I took a cruise to Alaska – surprising things about the trip + photos

I sailed for eight days on the Celebrity Millennium.

Writer and her family pose by "icy straight point" sign in Alaska

We visited ports like Icy Straight Point and Juneau.

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My family of six took a cruise to Alaska on the ? Famous Millenniumwhich took us to places like Ketchikan, Icy Strait Point, Juneau, Skagway and the Hubbard Glacier.

Although I’ve taken five cruises with my family, this was the first since the height of the coronavirus pandemic, and there were some things I didn’t expect from the overall experience.

Even though it was summer, it was still cold and sometimes too foggy to see anything.

Image of pool deck on cruise with Alaskan landscape in the background

Passengers still hung on the pool deck, often with blankets.

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When most people book a cruise in the summer, they picture themselves poolside for days, drinking frozen margaritas and wearing shorts.

The ports we visited in Alaska were all quite warm, but the days at sea were quite cold. It was often too windy to enjoy outdoor activities such as movies in the outdoor cinema or games by the pool deck.

We were also looking forward to sailing through Alaska’s picturesque Inside Passage, but it was too foggy to see anything.

There were blanket stations all over the pool deck—I grabbed a few to keep warm on my stateroom balcony, too—and on our very cold trip to Hubbard Glacier, the crew handed out hot chocolate to everyone outside.

I thought there would be more food options available during the day.

Two pieces of cake on white plate from cruise

However, there were many dining options for dinner.

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Although there were plenty of special dinners for dinner and a huge buffet on the pool deck, every now and then we would come back from our excursions tired and hungry, realizing that there was nowhere to eat anything unique until our set meal.

The buffet was closed between lunch and dinner, except for the pizza bar. Even the burger station on the pool deck was not available.

I’m glad I packed eye masks for sleep.

A person wrapped in a blanket staring at the Alaskan sunrise during a cruise

The sun was supposed to rise in Alaska as early as 3 a.m.

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In Alaska, the sun rose as early as 3 a.m. and did not set until 10 p.m.

Because the sun came out so late, I didn’t feel tired, but bringing an eye mask with me helped me maintain a regular sleep schedule.

I would definitely recommend packing one, especially if you are a light sleeper like me.

Although the ship had hand sanitizer and masks, I didn’t see many guests using them.

Two cruisers taking a picture together in Alaska harbor

Celebrity provided passengers with masks.

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Since this was my first cruise since the pandemic, I was curious to see what health protocols would be put in place, if any. For example, guests needed a negative COVID-19 test to board the ship. We also provided proof of vaccination.

I didn’t notice any social distancing measures on board, but I often saw staff wiping buttons, tables and other frequently touched surfaces. In addition, there was hand sanitizer near the dining areas.

I also appreciated that they gave guests reusable masks with Celebrity branding, but I rarely saw anyone wearing them. However, every staff member I saw was masked.

The onboarding process and safety briefing were surprisingly easy.

Cruising family during lunch on the ship

After the safety briefing, we attended a concierge-class lunch in the main dining room.

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Unlike many other cruise lines I’ve sailed with, Celebrity only required us to watch a video and check in at the meeting station as part of our mandatory safety briefing.

We checked in there with the staff as soon as we boarded the ship and were then free to roam and go to our staterooms, making this the fastest briefing I’ve ever experienced.

As our stateroom was part of the concierge class, we were also able to enjoy a exclusive lunch in the main dining room. Overall, it was by far the smoothest boarding process I’ve experienced.

We used our phones way more than I expected.

screenshot of Celebrity cruise app that says: "stay connected during your cruise"

My family used the Celebrity app to keep in touch on board.

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Passengers were able to book dinner reservations, view the daily itinerary and even view dinner menus in advance via the Celebrity app.

The general cruise fare included a basic Wi-Fi package, which worked pretty much just for the app.

We’ve used the messaging feature to stay connected, set up a group chat to let each other know where to meet on the boat, and send reminders about dinner reservations or excursion times.

Keeping my phone charged was important to keep in touch with my family and easily know what was happening around the ship.

We drank so much coffee.

Teapot with cup of hot water and coffee on the table on cruise

Coffee was included in my drinks package.

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Celebrity offers passengers a basic drink package as part of the original fare.

My family stayed with the classic drinks package, which covered each drink up to $9. If we wanted to buy drinks that were not part of our rate, such as a premium cocktail, we only had to pay the difference.

I don’t drink a lot of alcohol, but luckily the ship had a coffee shop that came under my package. Having access to unlimited iced lattes and specialty hot teas was a major highlight.

People were dressed casually in the main dining room.

Two women sit in the main dining room of Alaska cruise

Even the formal night was more casual than most ships.

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While there were signs not to wear flip flops or shorts in the dining room, that certainly didn’t stop anyone.

I noticed that many guests did not follow the dress code during dinner, but were still allowed in the dining room.

Plus, the formal evenings called for “evening chic,” which means: Celebrity describes as a ‘modern take on dressing up’, taking cocktail dresses and designer jeans as examples.

Some of the passengers wore dresses and heels, but I could opt for sandals and a sundress, which was more comfortable.

I could have ordered just about any meal in my stateroom with room service, even food from the main dining room.

Alaska sunset views from the cruise deck

I didn’t have to go to the deck buffet or dining room to eat.

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One night I began to feel bloated from the amount of food we had eaten and skipped dinner in the main hall.

My parents informed me that our waiter asked if I would like to send food to me.

I could have ordered anything in the main dining room—even a plate of beef Wellington—and had it delivered to my stateroom.

On day six we started to stop doing things.

Person in white sweater playing word game on cruise

Occasionally we played games on board.

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Since this was an Alaskan trip and it was usually too cold to lounge on the pool deck or swim, we were surprised by the lack of onboard activities – especially during sea days.

We attended a lot of the trivia sessions as well as silent disco nights but would have liked more options like bingo or mini golf.

Le Petit Chef was an adorable specialty dining experience that felt worth the price.

a plate of food on a colorful table at la petit chef

Le Petit Chef is an immersive 3D food show.

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Normally my parents eat dinner in the main dining room rather than the specialty restaurants, but when we found out Le Petit Chef – an immersive 3D dinner show with “the smallest chef in the world” – was offered on board, we booked a reservation right away.

The dining experience, which costs about $55 per person, consists of a cartoon chef projected onto the table and plates.

It was surprisingly heartwarming, and the food was quite tasty, especially after watching the little animated chef cook it for us.

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