This Alaskan adventure was my first cruise. I’ve intentionally avoided cruises for 2 main reasons:
- I’m more of a “go at my will” traveler and the idea of being dictated where I could go when has never appealed to me.
- It feels like a huge scam. While in the Greek island a few years ago, it was a sad daily routine watching how the local community shifts for the cruises. Businesses that normally weren’t open do just that, and the ones that usually are swapping price signs for “deals” that were often a 100% markup. I get it, one person’s stupidity can be another’s gain, but yeah…that’s a turn-off for me.
Why cruising Alaska is the only realistic option
After doing a lot of research, it’s really hard to “do” Alaska and see the various sights of this massive state without either having A LOT of time to drive it or A LOT of money to fly. So the only real option to take it in affordably is to cruise. Just go into it with eyes wide open. Doing that saves yourself a lot of angst.
The pros of cruising
I’ve been pleasantly surprised about quite a few things on the cruise, a.k.a., the floating hotel. Things I really enjoy about cruising:
Port time: This is the best part – being able to see so many destinations. We have five on this cruise and get a lot of time to explore them (sometimes 14 hours!).
Ability to unpack: I usually jump from city to city and am literally living out of a suitcase or backpack! which gets exhausting. There’s something really nice about being able to unpack and settle into our little “home away from home.”
Great customer service: The staff are really pleasant, conversational, and helpful. Yes, they’re paid to do this, but they don’t have to be. No matter who you walk by, they always make eye contact, smile, and say hello. This staff reminded me that I could be doing more of this myself.
A lot of options for good food: This to me has been the most surprising. Yes, there’s A LOT of food, and there’s A LOT of shit food, but there are also A LOT of healthy options – and tasty ones! I mentioned the escargot, but we’ve been enjoying very well-prepared seafood and sushi every day.
Fitness center/spa: I’ve been surprised to learn how much on the ship is actually included. The average cruiser gains a pound a day. Knowing we have a place to keep our usual fitness routine has been great. And with the pools, saunas, and hot tubs, there are plenty of places to relax.
Lots of entertainment options: The list of onboard activities, 90% of which are free, is pretty incredible. There’s a lot to choose from. We’ve become unofficial “groupies” of an amazing guitarist, making a point to catch his performances. We’ve also been enjoying science and history talks from the onboard naturalist and historian.
It’s crazy clean! You see people cleaning EVERYWHERE. Even before you re-board the ship and before you step into any of the dining halls, there’s someone standing with hand sanitizer saying “Happy, happy! Washy, washy!” We crack up every time. There’s something comforting knowing the staff is doing everything they can to keep things safe and sanitary.
The cons of cruising
The most minor of “cons” is that it can be really hard to figure out what’s included in our cruise package, from drinks to food. They don’t make it easy, so we’ve been asking a lot of questions to make sure we’re not getting charged for things inadvertently.
Cruising is a major industry, obviously. I mentioned above that cruising can be an over-priced tourist trap. It irks me that it takes advantage of so many novice travelers. But it’s also a great option for people who don’t want to put much effort into things…that they literally just want to enjoy the ride and and adventure. That’s not really my style, so it’s been fun getting a little off the beaten path to find the deals and explore. To each their own – I just know what works for me. I’ve enjoyed putting in the extra work to not get sucked into too much of the touristy stuff and finding the authenticity of where we are.