Basics for an Alaska Cruise
“Out There” Basics for an Alaska Cruiseby Nicole Rebeiro
It goes without saying that the Alaskan wilderness is best enjoyed outdoors.
Unlike destinations in the lower 48 – or lower latitudes for that matter – Alaska demands a stricter dress code to those brave enough to venture outside, as well as other precautionary measure to ensure an enjoyable, and safe, experience.
A standard Alaska cruise typically takes seven days, but that is long enough to experience the vagaries of high latitude. To enjoy the stops and layovers no matter what the weather, these essentials – apart from the requisite cameras and binoculars – should be high on the cruise travelers’ list.
Hiking boots – The Alaska terrain is unforgiving on poorly clad feet, even in summer. The tundra, for example, is typically buried in snow well into late June, and navigating the slick terrain can be tricky without appropriate hiking footwear. Choose waterproof yet breathable footwear with (removable) ice traction soles for better grip.
Gym sacks – Travelers need to bring along extra packs that they can keep in their pockets and whip out when the need arises. Outdoor adventures present opportunities for collecting souvenirs of all types: a red jasper rock or native arts and crafts begging to be picked up.
Insect repellent – As the sun dances across the sky day and night, so do the insects. Summer in northern latitudes, particularly in Alaska, means mosquito nuisance. These insects can form formidable swarms, especially on a windless evening alongside stagnant ponds, in forests, and in moist tundra. Bring repellent in pumps not in spray cans, as the latter can be confiscated.
Sunscreen – Depletion of ozone levels in the Polar Regions is more severe than elsewhere, according to numerous studies by the government and private interests. Because this protective layer is fast disappearing, ultraviolet rays in Alaska are much stronger. Do not be misled by 60°F temperatures, especially when on a glacier tour. The reflected sunlight off the ice wall can burn the exposed skin.
Rain Gear – Even in the middle of August, the chance of rain is 50%. Umbrellas and ponchos help, but they are rather bothersome to drag along. Raincoats or fleece-lined hooded rain jackets that zip up to a high collar are much easier to put away. Ketchikan offers a dizzying collection of such jackets at a fraction of cost elsewhere.
Layers – Summers in Alaska can get warm at 70°F, so shorts and short sleeves do occasionally come in handy. Nighttime temperatures, however, can dip into the 40s and 50s (and even 5°-10° colder in May and September). Light jackets, hoods, scarves and turtlenecks not only protect travelers from nighttime lows, but also from drastic changes in temperature when outdoors.
Enjoying Alaska is made so much easier if you plan for all eventualities before arriving so that you are ready for whatever blows your way. Fail to prepare, and prepare to fail!
• Nicole Rebeiro
Nicole is a London-based travel journalist, and whilst she is not telling tales of her travels to the people of the local home where she volunteers, she is out discovering the world and creating new ones.
To see other articles by Nicole Rebeiro about cruising see:
• Avoiding putting on weight
• The real cost of cruises
• Maintaining mental health while cruising