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Thinking About Booking a Cruise? Check Out Four Tips from a First-Time Cruiser

Experience of a lifetime.

This is how I describe my Alaskan cruise with Purdue Alumni Travel Program.

I should preface this with the fact that I was also a first-time cruiser — and being out on the open sea is second on my list of biggest fears. So, when I was approached about hosting Purdue Alumni’s Alaskan cruise, I was so excited to see Alaska, but nervous about the actual “cruise” portion. Once onboard though, I met several other first-time cruisers, and this was a fear shared by many. “But, I really wanted to see Alaska!” was a common refrain, and I quickly understood why.

If you’ve never been on a cruise but are considering it, I want to share a few tips to consider.

Tip #1: If You Love Nature, Choose Alaska

If you are prone to motion sickness, an Alaskan cruise may be just your ticket!

Alaska was the perfect first cruise because most of our time was spent on the Inside Passage, which meant that sailing was very smooth.

Every day we had a new port to visit, so there was plenty of time spent off the ship, on solid ground, in pristine nature. Because we were on a smaller ship (see Tip #2), we had more stops, including Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Icy Strait Point (my personal favorite), Sitka, and Victoria, BC. Every stop gave me the opportunity to hike, kayak, bike, or just stroll about.

It was the most breathtaking experience in nature I have ever had, and the wildlife was the absolute highlight. I saw humpback whales, killer whales, bears, eagles, salmon, and as I walked along the beach at Icy Strait Point, multi-colored jellyfish and dozens of giant starfish just feet away from shore!

Tip #2:  Choose a Small Ship

The Regatta was a great size for a first-time cruiser because the size was not too overwhelming (around 600 passengers). I was able to navigate the ship easily while still experiencing something new each day.

My favorites included the special access spa area, the quiet solitude and expansive selection of the library, and the wide variety of restaurants.

Did I mention there was free room service 24 hours a day? The food was incredible — and coming from a former owner of a farm-to-table restaurant, I was highly impressed! I learned that the smaller the ship, the better the food and service.

Tip #3: Explore the Ship & Its Programs Each Day

I really enjoyed our days at sea because there was so much to do! Each day, the cruise director put out a newsletter to highlight the various entertainment and activities the ship had to offer. I especially enjoyed afternoon tea — along with the string quartet, which played twice daily right down the hall from the amazing 24 hour coffee bar!

Most guests were eager to engage in conversation, and because we were traveling with several fellow Purdue alumni, we always had our Purdue memories to discuss during our time at sea.

Tip #4: Book Some Excursions

I definitely recommend booking a few excursions through the ship. It takes care of all your planning, scheduling, and transportation. The ship staff take such care with the passengers; I always felt prepared and assisted with any questions I had.

In addition, there are things I never would have experienced without the excursions. I visited the DIPAC Salmon Hatchery, a nonprofit that helps repopulate salmon in Juneau; dined alfresco at the Gold Creek Salmon Bake; and hiked in the Tongass National Rainforest, up and around Mendenhall Glacier. All of this was included in just one excursion that the ship offered.

Why book with Purdue Alumni Travel? When I asked our alumni travelers why they book with us, they said they always know it is going to be a fantastic experience, and it takes the guesswork out of choosing “the right ship.”  Having now experienced this myself, I can say without a doubt, book the cruise!

by Jillian Henry, Vice President, Organization Development & Strategic Leadership