate the attitude of our on-board naturalist. She was curt and did not come off as a person that enjoyed being a guide.
After the salmon bake lunch, we walked along a creek. Late July is when the salmon are all swimming upstream.
Third & final port: Skagaway, Alaska
Activity: Rainforest bike tour in Dyea, US$99.95 ** me, my cousin, and hubs **
Outfitter: Sockeye Cycle
Description: Ride through the rainforest, visiting historic ruins, the Chilkoot trailhead and coastal tidal flats where eagles, salmon, colorful wildflowers and dazzling mountains are often in view.
Rating: 4/5. It was raining and muddy, but it was great to be active. It’s an easy ride, and it turned out to be a private tour since no other guests had signed up for our time slot. And who knew there were rainforests in Alaska!
Our guide encouraged us to try the watermelon berry, which grows wild in the rainforest. It was good, but I wouldn’t trust myself to identify it on my own.
Glacier Bay & College Fjord
My cousin captured Harvard glacier calving on video. You have to be patient to film this. It usually starts with a cracking sound, followed by a piece of the glacier tumbling into the water (known as calving), which is accompanied by a loud, thunderous sound. It is magnificent!
The question people tend to ask is if I’d cruise again. The answer depends on the situation. It is probably yes if hubs and I decided to do another family trip. I’m not sure how else an adult family vacation could be successful, where every member has the opportunity to partake in activities they are interested in and nobody is forced into doing the same thing. Cruising provides so many different options for everything from dining preferences to onboard activities to shore excursions. The circumstances this year allowed for me and my husband to take an extended vacation, which allowed us to include our families for a portion of our trip. Typically, like most employed people, paid vacation time is too short. The answer would be no to cruising for our regular holidays, at least not at this age. The idea of being stuck out at sea is unnerving, and I’ve seen cruise ship guests on land tours in some European port cities, and it doesn’t particularly interest me to be part of a massive group, herded around. How do all the people hear the single tour guide speaking? I’d be that person constantly fighting my way to the front so that I can hear. Big group tours are not my ideal way of sightseeing. Maybe in a couple of years, we will consider another family cruise. It’s also great excuse to hang out with my aunt and cousin. That’s the thing with cruising – the more the merrier!