Alaska Cruise Mistakes to Avoid

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No trip is ever perfect, but we’ve got a list of Alaska cruise mistakes to avoid.

Alaska cruises offer stunning scenery, exciting wildlife encounters, and unforgettable adventures. But with all the planning and excitement, it’s easy to overlook a few key details. To make sure your Alaskan cruise goes smoothly and creates memories that last a lifetime, here are some common mistakes to avoid: From packing mishaps to missing out on must-see experiences, this guide will help you navigate the Last Frontier like a pro.

We’ll share our best tips for avoiding Alaska cruise mistakes that can turn your Alaskan adventure into a “wish-I’d-known-that” moment.

Confused about packing for your Alaska cruise? We have lots of Alaska Packing resources for you below, so keep reading for some must-pack items and Alaska cruise packing tips!

Prefer Video? Watch our YouTube Alaska Cruise Mistakes Video!

Choose Wisely

Let’s start with planning your Alaska cruise. The first Alaska Cruise Mistake to Avoid is choosing the wrong cruise line.  Not all cruise lines are created equal, and Alaska’s unique offerings demand a good fit.  Luxury lines with smaller ships can navigate closer to glaciers and wildlife, while larger ships from budget-conscious lines offer more onboard activities and amenities to keep busy in between ports.

Consider your travel style: do you crave relaxation and scenic exploration, or do you enjoy action-packed days with a full schedule of entertainment? Research the typical passenger demographic on each line – some cater to families with lively entertainment and lots of kids’ programming and activities, while others skew towards a more mature crowd seeking a tranquil experience.  Choosing the right cruise line is key to setting the tone for an unforgettable Alaskan adventure and using a travel advisor can really help with this. Our travel advisor partner’s contact info can be found in the description of this video if you need a recommendation. 

BEST (and Worst) Times to Cruise to Alaska

WHEN you cruise to Alaska is also KEY! Watch this video to learn more about the best and worst times to cruise to Alaska. Just know that The Alaskan cruise season is short and sweet, but timing your trip can greatly impact your experience.

If you want warmer weather and long days for glacier viewing and hiking, target the peak season of mid-June to mid-July. However, this prime time comes with crowds and higher prices. The Shoulder season months of May and September offer fewer crowds and potentially lower costs. May is surprisingly known for drier weather and low prices while September presents a chance to witness the early stages of vibrant fall foliage, and maybe even the northern lights….if you’re prepared for slightly cooler temperatures and more rain. Finally, July and August can be the warmest months and the weeks when bears are most active because the salmon are spawning.

RESOURCE: This YouTube video outlines the BEST and WORST times to cruise to Alaska!

Alaska cruise mistakes - bears

Port vs. Starboard

Here’s one thing you *don’t* need to worry about when booking your Alaska cruise. Visit any cruise message board, and you’ll see cruisers obsessing about which side of the ship they book their stateroom on. But you don’t need to worry about this on most roundtrip cruises from Seattle or Vancouver. On glacier viewing days, your ship will rotate 360° to make sure you get a good view and it’s really not a big deal to be on the starboard or port side. So, cross this one off your list of concerns.

Glacier Day - Alaska cruise mistakes

Itinerary Watch-Outs

Another regret some cruisers have is NOT paying attention to the nuances of their itinerary when booking. Not all cruise itineraries are created equal. Here are some things to watch out for – cruises without a glacier day are a good example of an itinerary you may regret. Also, short days in port that start early in the morning, or late in the day and don’t leave much time to see the area.  Again, these things may not be an issue for you personally but do pay attention to your itinerary and hours in port when booking. 

Celebrity Edge Alaska cruise mistakes

Glacier Day Blunders

Speaking of glacier visits, not being out on the open deck on your glacier day, and missing the the naturalist talks is a big mistake, especially if it’s your first time in the area. Most cruise ships bring on naturalists to share their expertise when visiting places like Glacier Bay. Even if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t typically attend seminars or educational programs on a cruise, these opportunities are not to be missed. If nothing else, get out on the open decks if the weather permits to experience the full majesty of glacier viewing. You may find special cocktails served over glacier ice, and other tasty surprises on the open deck too!

Excursion Budgeting

This next mistake is a common one, especially for new cruisers! Thinking you have to book excursions through the cruise line is a myth and sometimes a waste of money. You can book independently with companies like Shore Excursions Group, which offers a return-to-ship guarantee and less crowded tours. We’ll include an affiliate link to their website below. 

When it comes to Alaska, and especially Alaska shore excursions-  don’t neglect budgeting as far in advance as you can. Many excursions in Alaska fall into the big ticket category, so if you’re planning helicopter, flightseeing, or dog sledding adventures, plan for $250-500 per person, per activity, and sometimes more. Alaska in general is a pricey place to cruise, and some say it can even cost double what a Caribbean or Mexican Riviera cruise can cost, so you’ll want to budget and plan ahead!

Helicopter Excursion - Alaska cruise mistakes

Here are some specific ways to do that. First, travel with plenty of cold hard cash – ATM fees can be expensive AND you’re less likely to overspend if you’re paying cash for souvenirs and other purchases.  Next, don’t book your excursions at the last minute.  NOT pre-booking excursions is a HUGE mistake on an Alaska cruise. And don’t forget to budget for some gear for Alaska. You don’t need much, but some must-pack items include proper outerwear, travel-size binoculars, sunglasses, a camera, water-resistant shoes & bug-repellent. 

Regional Cuisine

When cruising to Alaska, don’t pass up the special regional cuisine onboard the ship. Some cruise lines offer things like freshly caught fish or even crab legs onboard, and they’re not to be missed! Usually, the cruise line marks the menus to indicate a partnership with a local eatery- so watch for that salmon, and those crab cakes and fish tacos and eat like an Alaskan! Lines like Holland America even offer pea soup on the open decks on certain days of the cruise, so check your newsletter or app and enjoy the food-focused events on your Alaska cruise. 

Pea Soup - Alaska cruise mistakes

Bonus Packing Tips

No doubt, you’ve heard “pack layers” when it comes to Alaska. That means jeans, t-shirts, hoodies or sweaters and jackets, right? We’ve got that part DOWN! But here are some specific tips for packing clothing that you may not have thought of. These items are recommended by Alaska residents and will keep you more comfortable. What are they? Moisture-wicking socks and water-resistant shoes are essentials on your voyage to the last frontier.  You don’t need full-fledged hiking boots (in fact, they can be stiff and uncomfortable), but shop for a waterproof or water-resistant shoe if you want to keep your feet dry and warm in often-drizzly Alaska. Here are some of our favorite shoes for a cruise, including waterproof options.

Waterproof shoes - Alaska cruise mistakes

There are some Great LIGHTWEIGHT hiking boots out there and we’ll link to some. And wear those shoes in before your cruise.  Even sneakers and hiking boots can give you blisters if they aren’t worn in! And of course, don’t forget the right outerwear. Typically an insulated jacket that is waterproof will do the trick if you only want to pack one jacket. But many cruisers will pack a light rain layer and some sort of an insulated down or fleece-lined jacket for warmth on dry days.

It’s not Antarctica

While an Alaska cruise is NOT balmy and warm like a Caribbean or Mexico cruise, don’t assume it’s going to be cold the whole time! I get messages from Pacific Northwest residents every year saying “don’t pack like Alaska is the frozen tundra!”. So, what should you pack to prepare? First, we recommend taking just ONE pair of Shorts, or perhaps a sundress in CASE there is a heat wave! While you MAY not reach for the shorts over the course of your cruise, you’ll be glad you packed them if you experience 80-degree weather, which is not uncommon during the warmer months in Alaska, or in the embarkation ports of Seattle and Vancouver. It can happen!

Click HERE to shop Outerwear, and HERE to shop our Amazon Alaska Cruise Essentials! Shop a selection of elegant, dressy wear for guys and gals HERE! Here are some of our favorite shoes for a cruise, including waterproof options.

Hot tub - Alaska cruise mistakes

Also- we HIGHLY recommend you pack swimwear! Chilling in a hot tub on an Alaska cruise can be one of the most relaxing and majestic experiences, and we swear by it! Leaving your swimsuit behind is a HUGE Alaska Cruise mistake you don’t want to make.

Sleeves are Best – Some final packing advice!

Another Alaska cruise mistake we see cruisers making time and time again in Alaska is packing the wrong evening wear. While sleeveless sundresses and lightweight resort wear work perfectly in warm-weather cruise destinations, you may want to think about warmth in the evenings when cruising to Alaska. For example, if you’re participating in an elegant or dressy night, choose a long dress, or a dress with sleeves for extra warmth, and pair your dresses with wraps or shawls in case you want to take a walk on the open decks after dinner. We have a full Alaska Outfit Guide where you can shop our most recent finds! Click HERE to shop Outerwear, and HERE to shop our Amazon Alaska Cruise Essentials! Shop a selection of elegant, dressy wear for guys and gals HERE!

By steering clear of these common Alaska Cruise pitfalls, you’ll be well prepared for an unforgettable Alaskan adventure. With careful planning, budgeting, and a touch of flexibility, your Alaskan cruise will be a voyage filled with breathtaking scenery, exciting excursions, and memories that will last a lifetime. So, research, pack strategically, and embrace the spirit of exploration – the Last Frontier awaits!

MORE Alaska Resources:

This YouTube video outlines the BEST and WORST times to cruise to Alaska!

This YouTube video covers 20 CRUCIAL things to pack for your Alaska Cruise!

Read more CruiseTipsTV articles here.

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