Updated: Sep 15, 2019
My mom was a "teenage mom" and on March 2, 1993, she gave birth to me. When I entered high school, she told me that if I made good grades and did not get pregnant, she would take me anywhere in the world that I wanted to go. I graduated high school and my parents took me on my first trip out the country. At that time, my parents were traveling to Jamaica often and I made sure to remind them to take me!
So what made us travel to The Last Frontier: Alaska? Well, back in the day, a person would have to actually go inside of a travel agent office to book a trip. At the age of 7, I accompanied my mother to the travel agent office. I saw my mother pick up an Alaskan Cruise brochure and say "this is my dream trip!" I've watched my mother bend over backwards for so many people in and outside of our family and as I grew older, I worked hard to make her proud and to "not be a product of my environment." Growing up in Dallas, Oak Cliff, Texas, I quickly took heed to the saying "a smart man learn from his mistakes, but a wise man learn from the mistakes of others." I never knew or even had goals as a child to be an entrepreneur, however Oak Cliff taught me what I did not want to be and that was enough for me to obtain a Master's Degree and start my own business! My exact words to my mother at the age of 7 was "one day, when I am grown, I'm going to take you on your dream trip."
After launching my first company www.divinebeautybar.com, I was blessed to call my mother and say "Pack your bags! We're going to Alaska!" On August 2, 2019, age 26, "one day" finally came and I treated my mother to a 7 day all-expense paid trip to Alaska. I wanted to show her my appreciation for her many sacrifices; not only for me, but for those she gave her last too and never received a thank you. Without her, I would not be the woman that I am today and the only thing I wanted was to see her wake up each day of the cruise smiling! I wanted to surprise her so I kept the itinerary a secret and each day, I surprised her with a new adventure! This was our first cruise. Continue reading to see why our next cruise will be tough to beat!
Day 1: Embarkation Day
Cruise critic said it best, "Embarkation Day means leaving all of your cares behind as you enter into vacationland, where the drinks flow freely, the chores are left to others and all you need to do is relax and have fun!" Before boarding the Ruby Princess, we explored Seattle. We flew in a day earlier and stayed a day later so that I could show my mother some of my favorite places to visit in the beautiful city of Seattle. Click here to read my Seattle travel blog! This ship was very clean, beautiful and full of activities. I will list below some of the things we participated in on the ship.
Embarkation Day Tip: Although Alaska is part of the USA, do NOT forget to bring your passport. We cruised from Seattle to Seattle August 3-10th (Skagway, Juneau, Ketchikan, and Victoria, Canada, BC) and our last stop was Canada. The cruise was scheduled to leave at 4:00 p.m., however the earliest we could board was 2:30p.m. Arriving early, eliminated long lines and stress. It also allowed us to wine down before the safety orientation.
You cannot bring liquor on board,but you are allowed to bring one bottle of wine. If your return flight is through Alaska Airlines and you leave from Oregon, Washington or California and decide to purchase wine on or off the ship, Alaska Airlines will ship your wine home for FREE and place a fragile sticker on there for extra security!
Day 2: At Sea/Spa Day & Fine Dining
Before taking the cruise, many people said that 7 days would be too long. We felt the complete opposite. A seven day cruise was too short! I could have definitely cruised for 3 more days. The water was so calm and we could barely feel it. The Ruby Princess cruise ship was very neat and organized. Each night we received a pamphlet with the
following day’s itinerary. This ship had tons of things to do such as, Art Auctions, Live
Music, Piano Bar, Kid/Teen Zone, Club/Disco (every night), Movies under the Stars and my favorite- "The Voice of the Ocean" (passengers were able to audition and the stage was set up like
the real show). There were also multiple pools and hot tubs aboard.
On Day 2, we went for massages and ate at one of the specialty dining options. I booked the massages and fine dining through the Ruby Princess website before the cruise. The cruise also had a buffet that was decent. I am not a buffet girl so we only ate their twice. My recommendation is to wait before booking the massages because there's a good chance you will receive discounts once you arrive. I would also recommend purchasing the anytime dining and making reservations at the specialty restaurants/steakhouse. The food was superb and at a great price. Here is the menu for the Crowne Grill and Curtis Stone Share restaurant. The restaurants offered three to six course meals for a cover charge of $29 each. Last, but not least, we ended each night at the club! The DJ played a variety of music from Country to R&B to Afrobeats!
Day 3: Juneau Alaska/Whale Watching, Mendenhall Glacier and dinner at Tracy King Crab Shack
Our first stop on the cruise was Juneau, Alaska! Juneau is the capital of Alaska. On this day, we took an awesome Whale Watching, Mendenhall Glacier, and Tracy's King Crab Shack Combo Tour. This tour was booked through TripAdvisor. It was 6.5 hours and $189 each. When whale watching, the tour companies cannot guarantee you that you will see whales. We were fortunate to see so many whales and snagged a great video. We watched the whales for two hours and the tour guides were very informative on the type of whales there are and their habitat. After whale watching, we completed a self-guided tour of the Mendenhall Glacier with a 45 minute hike to the powerful Nugget Waterfall. This was a flat, easy hike. Lastly, we ended the day at Tracy King Crab Shack where we ate Crab Cakes, Lobster Bisque and King Crab Legs! This tour fit perfectly with the ship's timing. Before the cruise, you will receive the time you will arrive and leave each port so please plan your tours accordingly! The ship docked from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. on this day.
Day 4: Skagway/Helicopter Glacier Flight & Hike and Red Onion Saloon Brothel Tour
Before coming I asked my mother what was the one thing that she was looking forward to and she responded "I just want to see the Glaciers!" I booked an amazing tour through Shore Excursions Group. This, in my opinion, is the ONLY way to truly see the glaciers! The glaciers are melting at a very fast pace than predicted in earlier years. Alaska is still very beautiful. However not fully covered in ice as one would assume. It also was not as cold as I thought it would be. In fact, weeks before coming, Alaska had its highest recorded day (90 degrees). CBS news reported "scientists from the University of Alaska and the U.S. Geological Survey estimate that Alaska is losing ice at the rate of 75 billion metric tons a year. They calculate that Alaska's glaciers and frozen rivers are melting fast enough to cover the whole state with 30 centimeters of water (nearly a foot) every seven years." So, definitely place Alaska on your bucket list before all the ice melts! I recommend wearing multiple layers, ear muffs, hat and especially gloves for this tour.
To make sure my mother saw the glaciers, I took her on a discovery flight that landed on a glacier, 90 miles from the Mendenhall Glacier. This was beautiful and left us speechless. I've taking many helicopter tours, including the Niagara Falls Discovery Flight, and was not scared. I must admit that I was a bit scared on this tour due to how high we had to go. The tour came with a 40 minute guided hike. This hike was easy and informative. One thing I learned is that you can drink water from the glacier due to its pureness! Although I've never walked on the moon, I am sure this is the next best thing. The cost of this tour was $728 for two people. On this day, the shipped docked from 6:00 a.m. to 8:15 p.m.
Before heading back to the ship, we took one last tour! We had a "quickie" at the Red Onion Saloon! The Red Onion Saloon offers 20 minute tours that informs tourist of life back in the 1800s. Women working at the Red Onion made $1 per 15 minutes. In those days it cost $6 to live in Skagway and a seamstress only made $3. The women at the Red Onion worked 6pm to 6am and made $60 daily. A lady by the name of Diamond Li Davenport made much more due to her million dollar smile (her teeth were studded with diamonds) voice, height and curviness! The food was good here as well as the live acts. The staff were polite. The building was kept as it was in the 1800s and the staff dressed like the women did in those days. If you are lucky, you may see Lydia, the ghost who haunts the saloon. If you smell fresh cut Lilies, then her presence is near!
Day 5: Glacier Bay Cruise (At Sea)
According to the, National Park Service, Glacier Bay covers 3.3 million acres of rugged mountains, dynamic glaciers, temperate rainforest, wild coastlines and deep sheltered fjords; Glacier Bay National Park is a highlight of Alaska's Inside Passage and part of a 25-million acre World Heritage Site—one of the world’s largest international protected areas. On this day, there were park rangers that boarded the ship so that we could learn more. The Ruby Princess was so clean and eco-friendly that we were only able to use straws and napkins during certain times on the trip. It was breathtaking to wake up to miles of Glaciers and to have breakfast while looking out them. We cruised through Glacier Bay from 6:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. We attended a Ladies Only Spa Party and was given 20% off at the Elemis Spa. This time I had Foot Detox for the first time and my mother had the Fire and Ice pedicure.
Day 6: Ketchikan, Alaska
On this day, we took a historical walking tour through Ketchikan, Alaska. This tour was booked through Princess Cruises. Here we learned about the three main tribes in Ketchikan: The Tlingit, Haida and Tshimsian tribes. We also learned about totem poles and the Shame Pole. Totem poles have carvings that often times symbolizes ancestors, cultural beliefs, events and clan lineage. The tour guide was from the Tlingit tribe and his culture had similar values such as, "it takes a village to raise a child," and that elders are to be respected no matter what. He explained that due to the location of Ketchikan, buying groceries, delivering a baby and/or taking your child to the movies can be a weekend trip. Many times they have to go to the next city over by ferry. For instance, women giving birth hospital bill will be extremely high due to having to be at the hospital a week before delivery. Expectant mothers cannot just show up at the hospital when there water breaks because they need to take the ferry.
Other passengers attended the Lumberjack Show and/or learned why Ketchikan was once called "The Wickedest City" at Dolly's House Museum. On this day, the shipped dock from 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Day 7: Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Canada was our last stop! The ship was here from 7:00 p.m. to 11:59p.m. We took an Evening City Tour booked through Shore Excursions. The tour took us through Victoria and informed us on historical sites such as, the British Columbia Parliament. We finished this night with dinner and one last dance at Luke Skywalker Disco! This was an amazing trip and I hope after reading this blog you will add The Last Frontier to your next travel destination!
Q: How much did the trip cost?
A: Typically I find awesome deals and spend very little. This particular vacation I wanted to go all out for my mother and do not like to leave any vacation singing "I shoulda' coulda' woulda'." What helped the most with cost and planning? Planning this trip 1 year in advance. Each month I would book something (i.e. tour, hotel, dinner, etc). This cruise left from Seattle, Washington. My mother flew in a day early from Dallas and I flew in from Houston. Roundtrip the tickets were between $300 to $400 each. We stayed at the Hyatt one day before and one day after the trip. The room was about $225 a night. The Alaskan Cruise for 2 total $3675. The whale watching tour was $189 each, Glacier Flight for two $728, Ketchikan Historical Walk (no more than $50), and Victoria Evening Tour $64 for two. On the ship we had massages $259 for two and pedicure/foot detox about $60 each. Total cost approximately $6,364.
Price does not include food and alcoholic drinks, souvenirs and activities we did while in Seattle before/after the cruise.
Q: Did you use a travel Agent?
A: This was my first time using a travel agent and I did not enjoy the experience. I was given a choice between cruise ships. One Alaskan cruise ship was $2500 for two people and the Ruby Princess was $3500. I was told by choosing the Ruby Princess, we will get an unlimited alcoholic beverage package. After the deposit and approximately 5 months later we are told that the drink package will not be included and that it will be an additional $500 each to include it. This was after I booked majority of the tours and room. Cancelling/rescheduling everything would have been too much to do. I absolutely loved the Ruby Princess cruise ship, however was not happy with the travel agent. We ended up spending an additional $230 each for alcoholic drinks (7 Day cruise, 3-4 drinks x $11 daily= $33 day x 7 days = $231-308). Lastly, I was initially told that the balcony rooms were around $4000. A few months prior to the trip, I asked to pay the difference to upgrade to a balcony room and was told that it would be an additional $3,792 and at this point I did not feel comfortable giving any more money to the travel agent.
Q: How was the weather? What should I wear?
A: Coming from Texas we were overdressed. We packed way too much fur and did not get to wear most of it (lol). The weather was in the 70-80s and it began getting colder the closer we cruised to Canada. For the most part, we dressed in layers and wore a light jacket. Ruby Princess do have swimming pools so do not forget to pack your swimsuit! The ship also provide blankets for watching "Movies under the Stars." One thing that I did not pack that I wish I would have packed were binoculars.
Remember that most cruises have a formal night. Pack two formal dresses or suits.
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