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The Top 10 Myths About Alaskan Cruises

May 25, 2008
There are certainly quite a few myths out there about Alaskan cruises, and during my time working in the travel industry, I heard all of them. So in order to set the record straight, I have put together this list of the top 10 myths about Alaskan cruises.

When you take an Alaskan cruise, the experience is unforgettable - the shore trips range from fascinating to thrilling, the towns along the route are wonderfully quaint, and the scenery is simply spectacular. As far as I am concerned, it is the most amazing scenery anywhere in the world.

An Alaska vacation is one you will remember for the rest of your life. Alaska will, no doubt, defy many of your preconceived notions. It is a place that exceeds all expectations.

So without further ado, let's move right to the myth busting.

1. You'll see the Aurora Borealis

There is a chance that you could catch a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) at some point along your cruise, but the odds are definitely against it. You can increase your chances of witnessing the Northern Lights by including an inland tour that stops in Fairbanks or by scheduling your cruise at the very beginning or end of the season.

2. The weather in September and May is too cold

The Inside Passage actually has a relatively mild and moderate marine climate, more like that of Seattle than of northern Alaska. The temperature along the Inside Passage only varies about ten degrees from the coolest part of the cruise season in May and late September to the warmest time of the summer, when it can get up to the high 60's.

3. Passports are not needed for an Alaska cruise

As of 2009, passports will be required for all passengers on Alaskan cruises. In fact, anyone who flies in or out of Vancouver from the U.S. has been required to have a passport for a number of years. So do yourself a favor and get your passport early.

4. It rains constantly

It definitely does rain quite a bit in southern coastal Alaska. In fact, without the rain, there would be no lush rainforest vegetation or breathtaking waterfalls and glaciers. But still, it is very likely you will experience a mix of rain and sunshine during your cruise.

5. It is always less expensive if you cruise from Seattle

It is definitely often less expensive to fly to Seattle than it is to fly to Anchorage or Vancouver. However, the money you save on flights can be eaten up by higher cruise fares, since sailings from Seattle often cost a bit more.

6. The front section of the boat is better for those with motion sickness

Neither the bow (front section) nor the top floors of the ship are your best bet if you suffer from sea sickness. Instead, people who are concerned about sea sickness might want to consider booking cabins on the lower floors of the ship, where there is less motion.

7. It is possible to make cell phone calls on an Alaska cruise

It's true that you should be able to use your cell phone in some of the port towns (especially in Juneau). However, there is little chance your phone will get a signal in some of the more remote segments of the cruise.

8. The left (or right) side of the ship is better

Many people planning Alaska cruises seem to be under the impression that the right side of the boat is far better on a northbound Gulf of Alaska cruise (and that the left side is superior on a southbound cruise). There is indeed a period of about 1-2 days when your ship is out at sea in the Gulf of Alaska (assuming you have booked a one-way cruise). On those days, if the coastline is not shrouded in clouds (as it frequently is), you would have a better view from the rooms facing the coast. But for the remainder of the cruise, the views from both sides of the ship are often equally wonderful.

9. You can save big bucks by booking last minute

Through those buying last-minute might get great deals on cruises of the Caribbean, the same does not really hold true for Alaska cruises. Alaskan ships often sell out far in advance for cruises in the months of July and August. If you are really looking for a last-second deal, you might be able to find one in May or September, though you could have to settle for an inside cabin.

10. You can see polar bears on the cruise

While there are many incredible sights that you will see on an Inside Passage or Gulf of Alaska cruise, you won't see any Polar bears. These massive bears live almost exclusively on arctic ice flows in the far northern region of Alaska. The cruise route focuses on southern and central Alaska. However, you might well see grizzly bears on your cruise, for they are very common in lower Alaska and are an incredible sight.
About the Author
Scott Russell is a writer, consultant, frequent traveler, and editor of the Alaska Cruise Advisor, a guide to Alaska cruise vacations and inland Alaska tours.
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