Alaska Cruise Experts: Ports of Call Tips
By Victor Anicama
ARRIVING IN PORT
When the ship arrives in port, it will either
dock at the pier or anchor slightly offshore. You may think that
when the ship docks right at the pier you can walk must be
signed, and local authorities must give their clearance, a
process that can take as long as 2 hours. Donít bother going
down to the gangplank until you hear an announcement saying the
ship has been cleared.
If your ship anchors rather than docks (which ships usually will
do in Alaska), you will go ashore in a small boat called a
launch or tender, which ties up next to your ship and shuttles
passengers back and forth all day. Getting on the tender may
require a helping hand from crew members, and the waves may keep
the tender swaying, sometimes requiring passengers to literally
jump to get aboard.
Whether the ship is docked or anchored, you are in no way
required to get off at every port of call. The shipís
restaurants will remain open, and there will be activities
offered, though usually on a limited basis. If you do get off,
before you reboard you may want to use the phones at the docks
to call home. This is much cheaper than making calls from the
ship. But be prepared to wait for a phone. No matter how many
telephones there are on the pier, you will invariably find that
off-duty members of the crew, who generally get off the ship
earlier than passengers, have beaten you to them. Itís an
interesting exercise to stand near a dozen public telephones and
listen to the Filipino, cockney, French, Norwegian, and other
languages and dialects being spoken by the users.
THE ESSENTIALS: DONíT LEAVE THE SHIP WITHOUT íEM
bring your ship boarding pass (or shipboard ID) with you when
you disembark or you will have trouble getting back on board.
You may also be required to show a photo ID or driverís
license (the ship will let you know if you have to carry this as
well). And also donít forget to bring a little cash?Ä"although
your ship operates on a cashless system, the ports do not. Many
passengers get so used to carrying no cash or credit cards while
aboard ship that they forget them when going ashore.
WATCH THE CLOCK
If youíre going off on your own, whether on
foot or on one of the alternate tours or transportation options
that weíve listed, remember to be very careful about timing.
Cruise lines are very strict about sailing times, which will be
posted around the ship. Youíre generally required to be back
at the dock at least a half hour before the shipís scheduled
departure. Passengers running late on one of the lineís shore
excursions neednít worry: If an excursion runs late, the ship
accepts responsibility and wonít leave without the late
If youíre on your own and do miss the boat, immediately
contact the cruise line representative at the port. Youíll
probably be able to catch your ship at the next port of call,
but youíll have to pay your own way to get there.
Experts, your source for information on Alaska Cruises,
Ports of Call, Packing tips and more.