- Pick up a discount coupon book just before you embark your ship for the first time: in the cruise terminal, usually just before you have your embarkation photo taken and then board the ship, there is a portable bookshelf holding discount coupons books you will want to pick up. Each Alaskan port has stores that will give you free or discounted merchandise if you show up with the coupons from the book. Some of the items are tchotchkes, but some, like cheap bottled water or canvas shopping bags, may be of useful as well.
- Buy your Mount Roberts Tramway ticket in Juneau once you get there: the price on shore is the same as you will pay on the ship, but you are going to want to see what the weather is like. If it's overcast and raining, the view from the top won't be worth the $24.95/person to get there. Don't worry about finding something else to do. There are many tour operators who have booths set up on the pier so you can book something else right there. In poor weather, consider a bus ride to the Mendenhall Glacier. Not only can you see the glacier even with low cloud cover, but there a number of forest walking trails that are worth exploring (you did pack rain gear with you - didn't you?).
- Get a balcony: with the long hours of sunlight and the never ending spectacular scenery, an Alaskan cruise is the one itinerary where you should just go for it and book a balcony. Often the cost of a balcony is only slightly more than an ocean view cabin - and a whole lot more convenient!
- Bring binoculars: no doubt about it, Alaska has breathtaking scenery and livestock, but some of it is just so josh darn far away your eyes will need some help. We pack a pair of Canon Image Stabilizing 10 X 30 binoculars which bring great clarity and magnification to an image. The built-in image stabilizer really does dampen most of the shaking you usually experience in binoculars held for an extended period of time. If you want something smaller and easier on your pocketbook, check out something like the 8 X 24 Baush & Lomb binoculars. If you forget to pack any at all, your ship will have lots for sale in their gift shop - for considerably more than on shore of course!
- Bring along a camera (and lens) that will provide a great deal of magnification: no matter how much magnification your camera and lens combination offers, the scenery and the livestock will often still be just far enough away that you will wish you had a "longer" lens. Jan travels with a 300mm lens on a 1.6 crop camera giving a field of view of a 480mm lens. I travel with a 200mm lens and a 2X extender on a full frame camera, giving me a field of view of 400mm. Most of the time these are long enough, but we still miss a few shots because wildlife is just too far away.
- Consider an orientation tour: explore new ports to get an overview - either a walking tour or a taxi or bus tour will give you a feeling for a community. You can then head off on your own to explore the most interesting parts of a port on your own.
- Buy a good book: consider reading books like James A. Michener's Alaska, Pierre Burton's Klondike, or Alaska's Southeast: Touring the Inside Passage. Alaska & Canada's Inside Passage and Tour Guide is a huge map covering most of southeast Alaska from Seattle to Hubbard Glacier that you can use to follow your route through Alaska.
You can make your Alaskan cruise just a little more special by giving some of the following tips a try:
415 Herold Court