minimalist nightmares on alaskan cruise-title

A Minimalists Nightmare Aboard an Alaskan Cruise

Ever since my wife, Shelly, was fifteen, she wanted to go on an Alaskan cruise. This past week we made that dream a reality, rather, that dream turned into a minimalists nightmare with all the “excess”. It’s the best word I can use to describe our first cruise experience.

Living in Vancouver offered up a nice and easy method of transport to get to the…port. We took a bus, then the Skytrain to take us within steps of checking in our two small suitcases. We were docked in Vancouver’s port for several hours with a great view of both the city and the north shore mountains. Oddly, it’s a view we both get to enjoy regularly through our workplaces, and one we make a point of enjoying.

As we set off we didn’t take too many pictures — been there done that I guess. We did, however, get dressed up to go for dinner. I’m not sure why we had to dress up — I still don’t understand the “dress code” for these things-especially when it’s never truly enforced and some bozo comes in with shorts and a t-shirt — no, not me — I was decked out in my $20 Salvation Army finds. But that’s the first level of excess:

Excess luggage

I should know what to pack by now after all the bouncing around we’ve done the past three years. But that whole dinner thing puts an onion in the ointment when it comes to packing. Because we had to play Mr. Dress Up, I had to pack dress shoes, dress pants, dress shirts, and a few undershirts for said dress shirts. And Shelly had to pack dresses and nice shoes as well. It was excess clothing we’d only need for a few hours each night when we went to dinner. And speaking of dinner, boy was there some…

Excess food

When it comes to food, a cruise is like an all-inclusive resort on steroids. There’s WAY more food than necessary because they don’t want to run out, but there’s also food anytime, anywhere. The breakfast options were ridiculous, as were lunch and dinner. And the dessert options were just absurd.

The worst part was that on sea days there’s not a lot to do — at least there wasn’t on our cruise (aside from a hockey shootout in 8 degree weather in which I won 2nd place). So with less to do, there’s one thing everyone can do…EAT! And boy do people eat. You know, there were Americans, Canadians, Germans, Chinese, Mexican, Brits, and likely a few other nationalities onboard, and all nationalities had mounding plates of excess food. It’s sad, really, especially when you see those mounded plates of unwanted food stacked on a servers station. Which brings us to more waste with all the…

Excess towels

There was an ironic sign in our bathroom that read: “save the waves”, asking us to hang our towels so they didn’t have to launder them every day. It’s ironic because they didn’t mention anything about the overuse of spa and pool towel usage. Add to that our bath mat was replaced every day. Some days we didn’t even use it and it was taken away. But yes, save the waves! Here’s a better idea if you want to save the waves, reduce all the…

Excess plastic

We had plastic water bottles at every turn. It was terrible, both because plastic is such a waste, but also because I don’t know what a better alternative is for that situation. They’re just easier. Give people steel vessels and they’ll lose them, forget them, not rinse them out, or misuse them altogether. And glass breaks, so there goes that idea. Now, we did reuse our plastic bottles for about day because we do drink a lot of water, but the spout gets pretty nasty so it’s not like we wanted to make a habit of that.

I can’t say cruising is eco-friendly, by any means. And I haven’t even gotten to all the…

Excess shopping

Every morning, the cruiseline continued to attempt to save the saves by printing a flyer that advertised sales on diamonds, jewelry, art, clothing, handbags, liquor, and more. It was like a monster-truck ad for stuff…Sunday, SUNday, SUNDAY! Buy 4 handbags get the 5th free, only on level 5 near the Captain’s log!!!

Is this why people cruise? To go shopping on a boat? I don’t get it, I really don’t. It’s kind of like those deserted stores at high-end hotels. Do people REALLY buy stuff there? They must, right? Otherwise how do they stay open?

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One of the other offers on the wasteful paper flyer was something I could agree with; tours and excursions. These are a great way to experience fun and new things, like the zip rider at the Icy Straight, or maybe a short fishing excursion or whale-watching tour. But the funny thing is, when you get to port, you’re almost overrun with tour options and souvenirs it makes it confusing among all the shops, it’s like its…

Excess touristy stuff

I did enjoy our port stops, don’t get me wrong. Icy Straight was quaint and they seemed to want to educate how their town came to be. Juneau offered something for everyone, but sadly, an overcast day caused some people’s excursions to be cancelled. Not ours. Having lived in Vancouver we knew the coast weather could be either super-nice, or super-$hit. So we rented a car and drove to Eagle beach and saw several dozen bald eagles and a cute little otter. Then we hit a few other tourist spots like the Mendenhall glacier, Nugget Falls, St. Therese and a random stop in the rain forest followed by a short walk along the shoreline. Renting a car for $60 was cheaper than even the cheapest excursion of renting bikes ($85 for 2 people). And much dryer too! Sure, we missed folklore, but Shelly’s always stopping to read the historical signs and placards, then I get the highlights without having to read. It’s a win win!

Lastly we hit Ketchikan, a pretty little tourist town originated from fishing, but now relies heavily on cruises coming to port, like the rest. Their waterfront is nothing but shops selling t-shirts, jewelry, salt-water toffee, and other stuff, though. Hey, I get it, it’s their livelihood. But I think when it’s the third of three ports, and you’ve seen a lot of ‘buy this’ papers delivered to your door every day, it gets a little tiring. Give me an experience, like their Lumberjack show. To be fair, Icy Straight and Juneau offered the t-shirts too, they just didn’t seem to stick out as much, or maybe my memory is just fuzzy from all the…

Excess booze

Well, duh, how else does one tolerate bumping elbows with 2000 other people carrying mounding plates of food as they rush to the designer hand-bag sale. It’d be this minimalists nightmare without alcohol on this boat! Actually, both Shelly and I barely drink anymore, so after a few drinks the first night we definitely felt its affect. Good thing we didn’t get overly wasted on our day of…

Excess waves

Nothing you can do about the waves or the weather! I wouldn’t say I have my full sea-legs just yet, I don’t think I’ve experienced serious enough chop is all. But on our way home sailing through the Queen Charlotte Sound, it was pretty bad. I was okay, but Shelly doesn’t have her sea legs at all, nor did numerous other guests who likely hung out in their rooms on this choppy sea day. It was enjoyable for me though, because anywhere I went on the boat, there weren’t any…

Excess lineups

Truth be told, these cruise lines are probably the most efficient queue moving I’ve ever seen. Once you dock there are workers lining up the gangway and you’re off the boat pretty quickly. Same goes for getting back on. And there are so many food options you don’t really need to lineup for food, heck, if you wanted to you could just ask someone else for some of their mounding portion of food.

It may sound like we had a terrible time, but we didn’t. In fact, this cruise was a great opportunity to check out Alaska’s…

Excess wildlife

Whales, porpoises, salmon, bears, otters, bald eagles, all within view of the naked eye! It’s amazing how many people missed out on this kind of thing being stuck inside.

Funny side rant about stuff. We do have a minimal amount of stuff, but we’ve had a pair of small collapsible binoculars (free from a conference) that we’ve been carrying with us since we sold all our stuff and moved abroad. We’ve used them very sparingly — not nearly enough to justify keeping them. Yet we hung on to them for three years for some reason. And then we found that reason. We wouldn’t have spotted a bear without them. I guess I can get rid of them now, as Alaska provided way too much…

Excess scenery

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Glaciers galore and something more…another score a little distance from shore…

Excess sunsets!

If you know me, I’m a sucker for a good sunset, and we got good and spoiled on this cruise. Quick little advice for those looking to snag a great sunset pic. It’s great to get the sun going down, but that sucker is pretty bright so your pic might just be “okay”. Wait for the sun to set, and point that camera up for some more clouds – that’s where the beauty is!

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After that last sunset, this minimalists nightmare was over. No more excess of stuff, just excess memories!

Now go sell all your stuff and enjoy the excess of a cruise!


3 thoughts on “A Minimalists Nightmare Aboard an Alaskan Cruise”

  1. Being from Ketchikan (not Ketchichan :o), I’m curious, did you do anything else in town besides the Lumberjack Show? There is a TON of fun, non shopping related touristy stuff that us locals like to do, as well. Also, I can’t tell from your post if you were surprised by any of the wastefulness you encountered or if you expected to encounter it because it’s…a cruise. There’s a company called UnCruise that offers smaller ships and more of an “uncruise” experience, much better-sounding than what you have described!

    1. Brittany, thanks for the comment. We did walk the town, ducked into some smoked salmon stores, walked through the tunnel, and really enjoyed the boardwalk by the river with the heritage homes on stilts, and the history of each building at that – especially the story behind the owners of New York Hotel too. The town’s homes are really quaint, and seeing them from the ship was even better because you could see more of them from afar.

      As for the wastefulness, we weren’t really surprised by it as we’ve done “all inclusive” before and that’s just how those are. We were a little shocked at the shopping promotion though, and I think the hypocrisy of the “save the waves” flyer (as they overwhelmed us with printed flyers promoting sales every day) was a little comical.

      I just checked out uncruise – that looks like it would be a WAY better experience for me, not so much my wife as the ships look smaller.

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