COOL CRUISING to
Approach to Sawyer Glacier
by Linda Coffman
When it's in the
air, cruisers' fancies turn north. North to Alaska, with thoughts of
majestic scenery, frontiers to explore, and WARM CLOTHING to pack.
No tropical prints, sandals, or bikinis are necessary, but that's
all the stores are FULL of this time of year.
What's a cruiser to
do? First you need to know how to dress and then where to find what
That's your first
concern. The secret to being comfortable on an Alaska cruise is
"layers" of light clothing in natural fabrics. Silk
undergarments are the ultimate in warmth and luxury next to the
skin. Top that with a cotton turtleneck or shirt and finish up with
a sweater and wind breaker. Bottom wear can be jeans or khaki pants. Warm socks and shoes that fit well and keep water and cold at
bay are a must.
Summer weather in
Alaska can be sunny and warm, overcast and chilly, or damp and
dreary. It's changeable, depending on your itinerary and the month
you're cruising in. Late May and September are naturally going to be
cooler than June, July, and August. In May and June you'll see a lot
more snow on the mountains. Later in the summer you may encounter
some of the mosquitoes the state is famous for.
In late-May and
early-June I found nylon "wind-suits" with a light cotton
lining were ideal. They fit the bill for comfort (elastic
waistbands!) and warmth. With a turtleneck and light sweater under
the jackets and, if necessary, a pair of leggings under the pants,
they were even warm enough for glacier viewing days.
Anorak-style jackets with a hood are just
about perfect outerwear. So, where do you find that, and other
outdoorsy style clothing when it's not on display at the mall? Why
it's simple... cruise the following selections online:
our rubbery yellow cocoons, we DID look like we were setting out to
troll for salmon off the fantail. While pondering what to pack, I
thought of the slickers we'd used so often on our boat in the Gulf
of Mexico. They folded flat and barely took up room in the suitcase.
Best of all, they cut the wind effectively and have hoods to ward
off drizzling rain.
On our first day
out of Vancouver, we were sitting at the pool bar of our Norwegian
Cruise Line ship. It was overcast, but not
cold. Not at first. Our Jamaican bartender showed us his
mini-thermometer which read about 50 degrees. Not a useful device in
his Jamaica homeland, he snorted--the temperature didn't go high
enough on it. Suddenly, the partly cloudy day took a cloudier and
colder turn. Now the thermometer read 35 degrees and we switched
from Salty Dogs to Jamaican Coffee with Tia Maria, rum, and warmth.
The bright yellow slicker I slipped on provided an envelope against
the chill and, while other less hardy souls scampered to indoor
spaces, we continued to enjoy the scenery and company of our new
Jamaican friend from outdoors.
I highly recommend
a slicker or poncho if you have one.
You'll be glad you
brought extra film and a long lens for your camera. Figure on the
amount of film you normally use, then double that. A panorama camera
or lens is highly recommended. Binoculars (in the 7 X 50 lens range)
or sport glasses are a necessity to bring seals, whales, and eagles
into closer view. And you really don't want to have too
close an encounter with a bear, do you? Better to have binoculars.
Outside, at a
deck's rail, is where you'll want to be as your vessel slips
silently into a passage and you suddenly encounter small icebergs
and finally, the surprising blue tinted glacier. It can be an hours
long experience and for that, a hat, or earmuffs, and gloves are a
Do you really need
an umbrella? Do as I do, bring a folding one you can slip into your
tote bag or purse. It's a given that if you have it, you won't need
it, but if you don't... yes, it'll rain. Insect repellent? Bring it
along, Alaska is famous for her state bird, the mosquito. You may or
may not have a problem with them, depending on the timing of your
cruise and the activities you choose ashore.
outside is chilly and the air inside your ship is heated. Combine
those two elements and your skin and hair will suffer. Pack your
most aggressive moisturizer, body lotion, and hair conditioner or
visit the ladies in the onboard spa.
Alaska cruising is
different than forays into the Caribbean. While more families are
visiting our northernmost state, you'll often find a more mature
passenger mix and an earlier to bed crowd. Activities are likely to
wind up shortly after the midnight buffet, if not before. You
certainly want to appear stylishly attired, but the key word is
comfort. Evening wear is more likely to be heavy on brocades and
silks and light on strapless evening dresses for the ladies. Less is
more... think pearls, not sequins. Men will be formal in tuxes and
dark suits and a lot of navy-blue blazers will be sported at dinner,
even on casual nights.
It's not all
dress-up, of course. On NCL, our Alaska cruise included a Klondike
Night when flannel shirts and jeans were appropriate and encouraged
attire. Incidentally, our on-board native Alaskan guide was the only
woman I saw in sleeveless dresses on formal nights.
P.S. The scenery is
just as stunning when viewed from the ship's hot tub or heated pool.
Remember to take swimwear and something to cover up with when you
leave the water.
Don't miss the Cruise
Diva's information on Alaska Ports of Call
Diva's FOCUS on Cool Cruise Destinations
- What you need to know before
you go-- tips for planning and packing.