You think a spectacular phenomenon such as the glaciers in Alaska will remain amazing no matter when you manage to travel there. That is unless you attend a climate change conference or the new, temporary “Climate Change” exhibit that opened at Chicago’s Field Museum June 25, 2010. After seeing in graphic detail that Greenland and the glaciers across the northern hemisphere are shrinking, going to Alaska takes on a new urgency.
Now that it’s high on the list comes the interesting part – looking at all the options that turn a good trip into a great one. The best options are the ones that fit your lifestyle.
We were traveling with another couple so a few compromises entered the planning. The result was to take a Princess Line cruise from Vancouver, British Columbia, just over the Canadian border, to travel up the Inside Passage. Our option, booked ahead, was to leave half the passengers who were just doing the cruise, then continue on with Princess across Prince William Sound for our land portion. We chose Princess because the company has lodges in different Alaskan locations and buses to get us there so we could relax and leave the arrangements to someone else. That is not our usual style but it worked well for Alaska.
• Book a room in Vancouver or from wherever you will be sailing the night before you leave on your cruise. Not only does this apply to Alaska, but is a good tip for taking any cruise, anywhere in the world. Weather and transportation schedules are too iffy to chance “missing the boat,” as the saying goes. In addition, towns like Vancouver are worth seeing as part of your trip.
• Consider traveling just before or just after the main tourist season. For Alaska, tourist season is summer when the mosquitoes are large and swarming and the prices are higher. The end of May into early June is a better time to go. The weather is not so cold as to hinder sightseeing and you won’t have to share the sights with hundreds of other visitors. Just add a jacket and a couple of turtleneck shirts to the suitcase.
• Speaking of packing, bring binoculars to better spot whales and other sea life and bring more than one pair of comfortable walking shoes. If you like dressing up, throw the fancy duds into the suitcase but you don’t really need to pack a tux and gown any longer. A jacket for men and cocktail dress for women will get you through the door on formal nights.
• There is not a lot of open sea time traveling to Alaska. People who want a spa treatment aboard should look at the schedule when booking the trip, then make an appointment for the treatment well in advance to get the desired time. This is true for any cruise. The same book ahead advice applies to snagging a seat for an evening splurge in the fine-dining restaurant.
Coming up next: Alaska, the Inside Passage