My Personal Experience on an Alaskan Cruisetour: Q&A Edition
In August 2023, one of our Boscov’s Travel employees’ Grandmother took a CruiseTour in Alaska onboard Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas. Read her incredible experience below:
Q: How long have you wanted to go to Alaska and what made you want to go?
A: I’ve wanted to go since the 90’s! Alaska sounded beautiful, nice and different. There seemed to be a different way of life and the thought of going there sounded adventurous. Prior to going to Alaska, I have been to 43 of 50 states. Alaska being an additional one I wanted to check off my list!
Q: How old are you? If I can share because it truly makes this entire experience more incredible in my eyes that you were able to finally make your dreams come true, especially at your age! I admire this.
A: Yeah yeah, sure. I’m eighty years old.
Q: What finally got you to go to Alaska?
A: I finally found someone to go with me and my granddaughter made it very easy to finally go because she works for Boscov’s Travel. She had my friend and I come in to meet with one of the Travel Advisors. This was my first time using a Travel Advisor, but the service at Boscov’s Travel was phenomenal and we were well taken care of. We took an Alaskan CruiseTour for about two weeks – which means when we arrived in Alaska, we saw places by land and then halfway through we boarded Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas to see even more of the incredible state by ship!
Q: What did you pack that came in handy?
A: My raincoat and rain pants. While it did not rain much, it did rain early in the morning at Icy Strait and on the last day in the morning at Ketchikan. Otherwise, we had great weather, but that’s why these came in handy. My granddaughter also made us matching shirts which were fun to wear on embarkation day. I wanted matching shirts like you see people wear on cruises and she surprised us with them. We got many compliments and it was fun to strike up conversations with fellow passengers because of our shirts!
Q: What do you wish you packed with you?
A: I wish I packed more capris since the weather was pretty in between each day, which I am grateful for. I do feel I had everything I needed as my Boscov’s Travel Advisor gave me a packing list for Alaska. I felt well set with what I took.
Q: What was the weather like during your time in Alaska?
A: The weather for our time there was great! It was between 65 and 75 degrees most days and sunny. There were a few days that started out with clouds and fog, but it always became nice later on in the day. The entire land portion of our tour was sunny and warm. On the ship it was a bit cooler, but it was still very nice. We encountered rain in Icy Strait, Skagway and Ketchikan, but most of the rain was early in the morning or a drizzle so it did not affect our days very much. Overall, there was not really bad weather at all!
Q: What was your favorite hotel you stayed at during the land portion?
A: Sophie Station Suites in Fairbanks. We had a kitchen, a living room and a bedroom. We could walk to a strip mall nearby which had fast food restaurants and also a few grocery stores to get food to make breakfast. There was a restaurant at the hotel, beautiful flowers, and an exercise room. The beds were also very comfortable. Here’s a tip for you, if you go to the bathroom in your room here – the doors are sliding so be careful you don’t get locked in. This was really funny because both my friend and I got locked in. If you do get locked in, there’s a little round button inside the door hole that you have to push. It took us some time to figure out, but it worked.
Q: What was your favorite land tour destination?
A: Denali Village because it was a cute little village on the river with a beautiful deck off the main building lobby with a restaurant, bar, coffee bar, couches, TVs and a huge deck overlooking the river. There were also hiking paths, little shops, fire pits and the Cabin Night Dinner Theater which had a fun singing and dancing show about Alaskan pioneer times. The family-style food at the theater was very good.
Q: What was your favorite land tour excursion?
A: The excursion we took in Fairbanks was one of my favorites. We started by visiting the Alaskan Pipeline which was really cool. I learned a lot – the pipeline goes from Prudhoe Bay all the way down to Valdez. It was neat to see how big it really was. After the pipeline, we went to the Museum of the North at the University of Alaska. They had a lot of artifacts from when the Alaskan villages had tribes. From there we went into downtown Fairbanks and had lunch at the Crepery – absolutely delicious!
After the Crepery, we completed my favorite part of this excursion, the paddleboat ride! This boat took us up and down the river where we got to see many houses that were built along the river, an airplane landing on the river, and Susan Butcher’s Musher Dog Camp which is now run by her daughters. We were able to see how they hooked the dogs up and watched them pull an atv with wheels since there was no snow at the time. Afterwards, the dogs went swimming! Then the boat went further down the river to a village where they explained the process of how to catch salmon and cure it. Then we got off the boat and went through a village which depicted how the Alaskan tribes used to live. They showed us the animal skins they use to make coats with, the coats themselves, elks they raised and recreated houses that we walked through. The final part of this excursion is where they brought over the dogs from the musher camp so we could pet and play with them. The dogs really liked the kids which was very cute. We ended this fun excursion with a paddleboat ride back to the dock.
Q: What was your favorite place to eat on the land tour?
A: I think the meals we had on the Wilderness Express Train that went from Fairbanks to Denali, then Denali to Talkeetna, and later, Talkeetna to Anchorage were my favorite. We were on this train three different times and each experience of the train was very fun. We ate great food (breakfast, lunch and dinner), had drinks and met fellow travelers. It sounds a little silly but an atmosphere like the Wilderness Express Train makes all the difference for your meals. We got to see a lot of animals and stunning scenery while onboard. The train was a double-decker with the top half being a domed-glass rail car for viewing – phenomenal.
Q: What is your favorite memory from the land portion of your tour?
A: Seeing Mount Denali from Talkeetna Resort. We had beautiful views during the sunset on the back deck of the resort. At first, Mount Denali’s peak was the only visible part of the mountain, but when the sun went down the clouds dissipated and we could see the entire mountain. It was a beautiful and breathtaking moment.
Q: Moving on to the cruise portion of your tour, how was Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas?
A: The ship was very nice! It was just the right size for cruising Alaska. If we were on anything bigger, the ship would not have been able to go to all the ports it did, plus it would’ve taken me too long to get to where I needed to go onboard. They had a lot of activities and our stateroom was nice.
Q: What did you love most about the ship?
A: There were a lot of activities going on so you never were bored. They had trivia in the Schooner Lounge and other games that were fun to play, but also watch. Plus, you can’t forget about the fabulous entertainment and dining options! One of my favorite activities onboard was the parade of flags where they had everyone who was working on the ship carry their country’s flag and put on a performance to show off their country.
Q: What was your favorite entertainment onboard?
A: The Piano Man show was very good. There was a lot of singing, dancing and of course, piano playing.
Q: What was your favorite restaurant and meal onboard?
A: Hands down, my favorite dining experience onboard was Giovanni’s Italian Restaurant. We had a seat by the window and a very attentive waiter. The food was very good. For my appetizer, I had breaded eggplant parmesan with sauce. I’m getting hungry just talking about it. For my main course, I had filet mignon with mashed potatoes, broccoli and dinner rolls on the side. Last but not least, was dessert – tiramisu and coffee. Everything was extremely delicious and my friend also really enjoyed her meal.
Q: What was your favorite excursion from the ship?
A: This is hard to choose, but I really enjoyed Whale Watching in Icy Strait Point. We saw a lot of whales, some were even swimming in groups of three or four, going in and out of the water. The excursion tour operators were great with their knowledge, where to go and where to watch the whales. We learned if you watch the birds and where they flew, there were typically fish there. If there were fish, the whales would also be around.
Q: What was your favorite port?
A: My favorite port was definitely Skagway because there was a lot to do. We went on another favorite excursion of mine here, the White Pass Railroad! This excursion included a ride on the railroad, a salmon bake, Liarsville, and a Red Onion Saloon Tour. We began the excursion by boarding the White Pass Railroad to the Yukon in Canada where we saw some really great scenery along with the path that the prospectors had to take from Skagway up to the Yukon in Canada.
From Canada we took a bus down to Liarsville with a stop at the Alaska welcome sign to take a photo. Liarsville is like a tent city where the miners used to stop before taking the path up to the gold rush fields. We learned the town was called Liarsville because prospectors would make up stories about how much gold they found in the Yukon. I found it very interesting. Liarsville also had entertainment and gold panning where we panned little flakes of gold. There were also little tents set up to demonstrate how the prospectors used to live including a press, madams’ tents, stores and more. After Liarsville, we went to a salmon bake which was delicious!
Following the salmon bake, we went to the Red Onion Saloon and took a tour of the upstairs brothel and had champagne – very fun! To end our time in Skagway we walked around town and got some ice cream. Something funny to share with you is that we got ice cream in every port because each port in Alaska claims that their ice cream is the best, so we had to try it all.
Q: That’s funny, so who do you think has the best ice cream?
A: They all tasted equally good. But I will say my favorite flavor was Moose Tracks in Skagway, which is ironic being in Alaska (moose), but it was yummy!
Q: What is your favorite memory from a port?
A: This isn’t a port where you can get off the ship, but seeing and cruising the Hubbard Glacier was incredible. The ship did a 360-degree turn during this part of the cruise. We had a balcony stateroom so we sat on our balcony taking in all the scenery and wildlife of this beautiful area. We saw many seals lounging out on icebergs which was cool. I highly recommend a balcony stateroom just for this experience alone.
Q: We’ve talked a lot about the Alaskan wildlife so let’s go over the animals you saw.
A: We really did see a lot of animals! The one place we saw many animals was in Denali on the Tundra Wilderness Tour excursion – so much fun! The animals we saw on this tour included a moose hiding in bushes, brown squirrels, the Alaskan State Bird: the Willow Ptarmigan with its babies, a brown grizzly bear eating berries, caribou, and Dall sheep up on the rocky part of the mountain. If you want to see Alaskan wildlife, this is a great excursion for you! My suggestion would be to go on an early morning excursion so you see more animals as they are very active in the morning. Throughout Alaska we also saw more moose, seals, cows, otters, salmon, bald eagles and of course the musher dogs!
Q: You have shared with me previously you made new friends on your trip. Do you want to share more about that?
A: Sure! We met and bonded with six different pairs and two families during our time in Alaska. During many of our land excursions, we all hung out together and got to know each other. After boarding the ship, we saw some of them and caught up, but we weren’t on any excursions together. Since being home, I have been in touch with about five of the pairs and hope to visit them in the future. We agreed if we ever get to each other’s neck of the woods we would meet up!
Q: What surprised you the most about Alaska?
A: What surprised me the most was how barren Alaska was, even in the towns. There were not many people there at all. Anchorage is the biggest city in Alaska and it’s not much bigger than Reading, Pennsylvania.
Q: Was there anything you did or saw that you wish you skipped?
A: Actually, no.
Q: Is there anything else we did not discuss that you’d like to mention?
A: Well, in Ketchikan the excursion we took was really great! We went to Potlatch Totem Park and saw many Totem Poles. We actually went in a building where they did all the totem carving and learned that the trees are hollowed out so they don’t rot once carved. The carvings each tell a story which is very neat.
After the totem park, we went to the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show, which was recommended by my granddaughter and a lot of fun. I also now recommend it! After the show, we went to Creek Street a little section of Ketchikan that is built over the water of the Ketchikan Creek. There were houses built on stilts and many shops where the prices were more reasonable than some of the other ports.
We were blessed at Creek Street during the time that we were visiting because the salmon were swimming upstream – meaning we got to see the salmon climbing ladder and jumping out of the water. We also got to see some seals and otters, one which was eating the salmon. We enjoyed this port so I feel it is worth mentioning.
Q: What is a summarization of how Alaska made you feel?
A: Oh boy, I was extremely glad I went there and learned more about the state. It felt like a different country and was so pretty. I was very happy to see everything and had a very good time. So, happy would be the answer to your question.
Q: Would you travel to Alaska again?
A: Yes, but I would try different things and see new places. I would really like to go to Seward and see the Fjords. I would love to see different towns during the land portion of the tour and cruise to other ports. There’s a lot to see and do in each port so even if I went to the same ports again, I could do something different every time. I also want to go to the Mendenhall Glacier on a raft because I was supposed to do this on an excursion, but it was cancelled due to permafrost causing a flood. This was the only disappointment of my entire trip, which was no party’s fault. This just gives me more of a reason to go back!
Q: What do you recommend to anyone wanting to travel to Alaska?
A: Take a CruiseTour and use a Boscov’s Travel Advisor. If you take a CruiseTour, do the land tour portion first because it is very busy and then once you board the ship you can rest the first day since you’re at sea.
Q: What advice would you give someone going to Alaska for the first time?
A: Pack different types of clothing because the weather can be anywhere from 30 to 80 degrees – you truly never know what it will be. Pack some of everything, but make sure you have layers so you can put them on and take them off. Also, take a backpack so you can use it for said layers as needed.
Q: What was your favorite part about using Boscov’s Travel and would you use them again?
A: I enjoyed the ease of being able to have someone assist me in planning my vacation itinerary and flights. It made my vacation experience much more relaxing. I would definitely use them again. Their services were phenomenal from start to finish. My Travel Advisor was there to assist me along the way with any questions I had. This was the best way to book my Alaskan CruiseTour and I wouldn’t have done it any other way.
Does this incredible experience incline you to explore the Final Frontier? Your local Boscov’s Travel Advisor is ready to assist you in planning whenever you’re ready! Contact your local Boscov’s Travel or call 800-755-8020 or visit https://boscovstravel.com/cruises/alaska.html to learn more.