Alaskan Cruise Travel Tips?
April 29, 2009 10:50 AM   Subscribe

Heading on an Alaskan cruise with my 2-year old son, my husband and my 64-year old mother who just finished chemo/radiation for lung cancer. Suggestions, tips, thoughts on making sure everyone enjoys the time?

The back story: planned this trip last year for this May, prior to the cancer diagnosis. Mom was diagnosed at Christmas and has been getting chemo/radiation treatment since January. She just finished a little over a week ago and is pretty weak. No hair loss (longer term, lower dose treatments ordered), but she has a hard time with her stamina and eating (radiation hit the esophagus). This Alaskan cruise is her life-long dream and with the diagnoses, she considers this part of her "bucket list". However, the cruise wasn't originally intended to be this, so while I want to ensure she is happy and has a great time, I also want to ensure that everyone has their needs taken care of.

So, the actual question is related more to gathering suggestions from folks on how I can best make this a great time, not tire my mom out too much and survive traveling with my toddler. He's never been on a plane and we'll be taking a 3-hour plane ride, meeting my mom and staying over night. Next day, we have a 3-hour car drive to the port. Tips, tricks, suggestions for keeping the toddler happy?

And finally, my husband is a huge photography buff and is very excited about going to Alaska. We don't want to pre-book excursions in case something occurs with my mom or toddler, so suggestions around day trips we could take that would be "mild" or something that he can do by himself as part of a larger, more adventurous group? We're taking a round-trip from Vancouver, BC up through Glacier Bay. Ports include Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan.

Other info is that we're cruising for a week which coincides with my husband's birthday, mother's day, and my birthday!

Sorry this is so long and rambling - we're leaving next Tuesday and all of the sudden, the reality has hit me smack in the face! Thanks in advance for the guidance.
posted by cyniczny to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
cruise critic is SO your friend here. go to the forum and you will find many people of all ages who are veteran cruisers and answers to any questions you have.

those people are serious about cruising and though it seems a little strange it is extremely helpful.
posted by domino at 11:21 AM on April 29, 2009

I went on a South American cruise recently and the milder excursions (bus tour, winery etc.) were not physically demanding in the slightest and involved lots of sitting but also lots to look at.

Keep in mind that cruises are popular with older people so life goes at a rather slow pace - it should be suitable for your situation.
posted by cranberrymonger at 11:49 AM on April 29, 2009

How is your mother doing with nausea? This may seem obvious, but I'd find every possible seasickness treatment you can think of and have them all on hand as options. Between the two of them, you may really really need them.
posted by hermitosis at 11:56 AM on April 29, 2009

survive traveling with my toddler. He's never been on a plane and we'll be taking a 3-hour plane ride, meeting my mom and staying over night. Next day, we have a 3-hour car drive to the port. Tips, tricks, suggestions for keeping the toddler happy?

Plane: This could go well or REALLY poorly. My biggest tip for travel with toddlers in general is to have a "bag of tricks" - small toys and books, preferably ones they haven't seen before or don't remember they own. On long car trips or plane trips I generally do half hour cycles ... my son will be handed a new toy/book, will play with it for 10-15 minutes. When he gets bored with the object I typically offer a small snack and something to drink. He may eat or he may not, but multiple small snacks are usually better on these trips because you are less likely to end up with a hungry cranky low-blood-sugar toddler. Then I just give him some time to chill out, look around, but as soon as he starts showing signs of boredom, I offer a new object from the bag ... and the cycle starts anew.

The biggest issue I would alert you to is time zone changes. More than anything else, getting up super early in the morning (say, 4am) with a toddler who thinks its 7 am because that's what his/her internal clock says is a pain in the ass and can make the caregiver cranky and overtired.
posted by anastasiav at 12:44 PM on April 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: In Skagway, we took a shore excursion that was a combination of the White Pass Railway, a trip to the Liarsville camp for lunch and a show and a tour of an old brothel downtown. Only the very short tour of the brothel involved stairs or significant walking. Everything else was pretty sedentary and we had really enjoyed this shore excursion.

There are basically 98 zillion shore excursions on offer at every port of call, but they break down pretty much like this:

-- Some kind of bus tour. May or may not include lunch which can dramatically affect the prices. Relatively inexpensive, relatively sedentary.
-- Some kind of outdoors activity. These can be things like hiking, fishing, canoeing, etc. More expensive than the bus tours less expensive than the air tours.
-- Air or boat tours. Generally very pricey, especially for planes or helicopters.

Because of the overlap it can sometimes be hard to pick between a whole bunch of similar sounding tours, especially when the next port of call has virtually the same list of similar sounding tours. What we've found useful is to go through the list and find the tours that are unique to a single port of call and decide if you're interested in those items in the particular. If you are, then that's what port of call covered off, because you have to do that there. Then, we try to mix up our activities and try different things in different ports, so it's not all bus tours all the time (though, with a toddler and a grandma, that might be what you want). We also try to be okay with splitting up the group. In a week on one of those boats, you are all going to be sick and bloody tired of each other anyway, you don't need to spend every waking moment together.

We ended up taking the White Pass Railway plus Liarsville tour in Skagway, since my Dad likes trains and that was a Skagway only option. Then, because we liked the idea of seeing sled dogs, but not the expense of the fly to the glaciers for dog-sledding tours, we opted to tour a sled dog camp in Juneau. Finally, we wanted something sort of outdoorsy, but not too high impact, so we picked canoeing in Ketchikan.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:37 PM on April 29, 2009

Make sure you pack binoculars for the deck. Assuming your cruise is going to spend some time in Glacier National Park as did the one I went on they'll come in really handy. Juneau has some neat mining tours. I traveled with my Moms who doesn't perambulate very well and there was still a lot to do in the form of bus, canoe, and train tours. My mom was able to do a canoe tour, which was surprisingly low-impact due to the fact your in a giant canoe with 10-15 other people helping. We also walked around in Alaskan rain forest which was very cool and low in the physical duress department. Panning for gold is great fun but hard on the knees and back. Your kid will have fun doing anything there, everything is visually amazing and infused with mining and/or Alaskan native culture.

My Alaskan cruise was a little different than others I've been on. The average age of your fellow cruisers will be like 1 million earth years. Expect a big emphasis on food (great salmon!) and looking at stuff rather than frolicking aboot. None of the stops you'll make will be at beaches or anything of that sort I'm betting. Even in the summer it gets a little chilly in the evenings depending how far north you make it. I thought it was awesome, everyone on the ship went to bed at like 8pm and I had the run of the decks with the few other night owls.

Of the three cruises I've been on the Alaskan one was my favorite. Nothing quite like watching giant glaciers floating by. So blue....
posted by Gainesvillain at 2:08 PM on April 29, 2009

Best answer: Though it was planned well in advance, this actually sounds like a perfect trip to take with the group you have -- two people who need a slower vacationing pace and a photography buff. I'd imagine Alaska has plenty of gorgeous scenery accessible to your crew.

I just took two 5-hour plane trips with a 2-year-old and a 10-month-old, so I'm full of suggestions there. Seconding anastasiav on the lots-of-little-toys suggestion, and here are the ones I brought, each of which fit in a gallon-size freezer bag:

-- 3 lumps of playdough, removed from the canisters and placed in bag
-- set of Hot Wheels-size construction trucks
-- set of felt animals and a small felt board
-- sticker books (colorform-type things where you can stick and re-stick)
-- crayons, mini-stamp set, paper
-- set of tiny Breyer horses
-- about a half-dozen paperback books

For snacks, goldfish crackers, graham crackers, string cheese, fruit strips. M&Ms for the moments of direst need.

Bring an empty water container (Nalgene or similar) and fill it with tap water when you get past security. It's hard to squeeze enough liquids out of flight crews these days, and there's no headache like a dehydration headache.

Finally, good for you encouraging your husband to do some stuff by himself, so that he gets to do something more adventurous. It'll be a harder day for you, taking care of baby and mom by yourself, but I'm sure he'll appreciate it a lot. It would be nice if you could take one, too, if your mom wouldn't mind.
posted by palliser at 2:30 PM on April 29, 2009

In Ketchikan there is a good, really easy hike around a place called Ward Lake. Since you're just circling the lake, there is no elevation change, and my 3-year-old is able to walk all the way around it. There are also lots of photo opportunities for the rainforest (even some old-growth trees?), spawning salmon, and possibly eagles. I don't know if there is a tour bus that could take you out there, but it is only a few miles outside of town, so maybe a taxi?

If your husband is interested in architectural photography, there's some great spots if you take the walking tour through town. There's everything from quaint and unusual to "romantic decay." You can get some dramatic photos on the stairway "streets" in some of the residential areas near downtown (and cruise berths).
posted by cronology at 12:50 PM on May 4, 2009

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