Anchorage in July
Finally, Alaska’s people are what make this place truly remarkable. Friendly and open, often quirky, they do everything possible to make you feel welcome and at ease.
In Talkeetna, the town on which Northern Exposure was based, Carolyn exchanged earrings she was wearing with a stranger. And in Skagway, a young man offered us his home for the winter. No strings attached.
That doesn’t happen in my neighborhood.
By the bye, I never was bothered by a mosquito, of any size. But all bets are off if you come in May.
If You Go on an Alaska Cruise Tour for Seniors…
Check out our article, Travel for Seniors: Senior Travel Ideas, Mates, Tours, for more travel tips. Or check out some of our other senior travel articles.
Alaska Tours for Seniors Costs:
For the 2007-2008 season from May through September, Celebrity offers a variety of Alaska cruise tour options ranging in price from $1,400 to $3,000. Alaska tours for seniors can be paired with one of their three ships: Infinity, Mercury, or Summit. Other cruise lines offer a similar range of prices. Does not include tips, personal expenses, shore excursions, and meals on the land portion of the tour.
Celebrity’s five-year-old Summit
Courtesy of Celebrity Cruises
Getting to Alaska:
For early bookings, roundtrip from New York City to Vancouver is as cheap as $483, with most flights around $570. From Chicago to Vancouver, $525. From Los Angeles, $428. Celebrity has an arrangement with the Canadian government so that you can land in Vancouver and board the ship without ever leaving the US. Some trick, huh? Whatever, it eliminates customs hassles.
What to Wear in Alaska:
Unless you will be taking only the cruise part of the trip, packing a lot of formal wear just limits space for the stuff you’ll really need. Excursions call for jeans, or chinos, shorts, weather permitting. Remember, only a foot or so beneath your feet is permafrost. Lots of layering is the key, as mornings and evenings can be cold.
A rain repellent jacket is a good idea. Comfortable walking shoes are a must. You will be supplied with the necessary gear on the excursions, but if it’s walking on glaciers that you’re seeking, remember it’s ice!
Dining is casual in all hotels, so jeans are perfectly acceptable. Formal wear is used only on formal nights aboard the ship. Even then, dress clothes fit the bill, although some gentlemen choose tuxedos to match their companion’s formal gowns. Check online for temps as you pack and plan accordingly.
Bonus: If you wish, you can stash one of your bags while on the land portion of the Alaska tour, never to lift it again until vacation’s end. We packed our stored bag with souvenirs and dirty laundry.
Where to Eat in Alaska:
Onboard ship this is far from a problem. But land meals are on your own. And food, like everything in this place so far from large markets, is expensive. When possible, avoid hotel dining rooms. In Fairbanks, there’s a great restaurant right next to the hotel. In Alyeska, walk or get a ride to the Double Muskie or another fine eatery in the area. Try reindeer sausage; delicious, and non-greasy. From Alaska salmon, halibut and crab to sourdough bagels, homemade fudge, and award-winning coffee and beer, your land Alaska tour can satisfy even the most discriminating palate.
Toilets in Alaska:
Those of us of a certain age know that it’s not the legs that go first, but the plumbing. This is one tour where you never have to worry about the whereabouts of a clean toilet. They’re everywhere. And yes, they flush.
Shopping in Alaska:
At each port of call or stop along the railroad, amazing shops await you. Everything from the expected touristy stuff to authentic, often unique Native Art. In Sitka, there’s a shop where you can purchase a walrus penis, always a tasteful souvenir for your maiden aunt. Note: Many jewelry stores are owned and operated by the cruise companies. If nothing else, pick out that perfect T-shirt for your grandson.
Some of the little craft and food shops are especially delicious, each featuring its most splendid homemade delights. In Talkeetna, be sure to say “Hi” to Laura MacDonald at Berry Delightful inside the “Three German Bachelors Cabin.” Since 1989, this lovely grandmother of two has been picking and cooking berries of every kind. Her jams and jellies are scrumptious.
Credit cards are accepted everywhere. You’ll find ATM machines, too.
Alaska Cruise Tour Email Access:
The ship has a large cyber café, rather costly I thought. All the hotels in which we stayed had high-speed Internet connections. You’ll find storefront cyber cafés in town, even places to download your digital photo memory cards to a CD.
Laundry in Alaska:
All hotels provide laundry and dry cleaning services and some have laundry facilities for guest use. Irons and ironing boards are provided throughout the tour.
Visiting Alaska Documentation:
US citizens need valid passports.
If you’ve never been to Vancouver, consider spending an extra day or two visiting this most cosmopolitan city and Vancouver Island, a ferry ride away.