What to Pack for an Alaska Cruise

What to Pack for an Alaska Cruise

Packing for a trip to Alaska can be a challenge: its northern reaches and varied geography means traveling through several microclimates. From mild to extreme, the temperatures will fluctuate.  Summer is the best time to visit though, which is why most cruises are scheduled June through September: the odds of spotting wildlife are high, salmon are swimming upstream, hiking trails are free from snow, and the weather is as good at it gets.  For some cruising basics, check out my previous articles: Journey through Alaska’s inside Passage and Fish & Feast in Ketchikan.

Alaska Cruise
Alaskan cruises sail through the inside passage – the coastal route that weaves through the thousands of islands, coves, and bays that dot the Pacific Coast of this northernmost state. Cruises will either travel southbound (Anchorage to Vancouver, Canada) or northbound (Vancouver to Anchorage) or roundtrip from Seattle, Washington (this itinerary may include more days at sea and less ports depending on the length of the trip).
Alaska Cruise. Vancouver
Alaska CruiseMost cruise ship excursions bring you up close to the great outdoors, so you can soak up all that majestic scenery and catch a glimpse of all the wildlife that draws travelers to the 49th state. How you choose to interact with nature is up to you: walking tours; hiking; canoe and kayak trips; helicopter and float plane excursions; fishing or boating are all options. But, don’t be afraid to try something outside your normal comfort zone, since the point of this vacation is to get out there and experience the wide-open spaces.  Check the excursions for details on activity level. Many outfitters provide you with additional garments or waterproof outerwear to protect you from the elements so don’t think you need to buy hardcore adventure gear to enjoy the “high activity level” choices. Dressing properly for excursions is key to comfort: wear layers that can be peeled off as the mercury goes up or added on as temps drop off.
Alaska Cruise
Layers:
Start with a short sleeve shirt or tank top, a long sleeve wicking layer, add a hoodie or fleece (on colder days a padded or PrimaLoft-type vest will come in handy), with a thin waterproof hooded shell on top.Alaska Cruise

Footwear:
Besides standard sneakers, waterproof hiking shoes (with Gortex) will keep the moisture at bay. Hiking boots are not necessary unless you plan on scaling great heights. Skip the UGG’s which will get soggy, or rain boats which don’t offer much support. Throw in a pair of flip flops for the hot tub or spa, and a pair of dressier shoes for the dinners onboard.

Pants:
Jeans, leggings, and comfortable, water wicking hiking pants (Prana is my go-to brand), are all versatile and low maintenance. Pack a pair of shorts — as you travel south to Vancouver, temps will rise, and you just might be able to lounge on the pool deck. Plus, a post- or pre-cruise stay in warmer locales in Seattle (click here to read my destination article) or Vancouver (click here to read my destination article) might include an overnight at a hotel with an outdoor pool.

Accessories:
For cooler days and for afternoons spent up on deck gazing at the glorious glaciers, pack a wool beanie, glove liners, and scarf — it can get windy up there. Light weight wool or breathable wool blend socks will keep feet warm and dry (Smartwool is my favorite).Alaska Cruise

Gear:
If you can, bring a real camera, not just a cell phone – the vistas are just too large! Bring binoculars – they are great for kids who may not be looking through a camera’s zoom lens. Pack a power strip for your cabin to provide extra places to plug in. A back pack or tote is essential for holding layers, water bottle, snacks, cell phone chargers and backup batteries.

Sundry items:
Sunscreen, bug repellant, and motion sickness pills for small craft excursions are all a must. Sunglasses and brimmed hat will be put into use during summertime since Anchorage can have over 19 hours of daylight!

Evening cruise wear:
Smart casual wear is acceptable at night — what you would wear to go out for a nice dinner at home (no ripped jeans or jean shorts). You will not be as dressed up as you are on a Caribbean cruise, and typical lightweight summer garments are not well-suited to this itinerary (think “shoulder season” or “transitional clothing” instead).  Throw in a bathing suit for the hot tub and spa, and some comfy workout clothing or stylish athleisure, which works well on those days at sea. (Athleta has great choices).

For more travel tips, check out my recent articles: A Few of my Favorite Travel Things, Twelve Packing Tips Every Travel Should Know, and Smart Traveler Tips.

Need help putting together your bucket-list trip or dream vacation?

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New York Times Travel Show 2018

New York Times Travel Show 2018

New York Times Travel ShowMy recent article, Smart Traveler Tips, helped put you on the inside track of stress-free travel. For more travel advice, consider attending the upcoming New York Times Travel Show, January 27-28, 2018, at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center located on Manhattan’s Westside.

Now in its 15th year, this annual event will put you in touch with over 550 exhibitors from more than 170 destinations — no passport required! Attend an educational seminar and you will come away with globe-trotting tips from experts in the travel industry. Bring the kids – there’s plenty for them to explore at the Family Pavilion: food tastings, cultural displays, and musical performances.

New York Times Travel Show

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New York Times Travel Show 2017

New York Times Travel Show 2017

New York Times Travel ShowWant to travel the world in a New York minute? Visit the New York Times Travel Show held at Manhattan’s Jacob Javits Convention Center January 28-29, 2017 where you can join thousands of other travelers as they roam the aisles amongst 500 plus destinations and suppliers.

Attend this interactive exhibition and come away with a wealth of knowledge: attend educational seminars, learn about new resorts and hotels, and enjoy international food and entertainment. From Asia to Africa, the United States to the United Kingdom, the world will be at your fingertips.  NY Times Travel Show

The Jacob Javits Convention Center is located on Manhattan’s west side (34th Street and 11th Avenue).

New York Times Travel ShowNeed help putting it all together? Contact me at mollie@herrickstravel.com
I will help you create your unique trip for 2017 and beyond.

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NYC’s Must-see Meatpacking District

NYC’s Must-see Meatpacking District

Chelsea Market NYCHeading to Manhattan? Bordered by Gansevoort Street and West 14th Street, from the Hudson River to Hudson Street, the Meatpacking District has all the makings of a perfect weekend escape. It’s where New York City’s foodies, culture-hounds, shoppers, and urban outdoor enthusiasts creatively co-exist.

The distinctive 19th century cobblestone-lined streets, once home to open-air meat markets and meatpacking plants now play host to fashion outlets, art galleries, and nightlife — it’s cutting edge with a hint of historic charm.

FOR ART’S SAKE:
Whitney Museum of American Art: The downtown version of the 50-year-old Upper East Side institution recently opened this 220,000 square foot outpost designed by Renzo Piano, the Pritzker prize-winning architect. His building is a work of art itself with its natural light filled galleries spread out over several floors, outdoor public spaces, and panoramic views of the Hudson and Manhattan skyline.

Milk Gallery: This studio and event space features works by prominent photographers who document the celebrity, fashion, and pop culture worlds.

Whitney Museum of Art

Image courtesy of Whitney Museum of Art

RECREATIONAL:
High Line: This one-mile long public park is built on the elevated railway that originally wound its way above the Meatpacking District. At 35 feet above ground level, it combines plantings with long narrow walkways, and stops for viewing platforms, sundecks, restaurants, and places to sit or stretch out and enjoy the view or occasional performance art.

Hudson River Park: Perched on Manhattan Island’s left coast, this 550-acre park runs all the way from West 59th street in Midtown, to Battery Park in the Financial District. Jog, bike, or just take it all in from one of the waterfront benches and tables.

Chelsea Market: Originally the headquarters of the Nabisco Corporation (and birthplace of the Oreo cookie), this 800-foot long concourse is chock full of gourmet food purveyors, boutiques, and a flea market. Load up on sushi and oysters at The Lobster Place and scones at Sara Beth’s bakery.

The High Line New York City

The High Line

RETAIL THERAPY:
Shop high-end designers like Diane Von Furstenberg, Theory, and Alice + Olivia; pick a pair of jeans at Rag & Bone; enjoy understated yet chic Joie; or browse through Jeffrey New York (which started the whole meatpacking retail boom). Boutique shops include lovely Lila P, vintage inspired eyeglass purveyor Warby Parker, and trendy Calypso St. Barth. Techies will appreciate the Samsung 837 Store where “technology and culture collide.” Spend the afternoon amongst interactive art installations, virtual reality simulators, and live performances.

DINE OUT:
There is no shortage of upscale dining choices: Del Posto, Catch, Spice Market, Buddakan, and STK. Or, enjoy a breezy outdoor brunch at Bagatelle, comfort food at Bubby’s, casual Italian at Fig & Olive, and decadent desserts at Sugar Factory. In the mood for margaritas? Try Dos Caminos or Bodega Negra in the Dream Downtown hotel for the best of Mexican fare.

Bagatelle New York City

Brunch at Bagatelle

LATE NIGHT LIFE:
Staying up late? After hours, head up to these rooftop hot spots: Gansevoort’s Zezura at Plunge Bar & Lounge, Dream Downtown’s Ph-D, and the Standard Hotel’s Le Bain.

STAY OVERNIGHT:

Gansevoort Hotel Meatpacking New York City

Gansevoort Hotel’s rooftop oasis

Make your visit to the Meatpacking District a mini vacation with a night or two at the Gansevoort, Standard, Dream Downtown,  and The Maritime Hotel.

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Where to travel in 2015

Where to travel in 2015

Are you planning a trip in 2015? Are you looking for detailed, first-hand information on hot spots, far-flung, or favorite destinations?  If you plan to be in the New York City area on January 24th-25th, I would recommend that you take time out to visit the New York Times Travel Show at the Jacob Javits Convention Center on Manhattan’s west side (34th Street and 11th Avenue). You can browse over 500 exhibitor booths and glean advice from industry professionals representing cities, countries, convention bureaus, cruise lines, and travel suppliers from all across the globe. It also happens to be a fun day out with the family — the show includes international cultural presentations, food tasting, family activities, and a well-stocked travel bookstore.

New York Times Travel Show

Photo courtesy of the New York Times Travel Show

Stay tuned for more information and the latest travel tips … after the show!

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Hawaii’s Magnificent Maui

Hawaii’s Magnificent Maui

Maui, HawaiiIt’s no surprise that Hawaii’s second largest island is often voted “world’s favorite” in reader polls. Maui’s combination of unspoiled beauty, quaint towns, and creature comforts is unmatched. The island’s trade winds give it a temperate year-round climate (75-85°F), making any time the right time to visit.

Maui is driest on the leeward (western) side, home to resort areas, Kapalua, Kaanapali, Kihei, Lahaina, and Wailea. The windward (eastern) side is wetter and more lush. Kahului Airport (OGG) has direct flights from major cities or take a hopper from Honolulu (HNL). There is public transportation available on the island, but rent a car to best experience the island’s hidden gems.

Land and sea activities abound: jet skiing, fishing, kayak tours, kite boarding, parasailing, rafting, whale watching, scuba diving, and surfing lessons. There is no shortage of group or private tours.

Molokini, Maui, Hawaii

The Molokini Express launches beachside

HERE ARE SOME OF OUR FAVORITE EXPERIENCES:

Wailea Beach: Although this beach is lined with resorts and condos, it still remains clean and crowd-free. Popular hotels include Four Seasons, Marriott, Grand Wailea and new edition, Andaz. My husband and I were excited to return to the Four Seasons, where we had honeymooned 17 years ago. It was a different trip with two teens in tow, but equally enjoyable. The boys snorkeled and kayak fished right off the hotel’s beach, and cooled off in the resort pool with its own invigorating waterfall. Conveniently, there is also the secluded, adults-only Serenity Pool.

One afternoon, the kids worked out in the resort’s gym and kept busy in the game room, while we enjoyed a peaceful drink on the Lanai. Our dinners at Four Season’s restaurants Ferraro’s poolside (for Italian) and Spago (Wolfgang Puck’s Hawaiian-California cuisine) were top notch. We browsed the nearby “Shops at Wailea” and one evening took a ride to the Fairmont Hotel to dine outdoors at Nick’s Fish Market.

Four Seasons, Maui, Hawaii

Gearing up for kayak fishing at the Four Seasons

Te Au Moana Luau: This traditional Hawaiian open-air feast, presented just down the beach at the Marriott, brings to life the history of Maui and its unique, Polynesian culture through music, song, and of course, fire eating and hula dancing. A Luau may sound touristy but this was actually a very professional and heartfelt show. Before dinner was served, the traditional roasted pig was lifted out of the Imu (an underground oven lined with banana leaves). The buffet table, filled with steaming plates of long rice, baked Mahi Mahi, chicken Adobo stew, and Kālua pork, was authentic and delicious. The sunset over the Pacific completed the picture.

Luau, Maui, Hawaii

A Luau performance conveys Hawaiian history through dance

Luau, Maui, Hawaii

Samoan Fire Dancers complete the show

Snorkeling in Molokini: To beat the crowds, we sailed out early on Kai Kananis charter catamaran (the Molokini Express) to this crescent-shaped, partially submerged volcanic crater located 2.5 miles off of Maui’s south shore. The curved basin creates ideal conditions for snorkeling and diving, providing a protective barrier against waves and currents and a home to over 250 species of fish. The trip includes a stop at Turtle Town, well known for its large turtle population. A memorable day, the sailing staff was helpful and patient with beginners (that would be me). Make sure to pack camera equipment or phones in waterproof bags because you will get wet boarding the catamaran from the beach.

Molokini, Maui, Hawaii

Molokini’s crater serves snorkelers well

Molokini, Maui, Hawaii

An underwater camera is a must for Maui

Sunshine Helicopters Tours: One of the best ways to fully appreciate the island is by air (over 90% of Hawaii is only accessible by helicopter). Catch a glimpse of Maui’s rainforest waterfalls, dormant volcanoes, and expansive green valleys.

Day trip to Lanai: Take a ferry or catamaran to this tranquil place, once known as Pineapple Island. With two high-end resorts (Four Seasons Manele Bay & the Lodge at Koele), Lanai offers secluded luxury and unspoiled nature. Rent a 4WD Jeep (make sure to grab a map) and embark on an off-road adventure, visiting stunning sights like Garden of the Gods and Shipwreck Beach via rugged, one-lane dirt trails.

Afternoon in Lahaina: Spend an afternoon walking around this historic whaling port, now a lively village. Our favorite eatery, Lahaina Grill, offers bistro style dining and true farm to table cuisine. Browse the shops on Front Street, grab dessert at Ono Gelato, and check out the weekly crafts market under the town’s famous supersized Banyan Tree – it is practically a block wide.

Evening in Paia: This former plantation village on the island’s northern coast is now a laid-back town oozing old world Maui charm. If you are headed to Hana, it’s a good stop-off point. Shop at Le Tarte for stunning swimsuits and cover-ups from this world-renowned Maui-based designer team and visit Maui Crafts Guild for locally made works of art. Then, head down to the beach and enjoy native Ahi tuna and Ono (Wahoo) at Polynesian-themed Mama’s Fish House.

Mama's Fish House, Maui, Hawaii

Legendary lobster guacamole with house-made taro and sweet potato chips at Mama’s Fish House

Haleakāla Crater: Located in the National Park, this dormant volcano is 3,000 feet deep and 21 miles around—large enough to fit Manhattan! Sign up for a sunrise tour to catch it in its best light.

Road to Hana: This popular scenic coastal route features 56 miles of winding road with plenty of photo opportunities of ocean views, lush gardens, and sparkling waterfalls. (Be prepared, the round trip can take all day. Click on mauiinformationguide.com for more Road to Hana pointers.)

Wailea Beach, Maui, Hawaii

Resorts and condos front the crescent shores of Wailea

Travel tips: For more suggestions on how to make the most of a Hawaii vacation, check out my previous posts on Oahu and Waikiki, or check out gohawaii.com. Throughout our stay, we also made good use of the OpenTable app for restaurant recommendations – and, their newly-redesigned website is very user friendly.

Herricks Travel American ExpressReady to plan a unique trip for you or your family? Contact me at mollie@herrickstravel.com. For more information on my trip planning services, please click here.

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Weekend in Waikiki, Oahu

Weekend in Waikiki, Oahu

My last post covered all that is Oahu – “Hawaii’s Happening Island.” But, no visit is complete without a stay in Waikiki, Honolulu’s bustling international oceanfront neighborhood, chock-a-block with resorts, hotels, shops, and restaurants—the perfect contrast to the island’s more remote and pristine, natural settings, highlighted in my recent article. Whether relaxing for a few days or making a brief layover en route to another island, make sure to check out all that awaits you in Waikiki.

HERE IS A SAMPLING OF SOME OF OUR FAVORITE SPOTS:

Orchids: Located at the Halekulani, this lovely oceanfront restaurant offers an international menu with plenty of seafood and steak. Reserve a spot on the patio for dramatic sunset views, or come on a Sunday for their excellent brunch.

Alan Wong’s: Reservations are a must at Chef Wong’s James Beard award-winning, Hawaiian-regional cuisine restaurant. Its unusual location atop a non-descript office building belies the unique menu, artful presentation, and upscale ambiance that await you within.

Roy’s: Yes, it is part of a large chain of restaurants, but Roy’s can always be counted on for dependable, Pacific Rim fusion cuisine and professional service. It’s a Hawaii original.

House without a Key: This spacious, open-air restaurant at the Halekulani is a great place for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, or stop by for a signature Mai Tai and a pre-supper appetizer and listen to some Hawaiian-themed musical entertainment. The restaurant takes its name from the first Charlie Chan Noir mystery novel set in 1920’s Hawaii.

Waikiki, Oahu, Hawaii

A hike up to Diamond Head rewards you with breathtaking vistas of Waikiki

Hula Grill: This beachside eatery with amazing views of Diamond Head is the place for a reasonably priced breakfast in Waikiki. Indulge in Maui Pineapple and Coconut Buttermilk Pancakes and delicious Kona coffee. Located at the Outrigger Waikiki.

Hotels and Resorts: Here are just a few recommendations for beachfront hotels in Waikiki: Halekulani; Royal Hawaiian (The Pink Palace); Moana Surfrider (the city’s first hotel built in 1901); and Hilton Hawaiian Village. Waikiki’s beach has experienced some erosion over the years, so not every beachfront hotel features a sprawling expanse of sand; if that is important to you, make sure to do your research prior to booking.

Waikiki, Oahu, Hawaii

A stay at the Halekulani offers you views of Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head

Kallakaua Avenue & Kuhio Avenue: In the mood for shopping? These two main shopping streets are a great place to stroll and shop, from high end to kitschy souvenir shops.

Waikiki Beach Walk: Lewers Street has been completely rebuilt and transformed into a hub for all-suite and resort hotels, stores, and cafes, and yes, even a Starbucks. Stop in at Quiksilver for board shorts, Crazy Shirts for fun, logo T’s, and Island Sole, for fantastic “slippers” (that’s flip flops to us mainlanders).

Royal Hawaiian Center: Had enough of the sun? Take an afternoon stroll around this open-air, four-level shopping and dining complex with a convenient food court on level two.

ABC Stores: A convenience store and souvenir shop all rolled up in one. A great place to stock up on beach supplies, grocery items and snacks, inexpensive gifts, and health and beauty products. They are open early and stay open late every day.

Ala Moana Shopping Center: If you really can’t survive without some retail therapy, head to Hawaii’s largest shopping center for souvenirs and gifts—everything from high end to beach fashion, it’s all under one roof.

Atlantis Submarine: We didn’t have a chance to go, but this was recommended by the concierge for a view of Oahu from beneath the waves. The narrated tour gives you a close up view of tropical fish and sunken ships. To get a discount, book your tickets online. (But, keep in mind, if you are claustrophobic, this would not be a good choice!)

Pearl Harbor: My last post mentioned this moving site, but make sure to take time to visit all the stops (besides the USS Arizona Memorial): USS Missouri Memorial, USS Bowfin Submarine Museum, and Pacific Aviation Museum – all are connected by a shuttle. Pick up the excellent audio tour so you don’t miss out on a bit of history. Due to increased security, no handbags, back packs, or diaper bags are allowed, so be sure to check them at the lockers or better yet, leave non-valuables in your car.

Tour Guide: You will not be disappointed if you book with Keawe Adventures. Their experienced guides can arrange snorkeling, surfing, historic tours, Pearl Harbor tours, military history tours and more, and they will meet you right at your Waikiki hotel.

Diamond Head: Before you go home, make sure to hike to the top of this former military installation to get the perfect bird’s eye view of all that is Waikiki and help seal your memories of this beautiful place.

Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii

USS Arizona Memorial–a somber tribute to America’s fallen heroes

Diamond Head, Oahu, Hawaii

Oahu’s Pacific coastal beauty greets you at every turn

To complete your Hawaiian adventure, stay tuned for my next post on Maui, Hawaii.

Herricks Travel American ExpressReady to plan a unique trip for you or your family? Contact me at mollie@herrickstravel.com. For more information on my trip planning services, please click here.

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