I can't believe it's been 2 weeks since we got home from our trip. Part of me feels like it was just yesterday and part of me feels like it was all just a dream! But I'm excited to share a full guide about our Alaskan Cruise adventures! If you are ever planning a trip to Alaska or just want to day dream about this amazing area of the world, hopefully you find this guide to be interesting and helpful! As always, if you have any questions, let me know & I will answer as best as I can :)

The entire idea for the trip came about because my grandparents had visited Alaska years earlier & it remained one of their favorite places of the world, so they decided to take our entire family back with them!  Because it was a family trip, my sister & I didn't have to worry about too much about the specifics of the planning, but it is a major trip so I recommend starting early and doing your research on locations/excursions/etc! We opted to do a cruise with Regent Seven Seas, which I highly recommend since 1.it's basically an 'all inclusive' type of set up once you are on the ship; 2.it allowed us to see as much of Alaska as possible in a short amount of time; 3. the Regent ship was pristine, comfortable & offered a bunch of food choices, activities, etc & the staff was amazing - so friendly, helpful & willing to do anything to make sure the cruisers were pleased.

We left for our trip in mid-July, unsure of what exactly to expect & what exactly to pack, (I did a full Alaska packing post here) first flying from NY to Seattle then to Anchorage, which was an experience in itself. The flights are definitely long & the time change threw me every time we stepped off the plane! We stayed in a hotel that first night & ended up going to bed around 7 pm! (It was 11 pm at home in NY!)

* Travel Tip: Because we were taking a cruise, we (& most other travelers) opted to fly into Alaska the night before. Cruise ships are timed perfectly & had we had any travel troubles, the ship would not hesitate to leave without us! I recommend leaving plenty of time between your travel accommodations and the boarding of your cruise ship to ensure that you will definitely make it!

The next morning, we hopped on a bus to Seward, Alaska (about 2 hours away & arranged for us by the cruise line) ready to set sail! We left port promptly at 4 pm and spent the next 36 hours on the ship sailing towards our first stop.  As mentioned, we spent 36 hours aboard the ship (first day being a day at sea). We took advantage of the amenities on the ship: the food, the gym, the spa, the food & the various games & events throughout the day.  

Mid-afternoon, we got to do some sight seeing from the ship! The cruise route took us as close as possible to Hubbard Glacier where we were able to take photos, witness calving (where an area of the glacier splits off) & just observe the beauty of the area. It was a super cool experience and gave us our first real taste of what to expect in Alaska.

* Travel Tip: During that first day/night, we did hit some 'rough seas,' aka. waves & 50 mph winds. Sea Bands came in handy so I highly recommend packing a pair even if you don't normally get sea sick! 

We were all thrilled to arrive at our first port in Sitka! We spent the morning on a wildlife quest where we got to see bald eagles, sea otters, deer, whales, endless birds & a bear! It was so cool since most of those animals had never been seen by this NY gal.  We were especially obsessed with the whales! So cool!

* Travel Tip: BRING A CAMERA! These excursions are once in a lifetime & you definitely want to capture some of these memories so bring your best camera & lens. Everything was picture perfect, from the trees to the animals to the mountains. If you can fit it in your luggage, I would recommend bringing a high zoom lens if possible too; that way you can get the best photos possible even from far away!

We grabbed lunch in town (I had fish & chips & I swear it was the best I had ever eaten!) & then headed out to our afternoon activities. My dad & sister had chosen to go salmon fishing (they ended up catching a bunch of fish & really enjoyed the experience with their captain!), my aunt & uncle went kayaking & the rest of our family went to Fortress of the Bear.

Fortress of the Bear is a bear rescue for orphaned bears. They had 5 brown bears & 3 black bears that we were able to observe from a raised platform only about 20 feet above the bears habitat! The bears were super cute & cuddly looking & it was interesting to watch them eat & play with each other, but the most interesting part of our visit was hearing the stories about how the bears ended up at the rescue center. It was so sad to hear about how one mama bear had died from eating too much garbage & plastic in the area & how another mama bear was shot after coming too close to a human who was forced to defend himself. Luckily, these cubs were found by the facility & are now protected and cared for in a safe environment. We learned a lot from the keepers about the laws in Alaska regarding bears & what the facility does to rehab the bears & keep them safe. 

* Travel Tip: Fortress of the Bear was the only excursion we did that wasn't planned through the cruise; we had to take a taxi to get there but I think it was 100% worth it! The taxi ride was only about 10 minutes & the driver was nice enough to come back for us an hour later as long as you asked.

That's it for the first half of the trip! This post got wayyyy longer than I thought so I'm splitting it up. My next post will feature our time spent in Juneau, Skagway & Ketchikan.

Hope you enjoyed this first part!

Michelle Paige