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Enjoying a cruise to Alaska during the pandemic

Sailing through Glacier Bay National Park.

As vaccination rates rise, cruise lines are hitting the high seas again, with pandemic precautions in place.

In August 2021, AAA communications and programs manager Doug Shupe boarded the Majestic Princess in Seattle with face masks and hand sanitizer, bound for the Great Land.

Seattle skyline seen from the water

Departing Seattle for a 7-day cruise aboard the Majestic Princess to Alaska’s Inside Passage.

During his 7-day Princess cruise to Alaska, Shupe sailed the scenic Inside Passage and Glacier Bay, and stopped in Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan. Here is his report.

The Majestic Princess docked in Skagway, Alaska

The Majestic Princess docked in Skagway, Alaska.

Was this your first cruise?

This was my first to Alaska. I’d gone on Caribbean cruises years ago, but on those sailings, it was all about sitting by the pool and soaking up the sun. On days at sea, you didn’t get to see much. This cruise was quite different.

Doug Shupe taking a selfie in front of a glacier

Doug Shupe at Glacier Bay National Park.

What was different about your cruise to Alaska?

Sailing up the Inside Passage, you’re fairly close to land all the time. You’re able to see stunning views in all directions, including waterfalls, and lots of wildlife.

It was amazing. The views of bright-white, snow-capped mountains against the twilight sky was awesome. It was a great opportunity to relax and enjoy wonderful scenery.

Rocks covered in resting seals

Seals sunbathe on rocks, which is just one of the wildlife spotted on an Alaska cruise.

What COVID protocols did Princess Cruise Lines implement?

Before I got on the Majestic Princess, I not only had to show proof of full vaccination, but also proof of a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours of our departure.

Of course, you’re required to wear face masks in indoor areas, except when you’re eating or drinking. You don’t have to wear them in your stateroom, on your balcony, or outside on deck.

A Majestic Princess crew member wiping down a bannister

A Majestic Princess crew member cleans bannisters.

The crew are required to wear face masks, and they did a lot of extra cleaning. They used medical-grade cleaning supplies, and were continually cleaning handrails, staterooms, and dining rooms. The crew also asked passengers to wash their hands before entering the dining areas. They did a terrific job; the Majestic Princess was immaculate.

Also, Princess Cruise Lines has touchless systems in place, where they give you a medallion to wear to unlock your cabin, as well as pay for shore excursions and all other items purchased on the ship.

You may also like: A veteran cruiser’s 10 essential tips and insights

How was dining on the ship?

Buffets are handled differently than before the pandemic. You still have that huge assortment of food, but the crew serves the food as opposed to you serving yourself. The food selection was excellent; I gained 6 pounds.

Are cruise lines limiting capacity?

They are. My ship could hold just over 3,500 passengers, but there weren’t nearly that many aboard. Majestic Princess was sailing 65 to 70 percent full to enforce social distancing.

The Hollywood Pool Club onboard the Majestic Princess.

The Hollywood Pool Club onboard the Majestic Princess.

That was really apparent all over my ship. There was plenty of space for folks to socially distance and still enjoy so many of the features that cruises are known for: the shows, the games, the theater, the movies—all the recreational activities.

What did your fellow passengers think of the rules?

Nobody seemed bothered. When I talked with other passengers, they told me they felt comfortable and safe. Everybody was just so glad to be able to get back out there on the high seas again.

When we boarded, the crew lined up to greet us and you could tell they were excited to be back.

 A giant chess set

A giant chess set in the Hollywood Conservatory onboard the Majestic Princess.

How do cruise lines handle young children who can’t get vaccinated yet?

It depends on the cruise line—that’s why it’s really important to work with a trusted travel advisor, like the ones we have at AAA. They can help answer all your questions about the changes that COVID brings. A travel advisor will know all the ins and outs of the COVID protocols on the ship you’re planning to sail on.

A movie playing on the pool deck

A movie plays above the Fountain Pool aboard the Majestic Princess.

What was your favorite thing to do on the cruise?

I loved sitting on my cabin’s balcony each morning with a cup of coffee and watching whales, seals, and bald eagles go by. It was a great way to start the day.

You may also like: 7 reasons why a cruise is the ultimate multigenerational vacation

Did you go on shore excursions?

I went on two shore excursions. One was rock climbing and rappel in Skagway. Climbed about 7 stories high up the side is a rock cliff and then rappelled backwards. It was exciting and a scary at the same time. 

Misty Fjords National Monument seen from a sea plane

A sea plane ride over Misty Fjords National Monument.

In Ketchikan I went on a sea plane ride over the Misty Fjords National Monument. I had always wanted to ride in a sea plane and this was the perfect opportunity to do so because of the beauty all around. Looking out of both sides of the plane you could see captivating mountains and picturesque water views.

The pilot landed the sea plane on the water during the flight and allowed us to get outside on the sea plane’s pontoon to take photos. It was spectacular to be able to experience landing and taking off in the sea plane a total of 4 times. 

This was a trip that I definitely will not forget.

Which port stop did you like best?

Ketchikan was my favorite. The town was charming, and the scenery was beautiful.

Buildings along the waterfront in Ketchikan

Creek Street in Ketchikan.

Is this a good time to book a cruise?

Our AAA travel advisors are seeing a lot of demand for cruising, not only for this year with all the cruise lines that are starting up again, but throughout 2022.

That’s why if you’re thinking of sailing, it’s really a good idea to book early; with reduced capacity, these ships are going to fill up pretty fast.

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