North to Alaska: Pretrip Planning

Earlier this year, expert cruising friends told us about their planned week long Royal Caribbean cruise to Alaska combined with a follow on week long post cruise excursion into the northern portion of the state. They choose mid September for a cruising date, in hopes that they’d be able to see the Northern Lights.

We wanted in and so did two other couples. Since our friend had her travel agent’s license, she was able to book all of us balcony rooms, the inland tour, and air travel to Vancouver to board the ship, with return flight from Fairbanks. That spring, our daughter’s in-laws heard about the trip and—having just retired and wanting to take an Alaskan cruise—they also wanted to join us. 

Our ports-of-call included Ketchikan, Sitka, Juneau, Skagway, and debarking in Seward, Alaska. The inland portion would take us by bus to Anchorage, then by train to Talkeetna, Denali National park, and finally Fairbanks, Alaska.

We purchased our port excursions, shopped for cold weather clothes (that Texans and Mississippians don’t typically have), and pulled out our passports and Covid vaccine cards.

Five couples—booked and ready to go—filled with lots of excitement. 

Unfortunately, the week before our trip we received bad news: due to staffing shortages and transportation issues, the tour company cancelled the post cruise land portion of the trip. The cruise portion would continue, but the inland portion would not.

Sadly, for various reasons, three of the couple decided to cancel for the full refund offered by Royal Caribbean. 

But we and our daughter’s in-laws decided to not only press on, we would create our own inland excursion and fly out of Fairbanks, Alaska as originally planned. 

They drove out from Mississippi to our house in Texas to fly out of Austin with us (where everyone was originally ticketed to depart and return). They came two days early so we had time to visit a medical clinic and drop a chunk of change in order to get our required Covid test before departing. 

We were super excited and I was a bit nervous—as I always am before any type of trip. I checked my list, then checked it twice, ran through in my mind all the things I always run through before we leave. We delivered our little fur baby to the neighbors to puppy sit, arranged for plants to be tended, and gave our mail and house key to our other neighbors (the ones who originally planned the trip) to watch over things for us.

Negative tests and passports in hand, suitcases packed and ready to go, we set our alarms for ridiculous dark-thirty for the next morning’s drive to Austin airport. 


About Jill English Johnston

God writes His story on every heart, if we only pause to read it. My heart has lived in a fantasy world since early childhood and am delighted that God has finally brought me to the place where I can bring the fantasies to life through story. I am currently working on a fantasy trilogy (of course) but I also post thoughts, reflections and (hopefully) inspiration to my website: I am a follower of the Rabbi Jesus, married to my best friend and inspiration, and the mother of three incredible children, one daughter and two sons, a son-in-love, a daughter-in-love and two adorable granddaughters. When not writing, I passionately pursue prayer, reading (never enough time to read them all!), and the outdoors. My husband and I both served in the US Navy and have lived/travelled through many states and all over Asia. We both still enjoy travelling, but we really love our home in New Braunfels, located at the Texas Hill Country.
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