Mt. Rainier

Mt. Rainier

I opened up my computer one day in July and read the best email I had ever received. It was from my sister, Julia, who requested a long-weekend sister trip to one of three national parks! I couldn’t be happier to respond “YESSSS!!!” We decided to take a long weekend in October to hike around Mt. Rainier which is outside of Seattle, Washington.

Thursday  –

We flew in from different cities but landed within minutes of each other and had quite the exciting, hug-filled reunion in the Seattle airport. We gabbed as we walked to the Uber pick-up area and got lucky that we did not have to split our Uber-Pool Prius with another 3 people – that would have been so cramped!

It only took 20 minutes or so get to the Marriott Seattle Waterfront hotel that had the most beautiful view! The check-in guy asked us if we were twins which made my day since I am 5 years older! I am not sure how my sister feels about the mix-up but I think she lets it slide for my sake.

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We got up to the room to clean up before heading out for dinner. We opted for sushi since the seafood in Seattle is so darn fresh and delicious! We opted to try Umi Sake House since it was only a few mintue walk from the hotel. We cheersed to our reunion with some cocktails and split seaweed salad, edamame, and two of the best rolls I’ve ever had in my life! (Unfortunately, I Snapped and didn’t actually save my food-porn worthy photo evidence.. ugh!)

Totally stuffed, we walked back to our room and chatted until late in the night. You’ve got to love an old fashion sister sleepover (except when you get touched by cold feet)!

Friday –

My sister mentioned she had to work a tiny bit when we first planned the trip but the “tiny” turned into 1/2 the day, so I made some solo plans. I had been wanting to try out an out Orange Theory class and there happened to be one about 10 minutes from our hotel! I booked a 10 AM class and my sister and I grabbed a yummy continental breakfast before I started the walk to Orange Theory. The directions had me go up this awesome bridge with a beautiful view of the water way. I then turned into the city for a short tour before arriving at the studio. Unfortunately for my body, it was “National Burpee Day” and the class totally kicked my butt! Maybe wasn’t the best idea with a big hike coming up the next day… (Oh, foreshadowing!)

The day was glorious – 60 degrees and sunny – and I loved walking through the city. Once I got back to the hotel, I freshened up while my sister finished her conference call. Our stomachs were rumbling so we took off to check out Pike Place Market and find a spot for lunch.

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Pike Place Market was only a 10 minute walk from our hotel and we had a great time sampling the different products for sale, like questionable moisturizer, and smelling all of the flowers. It took me back to the last time I was in Seattle for our Alaskan cruise.

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We came across a little cheese and wine shop and sampled some cheeses. We ended up buying two cheeses and a nice bottle of red to take back to the hotel for snacking later. We also found an Italian place and split a scrumptious pasta dish. (Mmm, carbs!)

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Another meeting popped up on my sister’s schedule so we decided to grab some coffee and head down to the wharf. Talk about an amazing view to take a call from, especially since happy hour with wine and oysters at Elliot’s Oyster House was to follow.

Feeling good after our wine, we went back to the Marriott to get ready for our exciting comedic evening. We were going to dinner at Local 360 before seeing Iliza Shlesinger live! I watched her Netflix special, “Elder Millennial”, a few months before our trip and could not believe she was premiering in Seattle the night we were there! I was beyond excited.

Dinner was probably an 7 out of 10. We split a weird goat cheese and beet salad, but a delicious squash soup with so, so, so much bread. My hand-made, pesto pasta dish was very good and my sister had a veggie medley over thick-cut toast.

We were so stuffed that we were glad for the walk to the Moore Theater. We had every intention of finding a bar to hang at before the 10:30 show, however, while passing by we noticed that the theater was really dark. It looked like there was a big metal gate and that the doors were closed. We walked up and, to my completed sock, we saw the below:

The sign for our canceled show - bummer!

I was SO sad that we could not see Iliza. Instead of going to a bar, we decided to go back to the hotel and get an early night’s sleep since we had an early morning to Mt. Rainier the next day.

Saturday:

We woke up bright and early to check out of the hotel and head to Mt. Rainier! Even though it is a 2 hour drive from the city, you could actually see the mountain from the wharf in Seattle. The drive was absolutely beautiful as all of the trees were changing to the most vibrant colors for fall!

The drive to Mt. Rainier in Washington

We took a pit stop at a grocery store on the way to grab some food for our hike. I was looking for something quick, prepackaged, and easy to eat and found the perfect lunch – Pizza Lunchables! My 5 year-old self would have been so proud.

We finally started the accent to Mt. Rainier. The mountain kept getting bigger and bolder as we drew closer and we were in awe. We took a quick stop to take some photos at a lookout point and finally made it to the hike area. The weather was perfect and the trail was up, up, and more up. Oh, my butt was burning from those burpees!

Hiking Mt. Rainier in Washington

The views and the hike got us talking about everything – wanting to move from Texas so I could hike more, previous hikes with our parents (like when we accidentally hiked through a nudist beach *cringe*), quirky family songs that we used to sing when we hiked with family, dating and relationships, and how we were going to make these sister trips an annual tradition. I have to say, I am so incredibly lucky to have Julia as my sister and built-in best friend / travel buddy. We are quite the quirky pair:

The view from the top of the hike made all of the climb worth it. We decided to post up on an out cropping for some relaxation and Lunchables.

Eventually, we had to make the trek down the path back to the car. It was pretty steep with shale rock everywhere. It was a bitter-sweet decent as I could have stayed by the mountain for ages.

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Our spirits were lifted though as we were staying the night in a tiny cabin! It was only 800 or so square feet and the bed was in a lofted area up-stairs. We were so excited!

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We were going to celebrate our day with the wine and cheese we bought in Seattle, but someone left the cheese in the hotel fridge (I finally forgive you Jules) so we “nommed” on some chocolate and went to watch the sunset in the National Park. Unfortunately, the trees were too tall and we couldn’t get a great sunset view. We were starving so we decided to try out the local Sherpa-Himalayan Cuisine at the Wildberry restaurant. It was beyond our expectations and so good!

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With full bellies and very tired bodies, we went back to our little cabin in the woods to sleep.

Sunday:

Another early morning for our last day in Washington. We made some toast for breakfast, packed our bags, and drove the 2 hours to Seattle. We had a few hours before our flights, so we parked the car with our bags hidden and took off around the city. The first stop was a Vietnamese restaurant called Green Leaf with the best vermicelli and pork I’ve ever eaten in my entire life (and I’ve eaten A LOT of vermicelli). I would go back there in a heart beat!

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After lunch, we walked through the park under the Space Needle  to the Museum of Pop Culture. I had been there once before and had to share it with my sister. It has awesome exhibits all about various artists and movie genres. If you are in Seattle, I highly recommend a stop.

The weather was perfect and we spent the rest of our time on the lawn of the Museum watching kids play in giant bubbles being carried by the wind. It was the perfect end to our trip before our journey home.

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Skagway, Alaska

Skagway, Alaska

7 AM marked our arrival into Skagway. We were surrounded by snow-capped mountains in the inlet with beautiful aqua marine water below us. Ryan and I grabbed a quick bite to eat at the breakfast buffet of oatmeal, waffles, sausage, and fruit, and then we headed off the boat. The line to debark was long as there was a hold up with boat member dressed in really old / dirty bear costumes whom you had to take pictures with in order to debark. Seriously, the cruise hustles you for money at every turn!

We sneakily cut back, maneuvered around the bear photo line, and finally made it off the boat and onto shore. It was so windy and there was a low fog that blocked the sun of coming out. Apparently, all of the helicopter tours slated for the morning were canceled due to the weather! Thankfully for us, we had booked a hike and float tour and we were scheduled for pick up at 9:35 AM.

Skagway, Alaska

There is a shuttle from the ship yard into town for about $5, but with about an hour until pick-up, we walked the wharf trail to the town instead. It only took 10 minutes and was definitely worth doing! The town of Skagway is quite quaint, greeting the boat passengers with a big rail road train and statue of the founders in a well-kept garden area. Once passed the train, there are old buildings lining the gravel street dating back to the gold rush. We walked down Broadway (the main drag) and went into a historical salon that had been restored. We decided to save the gift shops for the afternoon, so we wandered the streets for about 30 minutes longer until it was time to turn back to the boat.

The wait for our transport seemed like it took forever as the wind whipped our hair around and made it much colder than inland. Eventually, two wilderness men showed up looking very mountaineer with a mixture of hiking sandals, big beards, and plaid. Sam and Rosco were to be our guides on our hike and float, and they quickly escorted us to “Kylo Ren”, the newest, all black van in their tour fleet. The guys both had quirky and hilarious personalities, telling corny jokes as we made our 40-minute journey through town and then the mountain side to our hiking spot.

The views along our drive to the Chilkoot Trail in Skagway, Alaska

The view along the drive was spectacular. We followed the inlet into the mountain side during low tide and even saw a few bald eagles.

Sam was a funny type of informative, as many of his historical tid-bits got distracted by seeing his girlfriend biking on the side of the road or further improved upon with side stories from his own journeys. While he had a bit of a tough crowd in the 9 of his passengers, he definitely made for an entertaining guide with a great spirit! This continued as we started up the rainforest trail. We would stop to hear stories from travels around the world, or about Sam’s fascination with finding wild mushrooms and how some of his friends are convinced that, in order to find good mushrooms, you must leave “tokens” of important items in the forest for the gnomes and trolls that live there.

The trail through the forest was so lush. There was moss at every turn and giant trees that were so dense they blocked out the sun. Occasionally, we would have stumbled upon a little stream, or even bear claw markings on the trees that let other bears know how big and strong they were. One of the bear claw markings must have been 10 feet up on the tree that was marked upon!

Hiking on the Chilkoot Trail in Skagway, Alaska

The hike itself was not super strenuous, but that was mostly because we stopped often to chat. There were quite a few steep climbs up and down rock stairs, but our hike was nothing compared to the 33 mile trail the gold rush passers had to take with 100 lb. packs with all of their belongings with another 500 miles to go after they passed through Canada. Those people looking for gold must have been very determined to make such a trek!

We got to talking to our other guide Rosco and, as it turns out, he is a member of a well-known band called “Etcetera and So On” and he toured on Warped Tour and all over the world. He was in Alaska visiting / working for some friends at Skagway Brewery between tours. It was really interesting talking to him about his life, his travels, and his Shell Silverstine tattoos. You can meet some incredible people if you just put yourself out there and talk to strangers on your travels.

It took about an hour for us to make it to the river. There were wellies waiting for us to change into so that we could get in / out of the raft without getting completely soaked. We had to add a few layers on as well since the open water was much cooler than the hike in the forest. We hopped into the boat and took off. Captain Sam went bare foot and I couldn’t fathom how he wasn’t freezing! I guess you get adjusted to the cold just as you get adjusted to the heat. However, Sam did say that the wind chill in the winter of Skagway can get as cold as -40 degrees and I do not think anyone can get acclimated to that!

Anyways, the float down the river was so peaceful. Rosco took over the paddles and him and Sam traded off telling stories about their adventures going down 4 and 5 level rapids. Apparently, the trees that float down the river can get clumped up in certain areas and become very dangerous for those who fall off boats as they can get stuck easily within their branches and pushed under water. Our river was very calm with no rapids at all so our adrenalin only started pumping when our guide’s stories became intense. We saw a few more eagle nests and learned about the strength of the water and how it’s flow from the mountains changes and completely alters the landscape on a constant basis.

At the end of our very relaxing float, the guides had some snacks of Salmon, cheese, crackers, Oreos, and Capri Suns for us. We felt like we were back in grade school with that assortment of snacks, but it was so fulfilling after our trip!

Sam and Rosco drove us back to town and dropped us off at the Skagway Brewery. We heard so many good things about it, we had to try it! The place was packed but we got a table pretty quickly. Ryan got a flight of their beers and I had the Spruse Tip Ale. It was delicious! I also had some warm chilli and focaccia bread for lunch which warmed me right up after being cold for the better part of the day. It was so satisfying!

After lunch, we walked in and out of the dozens of souvenir shops. There was everything from art to jewelry, soaps to clothes, additional excursions to fun magnets. We opted for some Chia Tea lattes as a walking break and continued on to find something fun to buy for my mom. We had been walking for about ten minutes when I realized my backpack was not on my back – it was on the seat’s back at the coffee shop! Ahh! I sprinted through the hordes of tourists back to the coffee shop and to my relief, my backpack was right where I left it. *Phew!*

After that scare, we walked back past the train and the founder’s garden, and back to the ship. We were just in time for our 5:30 dinner, so we grabbed some wine from our room and met Ryan’s family at the dinner table. They had been on the rail road to White Pass and had nothing but good things to say about their day. For dinner, I had baked goat cheese to start, a lamb tartar, raspberry mint sorbet to cleanse the palate, pork tenderloin with various veggies for a main, spicy penne with mariana and a separate plate of scallops that the waiter brought out extra for us to try, and then we finished with vanilla ice-cream and green tea cookies. Again, so stuffed! The waiter took our empty wine glasses from our room, so I had to smuggle out our water glasses so we could refill our wine and bring it to the comedy show that was next on our agenda!

Carlos Oscar was the comedian for the night. He had a funny story about getting on the cruise. I was not super fond of his delivery as it was a bit all over the place, but he had some good punch lines and I laughed quite a bit. His show lasted about an hour until it was time to watch the sun set and go to bed.

Alaska Packing List

Packing for an Alaskan Cruise 101

Featured above & worn on my trip:

DailyShoes Hunter Rainboots | Makeitmint Military Anorak Jacket | Love Lakeside Cashmere Feel Winter Plaid Scarf | Refresh Wynne Combat Lace Up Ankle Bootie | ScarvesMe Solid Ribbed Beanie & PomPom | NeatPack Foldable Backpack | Gap 1969 Boyfriend Jeans | REI Smart Wool Hiking socks | The North Face Venture Rain Jacket

Everything I read while researching online before my cruise indicated that it would be cool on the ship and warm on-land. Warm to the point of tee-shirts and shorts. So I packed light jackets, a few pairs of pants, tee’s, and shorts for excursions. Unfortunately for me, my reading was so chillingly WRONG! It was freezing on the boat and only 40 – 50 degrees on-land. I wore all of my jackets on-top of one another and rocked my warm beanie every day! Thankfully for you, I am here to help you weather your cruise so you are warm and comfy throughout your trip!

Below are my recommendations for a 7-day Alaskan cruise. Overall, layers will be your best friend, so try to pack things that match well with one another.

Clothing:

  • Jackets (3): Heavy jacket, layering jacket, water proof jacket
  • Shirts (7): Base layer tee’s for layering. Bring a few cute ones for around the cruise ship and some active style shirts for your excursions
  • Pants: warm leggings (2 pairs), jeans, shorts (1 pair)
  • Formal wear: 2 nights worth of dresses or nice skirt / top combo
  • Bathing suit
  • Sweat wicking socks for active days (REI has the most comfy hiking socks around for great prices)
  • Workout gear: most cruise ships have a full gym so packing a few days of workout clothes for your full sailing days is a great way to defeat the buffet

Accessories:

  • Water bottle
  • Binoculars & camera
  • Gloves, beanie, scarves
  • Umbrella
  • Day bag: packable backpack recommended
  • Sun screen & bug spray (if you go on a hike)
  • Clutch wallet for your phone and cruise ship id to bring around the boat

Shoes:

  • Waterproof shoes or rain boots
  • Comfortable walking shoes for excursions: sneakers or hiking boots
  • Sandals for walking to the spa or pool / hot tub

Packing for an Alaskan Cruise 101

Seattle, Washington

Seattle, Washington

Getting to our Alaskan Cruise:

After a stressful day at work getting everything finished before 7 days off the radar, dropping the dog off at daycare, loading our bags into the Uber, and bypassing security, we were finally in the airport by gate 14 for our departure to Seattle, Washington for our Princess cruise to Alaska! We grabbed some celebratory margaritas at the Chili’s by our gate, (which were surprisingly good for airport drinks), and finally boarded our plane! We had checked our bags, so we didn’t have to stress about finding overhead bin space.

The 4 hour American Airlines flight was bumpy but had some amazing views as we flew over Colorado’s mountains. We were not expecting the views to start before we even landed! The snow-capped mountains called our names as our recent skiing experiences have us hooked on the slopes. We had to remind ourselves of our current adventure and that skiing wouldn’t happen for a little longer, but the thought of moving to Colorado in the future did cross our minds!

Anyways, after watching one of my favorite movies, The King and I, it was time to land in Seattle; a new State to check off my list! It took about 30 minutes to grab our bags from baggage claim and we walked through a sea of Toyota Prius’ in the parking lot to find our Uber to town. Apparently, Uber and Taxis drivers at the airport can only drive Prius’ for eco-friendly reasons.

It took us about $30 and 40 minutes to arrive at the Maxwell Hotel in downtown Seattle. Boy did our hotel have personality! Upon checking in, we were greeted with cupcakes, pineapple water, and smiling receptionists. The hotel’s mascot is a Husky puppy and they have plushies you can “adopt” in each room for $25 that goes to the ASPCA. Additionally, there are free yellow bikes you can use to go around town, umbrellas for the rain, and huge feathery comforters for covering the bed! Each bed comes with two of these fluffy duvet covers and we took the two from our bed and the two from the other bed in our room to make a super comfy, pillow-fairy certified sheet experience. It was SO COMFY!

My boyfriend Ryan’s family arrived before us and were waiting in to lobby for us to check-in, dump our stuff, and head down the street to dinner. It was a quick, block long walk to the neighboring Vietnamese restaurant. We walked in and the smells we were greeted with made our empty stomachs rumble! The restaurant was tiny so we pushed a few tables together. While there were only a few other people in the place, the two young waiters were bustling around, a bit inefficiently if I may say so. Our waiter took Ryan’s sister and her husband’s order first, put their order in, ran to another table, came back for Ryan and my order, put our order in, ran food to another table, brought over Ryan’s sister’s drinks, went to another table, brought Ryan and my drink, ran to the back, and finally came back for Ryan’s parent’s orders. It made me tired just watching him!

I ended up getting some delicious pho soup and a grilled pork bahn mi sandwich for dipping into the soup. Yum! We arrived at 8:30 and the restaurant closed at 9. Usually, there is some wiggle room for current guests to stay after 9 PM closing time, especially on a Friday night, but the waiters were trying to hustle us out. They not only brought the checks right after we got our food, but were busing dishes and informing us they had busses to catch home at 9:10. Needless to say, we ate quickly, ran out the door, and walked back to the hotel to jump into the mound of covers and sleep.

Heading to the cruise:

The nice thing about going to the West Coast from Texas is that you gain two hours of sleeping in time. Getting up at 8 AM was really like sleeping in until 10 – so nice! It was sprinkling outside so I popped on my new yellow galoshes and we took off to meet Ryan’s family up the street at Mecca Café for breakfast. It was about a four block walk filled with lush gardens, cute little restaurants, and a great view of the Space Needle!

There was a line out the door for the restaurant but thankfully, Ryan’s family had some bar seats warmed up for us. The diner had a strange but warm personality with a menu full of comfort food. I got the biggest bowl of oatmeal and blueberries with a side of toast and their famous bacon. So much food but so good! After we had our fill, we paid and realized it was pouring out! Thankfully, my jacket’s hood saved my hair-day and we made it back to the hotel without being drenched.

The Maxwell Hotel rooms come with huge yellow umbrellas for use during your stay. We grabbed ours and took off for a post-breakfast stroll. The hotel was a quick walk from the EMP Museum, housed in huge colorful modern building. Right behind the EMP is the Space Needle surrounded by gardens and modern statues. Such a beautiful walk. This part of town is clean, seemed safe, full of well-kept gardens and surprises! We turned down a street and saw the bay at the end. We decided to walk to the bay and found a bridge overlooking the bay and a park on its shoreline. We could even see our cruise ship from there! We only had 30 minutes before we had to head to the ship, so we hustled back in the rain to depart from the hotel.

Graffiti wall in Seattle, Washington

Alaskan Cruise 101

Alaskan Cruise 101

Thinking of embarking on an Alaskan cruise? Before you book, ask yourself, do you love incredible views? Can you appreciate nature in its rawest form? Have you dreamed of soaring with bald eagles or watching whales launch out of the water? Are you ready for a life changing trip?! If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, Alaska is calling!

Humpback whale in Juneau, Alaska

A few things you should take into account before you book:

  • You are only fully on board the ship for 2 whole days that are spread apart. The other 5 have some sort of stop, so don’t worry about getting too cooped up!
  • Alaskan cruises are much more laid back than Caribbean cruises. There is less of a “party” scene and the actives are a little further apart / aimed at an adult crowd. With that said, if you are ok with the relaxed vibe, you are good to go! You can also make the cruise as jam packed as you want by taking advantage of all of the on-ship activities, even the ones that may not peak your interest at first.
  • Expect to spend about double the cost of your cruise ticket. From transportation, hotels, excursions, dining, and cruise fees, cruises can cost quite a bit more than expected. More detail on this is below in the Booking Fees section of this post.

Booking Your Cruise

  • Booking through a major travel agency can have a lot of perks.
    • Make sure the agency books a lot of cruises so they have buying power first. Those agents can get you the best deals on your cruise price.
    • You can get room upgrades on better floors or locations. You do not want to be the floor beneath the treadmills or food courts! Agents can also help book multiple room parties close together.
    • They will ensure you have the best dining options like restaurant preferences and getting tables next to windows.
    • They can get you on ship credits between $25 – $100 per room and can help you get any booking specials that might be running.
  • Interior vs. exterior rooms are up to you. Exterior rooms are about double the cost so it really depends on your budget.
    • Interior rooms have big mirrors so they seem larger than they appear. You will not be in your room too much since there are so many days off of the boat. We booked an interior room and it was fine with us!
    • Balcony rooms – Go big or go home right? If you do want a view, go with the balcony instead of the window. You will have a great view and have a high likely hood of seeing whales right from your bed if you are an early riser. It is also nice to have the privacy while viewing the glaciers from your room. This is a great option if you don’t mind spending extra and you can potentially qualify for a free drink package if you book at the right time and check the ongoing deals page!
  • Expect extra fees on your trip.
    • Not only does the cruise cost $800+ depending on the room you pick, but there is a daily “tip” fee for your room cleaning team of $25+ per room.
    • Excursions are not included so plan for $50 – $500 per port for excursions depending on what you want to do.
    • For any use of the gym facilities outside of do-it-yourself, there are fees. $20 to use the upgraded saunas, spa treatments (for which I am a sucker), $12 per yoga class… these things also add up if you do them.
    • Gratuity is automatically added to any additional food / drinks you buy from bars / restaurants not included in the base price of the cruise.
    • Don’t forget transportation from the airport to your pre-boarding hotel or to the docks. In Seattle, this can be about $40 to downtown and another $20 to the docks. Multiply this by two for both ways.
    • If you don’t want to be risky and fly in the morning of your cruise, you will also need to account for the hotel on either side of your trip. I highly recommend the Maxwell hotel in Seattle as it is not too expensive ($137 per night), has amazingly comfy beds, and lots of personality.

Excursion Planning:

Don’t book on the ship because you will be going in a huge group and paying too much. Also, don’t worry about booking early!

  • We booked all of our excursions off the boat and in advance of our cruise to save money and to ensure we got what we wanted. Little did we know that at every single port, there are tons of excursion booking booths with discounted rates for basically every tour offered on the ship. Not only that, but almost all places guarantee you will be back in time before your ship leaves.
  • The excursions we did and highly recommend are below:
    • Juneau – Harv & Marv’s whale watching. Not only did we see tons of whales, we had a personal boat for the 6 of us for about $20 more than what we would have paid for a huge group boat ride.
    • Skagway – Skagway Shore Tours Hike and Float picked us up right from port and took 9 of us total to the Chilkoot Trail for a two-mile rainforest hike and then float down the Taiya River. It cost $95 for the 4-hour experience and included snacks and two great guides!
    • Ketchikan – Southeast Sea Kayaks took us on a 4-hour kayaking adventure through Orca Cove. There were a total of 6 people on our tour, including us, and the tour was $169 per person. We spent 2 full hours kayaking and it was our favorite part of the entire trip.

Kayaking in Ketchikan Alaska

Packing Essentials:

  • Forms of identification: Passport and ID are a must so don’t forget them! Also, you may want to bring a lanyard for your cruise ship ID card so you do not lose it while walking around.
  • Warm stuff: I read mixed reviews about how warm it gets in the various ports in Alaska and packed mid-warm jackets. I wish I had a heavier jacket, especially for the days we were onboard the ship.
    • Warm gloves, a beanie, scarves, warm socks, and a waterproof jacket are must haves.
  • The right shoes: I wore my hiking boots or my rain boots the entire trip. Seattle was very rainy so my rain boots were a total hit (and I jumped in quite a few puddles). My hiking boots were warm and great for the long walking days ashore.
    • Have the right socks and waterproof / warm walking shoes.
  • Rain gear: It rained at least once 90% of the days we were on our trip. My rain jacket, rain boots, and umbrella were life savers. Don’t forget them!
  • Personal products:
    • For every trip, sunscreen is a must have.
    • Bring lots of hydrating moisturizer and lip balm as well since the dry weather will get to you.
    • If you have finicky hair, the 2-in-1 shampoo / conditioner on the ship isn’t great so make sure you pack your favorite travel sized hair product. Also, the hairdryers are low powered so, if you have thick hair like mine, bring a hairdryer that won’t take 45 minutes of your cruise time to dry your hair.
  • Day-pack: I bought a North Face Flyweight foldable backpack that zips itself into a tiny bag that takes almost no space in my luggage. This bag became my go to for all of our excursions. It held my water bottle, was my wallet, had space for my rain jacket, umbrella, camera, and any other gear I could need for the day. It was so much better than carrying a purse around and was one of the most convenient things I had on the trip. A day-pack is a must for any active excursions.

On Board Your Cruise

Boarding & Debarking:

  • Airport to dock or hotel: We took an Uber from the Seattle airport to our hotel. There should not be surge pricing at the airport since there are tons of transport options. Almost every car service goes to the airport so getting to your hotel or the port should be easy. Expect about $40 to downtown for two people.
  • Downtown hotel to port: Surge pricing can occur close to the boarding time so check what your Uber fare is from your hotel to the port. If it is surge pricing, check with your hotel. They should also have shuttle / car services at set prices to take you to the port. This will help you get a good gauge for how much you should pay.
  • Boarding: Our boat started boarding at noon and we got there right when it started. There was a minimal line and it only took us 15 minutes to board! Once we were on ship, we were free to grab a celebratory drink! In short, get there early to avoid lines and start your cruise quickly and stress free!
  • Debarking: There are two options; carrying your own bags off the ship or letting the ship do it for you.
    • Recommended: Carrying your bags off early will get you off the boat by 8AM and you will not need to wait for your luggage. Our de-board time was 7:55 AM and we were off the ship and in an Uber at 8:15 AM. It can’t get much easier than that!
    • For those letting the ship deal with your luggage, it gets collected the night before you debark. Then, you have to be out of your room and in a holding area by 8 AM where you must wait until your group gets called, which may not be until 10AM. The process is relatively quick from there but then you also have to find your baggage. On top of all of that, the traffic to get out of the port and the prices for transport go up drastically since it is peak hour. By the time you are back in the city, you have missed out on at least 2 hours of prime tourist time!

Cruise Food 101:

Breakfast:

  • For when you aren’t in a rush in the morning, a great breakfast option is breakfast in bed! While the menu is a little more limited to mainly baked goods, cereal, and fruit, having breakfast while looking out your balcony / window in bed it an excellent start to the day! Not only that, but its complementary.
  • The buffet open as early as 6 AM and restaurants at 9 AM for all other breakfast options. The food it’s the same pretty much where ever you go.

Lunch:

  • Typically, while at sea, the formal restaurants are open for lunch. While they take longer than the buffet, the food is typically a bit better.
  • One of the buffet restaurants on board usually has a rotating menu of different cuisine. Look for the daily updates in your cruise itinerary for new options like “A Taste of Alaska”, Mexican, Indian, or Chinese food.

Dinner:

  • Book the 5:30 PM (or early) dinner reservation for your evening dinners. The food and menu is much better in the restaurants (included in the price of your cruise) than the buffets. Also, booking the early dinner will ensure that you are done in time for any of the fun shows or evening activities that the cruise provides.
  • Try a celebratory dinner at least one night in one of the other restaurants onboard that you have to pay for. We had a delicious 4 course steak dinner in the Crown Grill for only $29 a person. Considering we are from Texas and have good taste in steaks, I can say with confidence that it was a great deal and a great meal.

Alcohol / Beverage Options:

Before buying the alcohol package on the cruise, which can be over $50 per day (about 5 drinks a day), consider the following:

  • Look for / ask your travel agent about free alcohol packages if you book a suite or balcony room.
  • You can bring a bottle of wine per person in your luggage which can save you money. Also, if you go with friends who bought the alcohol package, get them to bring your extra bottles of wine in their luggage.
  • There are happy hours onboard almost twice a day (around 3 PM and 10 PM) which have deals like buy one, get one for $1.
  • You will be off the boat for multiple days so you will be paying your alcohol packages on those days even if you don’t use them.
  • Overall, we did not buy the drink package and faired just fine.

On-Board Tidbits:

  • On-ship communication:
    • Most blogs will recommend walkie-talkies to talk to your other cruise buddies. On Princess cruises at least, there is no need for them! Princess has an airplane-mode website that is free on their Wi-Fi. The site lets you message anyone else on the cruise. You can even have group chat! While it is not an app so there are no pop-up notifications, it is still a good way to communicate with your buddies without paying for anything extra.
    • The Princess website will also show all of the day’s activities so you can check them out / add them to your personal calendar while on the ship. You can even share events with people through
      the messenger function as well!
  • Movie nights: A must do at least once! The ship shows various movies each day on the outside movie screen. Find one you want to watch, grab a hot chocolate, and pick a lounge chair to relax in on deck. Too cold? Don’t worry, the staff provides fleece blankets and warm popcorn for an incredible movie watching experience.
  • Art auctions: Do not buy art on board the ship without doing your internet research first. A lot of times the prices are high and the value is low. What you should do, however, is attend the high-speed auction and watch people spend tens of thousands of dollars on pieces in seconds and the funny auctioneers try and get people to buy. It was quite an entertaining part of the trip!
  • Get involved in the axe-throwing, karaoke, trivia, or dance competitions. It will only make your trip that much more fun and will make you an on-board celebrity!
  • Attend the Alaskan speaker events that come onboard. A word of warning, their stories are inspiring and will make you want pack up and move to Alaska as soon as you return home.

Alaskan Cruise