Some friends of ours invited us to tag along on their Alaskan cruise. They had done one a number of years ago and wanted to bring their kids this time. I’m always game for a vacation – especially one with friends that don’t mind our kids tagging along.
However… we’ve been on one cruise years ago, and I didn’t love it. We actually went with friends & kids on that one, too. The kids were much younger, though. Farm Girl wasn’t even born. It wasn’t a horrible trip, just not my type of vacation. I prefer exploring as much as I can, not relaxing on a fancy boat. Because of this I haven’t really jumped on board with the idea of another cruise. But I knew if we did one, it would be to Alaska.
We ended up booking a 7 day Alaskan cruise out of Seattle with stops in Juneau, Hubbard Glacier, Sitka, Ketchikan, and Victoria.
BOOKING THE CRUISE: SHOP AROUND
I typically scour the internet planning our vacations and book accordingly. I never purchase a package deal because they haven’t been what I’ve been wanting for our trips.
Our friends were set on sailing with Holland America – which was fine with me. When I first looked up the cost on their website it was over $6000 for the 5 of us. That was a bit steep for a cruise vacation that I was hesitant about. There were no rooms that bunked 5 people. So we were going to have to book 2 rooms, which added to our cost.
Thankfully, two things worked in our favor in reducing that $6000+. Number one was that one of our friend’s parents decided to cruise, too. They only had 2 in their room, so we booked one of our kids on their reservation.
The other thing that saved us even more money is that my friend travels differently than I do and uses a travel agent. She called cruise.com and the woman on the phone told her about a deal where kids cruise free. What?! That info was not on their website. Sure enough. All 3 of our kids were free, except for a government fee/tax – even our 14 year old. Plus, we got a $100 on-board credit. These savings brought the total for the 5 of us to a bit over $3000 – half of what I found online.
I honestly don’t cruise enough to know if this was an awesome deal for a family of 5 with a balcony room. But, saving half what the original cost was is a deal to me. And, I’ve learned it’s worth making that phone call.
TELLING THE KIDS: CHRISTMAS DAY
We booked the cruise in December, so decided to use it as a Christmas present for the kids. They each got a box with a cruise “ticket” and t-shirt I made.
DAY BEFORE: SEATTLE
Our cruise was leaving out of Seattle. We live close enough to Seattle that we don’t need to fly, but far enough that we felt most comfortable driving up the afternoon before.
We stayed at a hotel in SeaTac where we could leave our car for the week and they would shuttle us to and from the cruise terminal. For this purpose, the hotel was great. Everything went smoothly. The hotel itself, though, was less than ideal.
We checked into the hotel around 4pm, then headed into Seattle for the evening. We walked around the Pike Place Market area, visiting the market, the gum wall, and walking along Alaskan Way.
DAY 1: SEATTLE WASHINGTON & PUGET SOUND
We arrived at the cruise terminal around 11:30am. Check in went smoothly and we could go right to our room. We didn’t stay in our room long, though. The pier where we were docked had a great view of downtown Seattle. A little before 4:00 we undocked and our cruise began.
DAY 2: AT SEA
Day 2 was spent entirely at sea. It was a nice way to get acquainted with the ship. I’m pretty sure that’s when the kids learned their love for the pool.
The sea was a bit rough, making me a bit sick. Except for the time I was on a 60′ live-aboard dive boat heading to the Bahamas in my first trimester of pregnancy with Farm Kid1, this was my first time feeling queasy on a boat. Not pleasant. A dramamine later, and I was good to go.
DAY 3: JUNEAU, ALASKA
Our first port city was Juneau. We booked an excursion that took us to Mendenhall Glacier and the Mount Roberts Tramway. Seeing the glacier was amazing. My only complaint is not having enough time to explore as much as I would have liked.
DAY 4: HUBBARD GLACIER
We cruised from Juneau to Yakutat Bay, arriving at the glacier about 2:30pm. The clouds were thick, making the glacier almost impossible to see as we were cruising towards it. Thankfully, not long after the ship stopped, the clouds lifted enough for a spectacular view.
DAY 5: SITKA, ALASKA
We had great weather the entire trip. The only port city we got drizzled on was Sitka. Being from Oregon and knowing what the weather could have been like, I’m not going to complain about a bit of drizzle.
I was amazed at all the tiny islands with houses on them. What an intriguing way to live. I’m sure it is not an easy life, but neither is living where we live.
DAY 6: KETCHIKAN, ALASKA
Our last stop in Alaska was Ketchikan. We had a good time wondering through the small town, but I wish we would have booked an excursion to see more than just the touristy part of town.
DAY 7: VICTORIA, BC
After cruising out of Ketchikan we headed south to Vancouver Island, stopping in Victoria. Again, we just walked through town. But, it was a lovely evening for a walk through a beautiful city.
DAY 8: BACK IN SEATLLE
Early in the morning we were docked back in Seattle and by 8:30am we were off the ship. Our trip over.
I’m always so thankful when we return from a trip. Thankful for a safe trip. Thankful for new experiences. Thankful to have seen more of this amazing planet we call home. Thankful to spend the week with family and friends. We have 3 busy kids and a small farm. It’s not easy for all 5 of us to leave even for a weekend, let alone a week. I’m glad we occasionally take the time, though. A big part of our being able to travel is that we have a fabulous house sitter. I appreciate her, and her husband, more than maybe they know.
If there is a next time I will definitely plan to book more excursions, or at least research ways to get out of the shopping areas and into the heart of Alaska. It was a good vacation. The cruising was great. I just didn’t feel like we actually saw much of Alaska.