Category Archives: Travel Tips

Will I have phone and internet on Alaskan cruise

Will I have phone and internet coverage on an Alaskan Cruise?

Phone and internet will be available onboard intermittently aboard most ships enroute to and in Alaska but coverage will vary depending on the location to land and other factors.  While things will vary from ship to ship, satellite phone service is available onboard many ships at a cost of about $8.00 per minute when phone calls are absolutely necessary.   If you do need to make a phone call from your stateroom, instructions are available on the phone and it’s not difficult.

Alaska cruise day at sea

Alaska cruise day at sea

Most ships also have a wifi package for guests.   While most of us want to relax and unwind onboard, we also like the comfort of having our cell phone close at hand for picture taking and keeping track of the time.  But what about the other functions we use it for?  It might be reasonable to purchase a package for about $100 which will give you enough data to check emails a few times daily, as well as look at some website.  I met students who were taking online courses and they were able to get all of their class work done with that package.  It’s just a matter of not wasting time and clicking through too often.  Obviously, streaming will eat up your plan in a matter of hours webpage.  While internet may be available during sea days, it will be very slow as compared to times when the ship is in port.  The cost was about $55 for 100 minutes of usage or 75 cents/minute.

Leaving Seattle, United States guests will continue to have cell coverage for an hour or more prior to entering Canadian Territory.  Once in Canada, my Verizon phone sent me a message advising me that I had left my home territory and additional prices would apply should I decide to phone, surf or text while in Canada.  Upon arrival in Alaska, US rates apply on cell phones and internet for those devices with a package.  In the case of this 7 day cruise, we were in US territory for about 5 days.  If you plan on a land tour while in Alaska in summer or winter, your phone will normally work just like at home, but check with your provider to be sure your package includes the 49th.

Most days, ships will be in ports of call that do have free wifi options right in town.  These are often within walking distance of the ship and most often include a public library, many that will also offer computers for a small fee.  For many people who don’t want to be surfing while onboard ship, this will be enough to check emails and take care of a few items from the real world.

Your best precaution will be to contact your provider prior to leaving home and knowing exactly what your plan will cover on both your phone and hotspot, if you have one.  While there are still a few ships that offer internet to guests, this is not the norm and even then there will be days when there simply isn’t a way to communicate with those outside the ship.

 

Budgeting and Choosing the Best Fit for an Alaskan Cruise

Budgeting and Choosing the Best Fit for your Alaskan Cruise

Orca in Glacier Bay

Orca in Glacier Bay

Ugh, that sticky subject when planning a vacation; it comes up eventually every time you travel.  Maybe you are one to plan a budget in advance and try to stick close to those numbers.  You might be one to pull a number out of a hat, book the cruise right at your limit and not plan for excursions and ship board expenses.  Another personality will just put it all on the card and figure it out later.

Knowing in advance what your expenses might be will help to plan your trip and enjoy it to the fullest.  Factors to consider are broken out below, plan out your wish list as you go down the list. When budgeting, though, work in order of your personal priorities.  This will help to determine the cruise line and sailing that is right for you.

The reason there are at least a dozen cruise companies sailing the Alaska coast successfully is the differences and markets they tend to attract.  Let a travel agent help you explore which one is the best fit for your next vacation.

Ship Size:

More so than in any other market, there are varied ship options for your sailing to Alaska.  From 12 person yachts that can visit uncharted nooks and crannies to large floating cities with every imaginable amenity and offering.  While budget will play a role in this decision, your personal interests need to be considered to find the best fit.

Cruise Line:

Several companies sail the icy Pacific Ocean to the Bering Sea and beyond from May through October.  Choosing the best fit for you might be as easy as listing your top dream activities on board. For instance, do you want the giant outdoor movie screen to looking at the best children’s programs? This thought may lead you to or away from a particular kid friendly line.  You may enjoy privileged status with one company or you may want to gain that status for your dream future trip around the world.  Quite often, clients know if they want formal nights and country club casual attire or if they’d prefer the casual anything goes climate, how do you like to travel?  Do you prefer a set dinner time or do you prefer my style dining?  Are you looking for an inclusive drink package?  These are important differences between the cruise companies.

You could always call the cruise line directly and ask questions; they will certainly tell you all about their ships.  Will they tell you about a competitor that might be a better fit for you?  Not likely, but a travel agent will tell you.

Travel Dates Affect Budget:

If you are traveling with children, the school calendar may dictate your options for travel dates.  If you don’t mind the colder weather, like a true New Englander, May or September can offer the same experience but with fewer crowds.  Floridians might prefer July, Alaska’s warmest month.  The calving glaciers are best seen with the warmer weather beginning in late May and newborn cubs and wildlife will be more abundant then too.  Highest season in July is also highest priced but because of the warmer temperatures and longer days.

Trip Itineraries:

Alaskan cruises are generally 7 days or longer. The most common southern Alaska 7 day itineraries follow Read more

Handicapped accessible travel needs

The World is Now More Accessible Than Ever – Explore and Enjoy It!

The world is now more accessible than ever before. Twenty percent (62 million) of the U.S. population has some form of disability, and the number of these individuals is increasing daily. We all  need to, want to, and can travel. If you’re part of that twenty percent, a world of travel awaits you.

SpecialNeedsCertified_LOGO

SpecialNeedsCertified_LOGO

Travel professionals such as myself who are accessible travel advocates certified by Special Needs Group www.specialneedsgroup.com, the leading global provider of special needs equipment for the travel industry, have unique, specialized knowledge about how to help individuals with disabilities enjoy a wonderful, hassle-free and memorable trip.

Here are a few tips to ensure that when your next travel opportunity arises, you are ready to go.

Outline your travel needs

Take time to evaluate the logistics of your trip in relation to your ability to keep pace. What modes of transportation will you be using? Airplane, motor coach, train, ship, transit vans for ground transfers? Make a list, referring to relevant brochures, your trip organizer or travel agent to make sure you don’t miss anything.

Now, make a list of your specific requirements. Be honest: what types of special needs equipment do you depend on at home? What do you use or need (or wish you had!) when shopping, sightseeing locally, dining out or going to the movies, attending concerts, the theater, street fairs or sporting events at home? Read more

Packing List for Alaskan Cruise

Packing list for Alaskan Cruise

I don’t worry about many belongings when traveling, since there are stores available onboard and at ports with almost anything you could need or want.  The most common item that clients say they needed and didn’t have was an extra suitcase for all the stuff they purchased.  See a winter vacation packing list for Alaska to compare.

Electronically speaking, I would be really disappointed to forget my gadgets.  Be sure you have:

Camera, charger, memory cards

Cell phone and charger (most carriers include Alaska in their US plans, but check)

Headphones for your personal music as well as any bus tours you might take Read more

Easy steps to avoid weight gain on a cruise ship

Easy steps to avoid weight gain on a cruise ship

It seems unfair that so many people who ask legitimate questions on websites about avoiding weight gain on cruises are told to “just enjoy the vacation” and “only count sugar”.  I surfed to more than a dozen sites looking for sound advice on this subject before deciding to just be sensible during my cruise.  Now that it’s over, I can give some advice of my own.

DSCN6928For those of us who sit at a desk most of the week, it’s easy to burn calories on board by just using the stairs.  This could also be a fun reason to splurge for a higher deck cabin.

Exercise options are endless while at sea.  If you work out at home, it’s very easy to keep your routine in place while cruising.  While there are plenty of people using the treadmills and other equipment, I didn’t see anyone who needed to wait for their machine.  Big groups of people walk on deck in the morning and after dinner, some do the three laps that equal a mile and others make it a stroll.  Holland America even has a structured walk each day right after the morning stretch.

Try to keep you meal routine in place.  If you generally eat breakfast at home, enjoy it onboard.  If you normally have coffee only, try that for a few days and see what you think.  Remember, you can always get food, so don’t worry about missing out.

While there are a frightening number of calories in the dinners and desserts, there are also huge amounts in beverages of all kinds.  Try to alternate a glass of water with each beer, wine or cocktail drink.  Drinking plenty of water will also help keep you healthy and germ free on the cruise.

At mealtime, specifically ask for Read more

Avoiding Motion Sickness on a Cruise Ship

Avoiding Motion Sickness on a Cruise Ship

Rough seas on ship

Moderate seas about cruise ship

As much as I love to travel, I had to find a way to beat motion sickness.  For people like me that can feel sick at the thought of riding an elevator, certain preparations can make a big difference in allowing us to enjoy the wonders of the world.

While we are all different and the types of motion that effect us are different, there are commonalities in prevention.

The most important factor for your body will be hydration.  So, first and foremost, drink a lot of water.  This needs to begin 3 days prior to sailing and continue through your return home.  Really!  While you don’t want to feel bloated, you do want to be using the restroom often.

As I board a ship, whether it’s the 28 person river boat from my Amazon Cruise Adventure, or the cruise ship sailing to Alaska, I take a ½ Dramamine (yes, as I board the ship).  This gives me time to adjust to the slight rocking that won’t even be noticeable after a few days at sea. Read more

Simple Steps to Avoid Illness Onboard a Cruise Ship

How to Avoid Illness onboard a cruise ship

We’ve heard this since kindergarten; the best way to avoid the spread of germs is with frequent hand washing.  What else can we do to avoid becoming a statistic?

Wash Hands Thoroughly:  Go for the soap and hot water.  Use the personal hand towels provided in the public restaurants and then drop them in the provided bin.

Aboard the Maasdam groupts gather to eat and drink

Avoid illness on your cruise by following simple steps.

Use Hand Sanitizer: Take advantage of the hand sanitizer stations all around the ship.   While I prefer not to dry my hands out by using the sanitizers, it is a much easier problem to resolve than illness.

Drink Water: Drink plenty of water, free drinking water is readily available in the stateroom, at the bars, from staff at the pool, during all meals, etc.   Make it a habit to drink water before you feel dehydrated, it really does cleanse the body.

Include Vitamin C: Have something each day that contains Vitamin C.  That might be a glass or orange juice for breakfast, a fruit drink at the pool, or a fruit salad at dinner.  Vitamin C does not store in your body, so it’s important to reload each day.

Routines and Habits: Stick with your eating routines, if you don’t generally eat three or more large meals at home, don’t overstress your body by pushing to the extremes on board.  If you know cheese bothers you at home, it’s likely it will bother you onboard.

Alcohol: Drink as much as you like, if you are a drinker at home.  Either way, try to have a glass of water to offset each beverage to keep the body hydrated.

Stay Active: In most cases, the natural act of moving about on this small floating city, especially if you make a point of taking the stairs, will burn more calories than the average person will get at home.  Add three laps around the outside deck for an additional mile.  If you’d like a structured setting, join in on some of the endless fitness programs onboard and on land.

In Port: Be smart about the street foods you purchase.  Notice the cleanliness of the food areas and also of the server.  Use common sense.

If you do get sick: First and foremost stay hydrated.  Take medicine as needed; if you didn’t bring any, get some from the ship’s infirmary.  Most ships don’t charge a fee for any services related to airborne illnesses.

Remember, it’s a very small percentage of guests that become ill.  News media reports often say the number of people who got sick, but what they don’t say is that in almost all cases, the total number is less that half of one percent of guests.  They also don’t mention the many ships that don’t have any illnesses.

Bon Voyage!

What to pack for a winter Alaskan vacation

I visited Alaska in February and needed to know what to pack for my winter vacation.   I kept a list of the things I brought and actually used, as well as the items that I wished I brought along.  The weather will undoubtedly be cold and there will probably be precipitation during any winter visit to Alaska.  Obviously, a lot of time will be spent outdoors to make the trip worthwhile.

My list is below:

Bathing Suit (there’s nothing more relaxing than a Jacuzzi soak after spending a cold day outdoors.

Warm winter boots and woolen socks. (I can’t say enough about the qualities of woolen socks, especially if you plan to stand on ice or snow for an extended period.)  My boots happen to be Bogs brand and they are great for water as well as for cold to -40 degrees.

Warm outerwear including a hat, scarf, winter coat, snow pants or skirt. (Most of the ladies in Alaska have snow skirts.  They look just like snow pants, but are shaped like a skirt instead.  They come in all different lengths, but if you are going to wear a sleeping bag around your body to stay warm, why not get it long enough to cover your legs completely.) Read more

Musher Banquet for Alaskan Visitors| What to wear and bring

I had the privilege of taking part in the Iditarod Musher’s Banquet at the Civic and Convention Center in Anchorage, Alaska last night.  It was a wonderful opportunity to meet local residents, learn more about the Iditarod Dogsled Race and enjoy a great party.  There were a few thousand people in attendance, proof of what a big event it is for the locals.

The dress code ran the scale from casual to dresses and suits, but most people were wearing jeans and dressy tops.  There were at least 60 race participants there; most of them were wearing t-shirts or sweatshirts identifying their team and/or kennel name.  Sean Parnell, the governor of Alaska was in attendance and spoke for a few moments to wish the race teams a safe and enjoyable race.  He also introduced the other four past governor’s who were in attendance.  Sarah Palin came to the stage in chic jeans and a USA t-shirt; she fit right in with many other locals and guests.

We all had a really nice, huge dinner while watching video of past races and dogs.  It started out with bread and salad, followed by steak, potatoes and three different vegetables.  They finished it off with coffer an a huge piece of chocolate cake.  There was a bar for purchasing drinks, as well as a table selling memorabilia and a huge silent auction.

So, wear whatever you want and you will fit in nicely.  Bring a sharpie and or pen for autographs.  If you’d like to get something from the bar  or Iditarod sales table; if you plan to participate in the huge silent auction, bring some money or a credit card.  Aside from that bring a big appetite for a huge slab of meat and a great dinner.

What to pack for South African vacations

What to pack for a trip to South   Africa.  If you are taking a South African vacation, the following checklist, in addition to your wardrobe, will insure that you have everything you need for a safe and enjoyable vacation.  Please, if you think of anything else, add it to the comments section at the bottom of the page.

  • Passport.  A copy of your passport, this can be a picture on your cell phone and/or a paper copy to be kept in a different place than your passport.  For added protection, you might like to register for the safe traveler program on www.state.gov.
  • Bring your own sunblock, the one that you use at home.  You already know the ingredients in this one work for your skin type.  Although you can purchase more while traveling, it may not be brands you are familiar with.
  • Plenty of bug repellent.  Bring twice what you think you will need.   There is no better investment.  Remember, even if you are taking anti malaria medicine, it is only effective against the night time mosquitoes.  The day time mosquitoes carry different germs and diseases, for which we have no preventative treatment but repellent.
  • Binoculars or a monocular for wildlife viewing.  I choose the smaller type that is manageable to carry for long periods.  Consider getting a suspender type chesty to hold the binoculars in place at your stomach.  When you see something you’d like to look at more closely, keep you eyes on the object and bring the binoculars up to your eyes; you won’t lose the subject and you’ll be quick enough that you won’t lose the moment.  They sell for about $10 at LL Bean.
  • A dry bag for your valuables when/if you go into boats or are caught in heavy rain.  Dry bags sell for under $10 and will hold a passport, cell phone and camera.
  • A camera with an extra battery and memory cards.  I happen to like the waterproof camera, but the quality of a full lens camera can’t be beat for great shots.
  • At least one hat, the sun will be hot.  If you are under trees, a hat will keep things from falling on your head also.
  • Your inoculation card  if you needed to get any shots. (I keep mine clipped to my passport)
  • An ATM card for cash at the airport and/or at the banks.  It should never be used at stand alone ATM machines.  Be sure to notify the bank of your travel.
  • A credit card to be used for any transactions other than using or getting cash.  Again, notify the bank in advance.
  • A few hundred US dollars stashed in your bag as emergency cash.
  • An umbrella and rain coat.  Also one or more long sleeved light shirts to be used in the cooler evening and also during the day to protect from sun and bugs.
  • Your personal medicine pack.  Even if you don’t normally need Imodium, bring it or the brand you would use when needed.  Bring a pain reliever, a stomach settler, Dramamine, and of course bring NEOSPORIN and bandaids.  Clean and wrap any open wounds, no matter how small, immediately.
  • Raingear, including a small umbrella.
  • Power converter.

A generic packing list is also available for those who want more information.

1 2