My Florida friend, Lota Mitchell, (pictured at right above with sister Janice) has just returned from an Alaskan Cruise. As I surveyed the photos she sent me, I was sweltering in three-digit heat. A glance at her photos was like a blast of cool air and I began making plans to escape to the great Northwest next summer. Here’s the account of her trip along with a few tips if you’ve been yearning for an Alaskan cruise:
“My two sisters and I have just returned from a fabulous northbound cruise to Alaska on the Carnival Spirit. I have been so satisfied with Carnival cruises that I will continue to book with them.
In addition to paying for a round trip flight, our Alaskan cruise was more expensive than most Caribbean cruises although there are ways economize. Carnival booked our flight, and although we could have probably found tickets cheaper, it was well worth the extra expense and convenience. The third and fourth person is cheaper when a stateroom is shared, and since there were three of us, we combined the total price and divided it three ways to save money. We have always enjoyed having a balcony so we booked a balcony suite, but money can be saved by reserving an interior room or one with an ocean view.
We flew with Northwest from Memphis to Minneapolis, then on to Vancouver. Getting from the Vancouver airport to the ship was a breeze. We were able to go through US Direct in Vancouver and didn’t have to deal with customs which can sometimes take up to two hours. I think a notarized copy of your birth certificate and a picture ID is adequate when traveling though Canada, but we feel more secure taking a passport when traveling out of the country. Representatives from Carnival were there to meet us and put us on a bus for a forty-five minute ride to the ship! The part of Vancouver we drove though was interesting but not the beautiful Vancouver I had heard about; however, when we arrived at the harbor the view was magnificent!
We took a Carnival excursion in each of the ports, which were small towns with quaint shops and beautiful mountains and water. Luckily, in each port we had time to shop and explore before our excursions. In Ketchikan, we took our most expensive excursion to Misty Fjords, a national monument with lots of waterfalls and 3,000 foot vertical cliffs carved by glaciers. It was beautiful but a little disappointing. Although we were on a waterjet-propelled catamaran, it was a 120 mile round trip, and we saw no wildlife.
My favorite excursion was the Mendenhall Glacier and Wildlife Quest out of Juneau. The glacier was absolutely breathtaking, but the highlight of my Alaskan cruise was the Wildlife Quest. We saw stellar sea lions, lots of eagles, and approximately 23 humpback whales bubble net feeding over and over. What a sight to see!
In Skagway, we went on the White Pass Railroad, a narrow-gauge railway with old fashioned parlor cars which climbed to about 3,000 feet and provided the most amazing scenery. In Sitka, the former capital city of Russian America, we visited the National Historical Park, St. Michael’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral, the Raptor Rehabilitation Center, and a program of Russian folk dancers.
Our last day on the ship, we cruised Prince William Sound and College Fjord with unbelievable glaciers! Our last port was Whittier where we left the ship and traveled by bus to Anchorage. Our flight home was not until 8:30 pm, so we were dropped off at Carnival’s welcome center in downtown Anchorage. We had a great lunch at the Glacier Ale House then walked around and shopped. Carnival provided a shuttle back to the airport to catch our return flight from Anchorage that was on Delta with a layover in Cincinnati.
This was an experience of a lifetime! I now know why I hear such rave reviews from other travelers who have visited Alaska. Some interesting things I learned about Alaska are:
It rains a lot, and it can be very cold in July.
There are many glaciers.
Eagles are to Alaskans like pigeons are to us – very plentiful!
There is no sales tax.
Every year each man, woman, and child gets a check from the oil industry.
Only about 10 percent of Alaska is accessible by vehicle.
A floatplane/airplane is like a second vehicle to many Alaskans.
Some Alaskans have nice homes on small islands that are only accessible by boat with only trees as neighbors. They bring in water and use generators for power. ”
Thanks Lota. Makes me want to go! Another big plus is that you don’t have to wear a bathing suit or be hot and greasy during this trip- a definite plus in my book!