Places to Visit Tucson Arizona ~ Why It’s Such an Interesting City to Visit

Visit Tucson Saguaro National Park

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Tucson, Arizona is one of the most eclectic, beautiful and interesting cities in the United States. Located in the southwest, it boasts stunning mountain views, a vibrant downtown, university culture, and desert majesty.

While you are taking in the saguaro cactus and desert beauty, there’s also a lot of interesting things to do in Tucson.  

If you are hoping to combine stellar sightseeing with history, arts, flora and fauna, Tucson is the place. There are museums, outdoor pursuits, wildlife, culture, science explorations and more. 

Places to visit Tucson Arizona and why it’s one of America’s most interesting cities

Natural desert beauty

Tucson, known as Old Pueblo, is simply overflowing with natural beauty.

It is located in the desert and situated between many mountain ranges: Tortolita Mountains, Santa Catalina Mountains, Tucson Mountains, Rincon Mountains, Santa Rita Mountains, and the Sierrita Mountains. 

Nature lovers and exercise enthusiasts will find there is lots to see and do. There is bird watching, hiking, climbing, horseback riding, and biking. 

It’s important to note, spring, summer and fall can see very high temperatures. In addition, Tucson is a dry climate. It’s essential to always carry water. Also be sure to bring a hat and wear sunscreen. 

Some places to explore in Tucson to enjoy nature and enjoy native desert plants, cactus, and animals are: Saguaro National Park, Sabino Canyon Recreation Center, Catalina State Park, Mount Lemmon, Redington Pass, Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum, and Tucson Botanical Garden.

You will not run out of Tucson attractions. 

Sabino Canyon Recreation Area

In northeast Tucson, there’s Sabino Canyon Recreation Area. Here you can take in the majestic views of the Santa Catalina Mountains which began forming 12 million years ago. This is part of Coronado National Forest.

There is a nature center, gift shop, tram ride with an interpretive guide, and hiking. 

Hiking here is diverse; there are easy, moderate and challenging trails. There are 30+ miles of trails. You may see water in Sabino Creek. 

Seven Falls is a popular hike here. It’s just over eight miles. Taking the tram up will save you four miles of hiking and is a great way to explore this area.

Tram ride at Sabino Canyon

You can’t drive through Sabino Canyon but there is a fantastic tram ride which takes you up the canyon. The tour guide will explain points of interest.

You can get out at any stop on the way up and the way down to explore further. 

It’s important when you arrive to go right away to the ticket booth in order to get a reserved time. Bring cash; there’s a nominal fee to ride. You should be able to secure a spot, though you may have to wait an hour or more. 

That’s okay because then you can go do the other things you want to do. Depending on the time of day you arrive and how hot it is, you may want to start with hiking. Or, if it’s already hot, you may want to spend the time in the nature center and gift shop.

Catalina State Park

Take in the gorgeous views at Catalina State Park. There is hiking, biking, camping, picnic areas, bird watching, and more.

Dogs are allowed except for the area which encompasses the Desert Bighorn Sheep Reintroduction Area. There are many shared-use trails, many for the beginner and for the more advanced.

Visit Tucson Saguaro National Park
Visit Tucson Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park

How many cities can boast they have a national park? Tucson can! Here too you can enjoy picnicking, hiking, biking, and learning about the native plants and wildlife living in the Sonoran Desert.

There are two park entrance locations. One is Rincon Mountain District East and the other is Tucson Mountain District West.

Whichever you choose, you will have diverse trails to choose from, from easy to moderate and advanced. You can also drive through parts of Saguaro National Park which makes it nice if you are visiting when it’s hot.

You may see wildlife here; it really depends on the time of day and how hot it is. We usually at least see birds and lizards.

Visitor’s Center at Saguaro National Park

Both locations have visitor’s centers, so whichever site you visit, be sure to take some time to visit. The one at Tucson Mountain District West’s is larger. However, they both have bookstores along with lots of information and displays about what you can see at Saguaro National Park. In addition, both have a 15-minute video which runs throughout the day. 

Whichever location you choose to visit, each offers ranger-guided programs as well. 

Like with all places in Tucson, be sure to bring extra water with you, especially while hiking.

Visiting National Parks is a great way to spend a day or a few hours. 

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Learn all about the Tucson desert at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. 

Containing an aquarium, botanical garden, zoo and art gallery, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum will give you an immersive look at the desert and the fascinating creatures in it.

You could easily spend an entire day wandering around this museum, so make sure that you have ample time to see it all.

There is a cafe as well as many indoor exhibits. Be sure to time when you see the outside animals to a cooler part of the day if you can; you will see more of them that way.

During the summer months (March – September) it opens at 7:30am. In the cooler months, it opens at 8:30am.

Cool Summer Nights

Throughout the year, it closes at 5pm except on Saturdays in June, July and August. Through the last Saturday in August, they have Cool Summer Nights on Saturday evenings.

There are talks and activities. Be sure to bring a flashlight to find scorpions and see them glow.

If you don’t have time to drive out to the Sonoran-Desert Museum, be sure to make a stop at Reid Park Zoo if you want to see animals. This is a fantastic place to spend your day.

Driving Mount Lemmon
Driving Mount Lemmon

Visiting the Desert Museum will give you a fantastic overview of why the Arizona desert is so important and how you can preserve and enjoy it. Be sure to look at the schedule for the day when you arrive if you are interesting in taking a docent-led free tour. 

Mount Lemmon

The Coronado National Forest is a gem for those wanting to escape the Tucson heat. You will see many cyclists riding their bikes along the way on Catalina Highway up and down the mountain, so take extra caution all around this area.

You will feel like you are in a different world as you drive up to the top of Mount Lemmon. This is a scenic drive like no other.

The diverse eco-systems along the way are spectacular. As you gain elevation, you leave the Sonoran Desert and experience evolving topography — it mimics the changes as if you were traveling from Mexico north to Canada. 

There are lookout points along the way. There are several stops where you can get out and walk around, hike, or camp. Some interesting places along the way are General Hitchcock, Molino Basin, Rose Canyon and more.

Even if you don’t get out of your vehicle, it’s worth a trip to drive to the top of Mt. Lemmon. Have fun watching the temperature change as you drive.

Summerhaven

You will be 9,159 feet at the top in Summerhaven. There are a few restaurants and a few little shops.

Cyclists often ride to the top of Mt Lemmon and stop at The Cookie Cabin for an extra-big cookie, pizza and more.

Mt Lemmon Ski Valley

You can ski as well as hike at Mount Lemmon Ski Valley. Be sure to check in advance for skiing conditions. Even in the summertime though you can ride the chair lift which is very fun as well as scenic.

Mt Lemmon Sky Observatory

An often overlooked opportunity on top is the Mt. Lemmon Sky Observatory. You will need to plan this in advance. Reserve online for their night sky viewing. It gets cold so be sure to bring warm clothing.

Colossal Cave Mountain Park

Technically in Vail, AZ, it’s very close to Tucson. It’s a place you will want to visit.

You can go for the day or plan to stay and camp. 

When we went once on a Saturday in October, we were able to walk right up and get a spot for a cave tour. However, they do have an online reservation system which you may want to use to guarantee your spot.

There are different “levels” of tours, including several which are for advanced (adventurous!) enthusiasts. One is their day or night intermediate Ladder Tours (12 and older) and the other is their intermediate and their advanced Wild Cave Tours (16 and older).

We took did the Classic Cave Tour which was ideal for children and adults.

When you are out this way, be sure to visit Saguaro National Park’s entrance at Rincon Mountain East which is about 15 minutes away.

If you loved spending time in Colossal Cave and you have time, you may want to plan to check out Kartchner Caverns State Park in Bensen, AZ as well.

These two caves are about 45 minutes from each other. You won’t want to do both in one day because you will really want to spend enough time at each site. If you do plan to visit Kartchner, be sure to book one of their tours online in advance. During certain times of the year they fill up quickly.

Things to do with kids in Tucson

While there are many things for kids to do in Tucson, we wanted to highlight these two unique attractions:

Trail Dust Town

Here you will be able to enjoy an old western setting. Trail Dust Town is one of Tuscon’s iconic destinations. Step back in time and see how things were in the old west.

The historical buildings in Trail Dust Town are well preserved and give you a great snapshot into what life was like for thee adventurous souls that braved the wild west and the sprawling Arizona desert.

Tucson Trail Dust Town Old West Show
Tucson Trail Dust Town Old West Show

For dining, you can visit Millie’s Pancake Haus for breakfast or lunch. Pinnacle Peak is the dinner spot — be sure to have everyone wear an old tie (one you don’t care about). Check out the Silver Dollar Saloon as well. 

Kids will love the attractions and rides in this quaint setting. Note these are later in the week, Wednesday through Sunday. There’s a train ride, a carousel ride, and Ferris wheel. There’s also a stunt show and family haunt experience (Thursday – Sunday). Kids will also have fun panning for gold and going to the shooting gallery. 

On Fridays, there is Heirloom Farmer’s Market.

Trail Dust Town is less than 15 minutes by car from Sabino Canyon Recreation Area. You can spend the day at Sabino Canyon and then head to Trail Dust Town to eat and enjoy.

Children’s Museum Tucson

My kids love Children’s Museum Tucson. It’s fun to make a day of going here because you will be in the downtown area where there are lots of restaurants.

For us, we typically just bring snacks. You can enjoy them at a table. There aren’t many seats so we don’t linger. They also have a vending machine on site.

Like most children’s museums, there are different areas. No matter your child’s interest and age, they will find it interesting and interactive. 

We went here until my kids were 11 and 12. They still enjoyed it and would still find it fun even though they are older now. 

We always spent a long time — up to five hours — here. Though many locals seem like they cover it in just two hours. My kids always enjoyed all the interactive exhibits and enjoyed playing, especially since it wasn’t ever terribly crowded.

A few times we visited, they had their art area open for creating. 

They also have a tiny gift area right in the main area where you pay. 

In addition, there is a fun area outside for your kids to explore. 

We’ve always found street parking — there are parking meters — within two blocks. 

Science in Tucson

No matter what your interest, you can find science-related activities in Tucson.

Enjoy Pima Air and Space Museum, the Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium in the University of Arizona campus, the Tucson Children’s Museum in downtown Tucson, and Kitt Peak National Observatory, Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter Observatory with it’s after-dark program where you learn about astronomy. 

Biosphere 2 is in Oracle, Arizona. This is likely within an hour of Tucson, depending where you are in the city. It’s worth a trip out to visit.

Pima Air and Space Museum

Everyone in your group will find something interesting here. You will be able to walk up to scores of airplanes inside and outside. 

We’ve returned many times to Pima Air & Space when family and friends visit us in Tucson. We always learn new things and never tire of it. You can spend all day here or just a few hours, depending on how much time you have. 

Interaction of nature with architecture

DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun

DeGrazia Gallery combines nature with art through a series of desert installations.

They don’t have tours but you will enjoy walking through all the different rooms in what was Ted DeGrazia’s home. 

It’s beautifully lit with amazing architecture. You will find it to be very peaceful as you enjoy looking at his paintings. 

We’ve been three times. It used to be free but now they charge a nominal fee. Also, there used to be a small Mission in the Sun that was destroyed by a fire. I’m not sure if they are rebuilding it. It used to be a space where one could reflect, meditate, etc. Visitors would leave photos and tokens for deceased loved ones. 

On the grounds we’ve also seen visiting artists. There is also the burial site for Ted and his wife.

You can easily spend the day wandering between the buildings and admiring the art. Many of the installations are incorporated right into the natural scenery, making the DeGrazia Gallery a must-see for any serious art connoisseur or nature lover.

There is a small gift shop in the main gallery building.

Tucson Museum of Art

This art museum is newer and modern and boasts cutting-edge installations.  

I’ve been here twice for field trips. While it was wonderful, I wasn’t able to roam at my will. Both times we had docents. There is a beautiful main gallery. We also saw a nativity display by walking outside to another area.

U of A Museum of Art

There is also a Museum of Art at the University of Arizona campus. It features artwork from the Renaissance through the 2oth century.

The Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures

Young and old will fall in love with the Mini Time Machine Miniature Museum from the minute you walk into the oversized doors. 

You step inside a wonderland of dollhouse-type exhibits. 

My kids went here on field trips. We visited during the summer as well to explore and take advantage of their workshops. It’s a great way to spend a few hours while visiting Tucson.

You will be facinated by the intricate dollhouses and rooms here. There are anique works of art mixed with comtemporary exhibits. Many are scaled to the inch or quarter inch.

You can sign up for a docent-led tour and/or wander at your own leisure. There is a tiny gift shop and plenty of free parking. 

Other wonders in Tucson

This jewel of Arizona isn’t just famous for its amazing natural wonders.

There are some incredible places that make it totally unique and a place that you have to put on your bucket list.

Tucson Botanical Gardens

This heavenly 5.5-acre spot of land connects you with the beauty of the natural world through expertly presented flowers and plants.

Spend the day wandering through the blooms, and learn about the varieties of cactus, native plants and trees.

These are 16 beautifully maintained gardens. Be sure to walk through the Butterfly Garden. They have garden tours, special events, classes, a gift shop, and a cafe.

We visited when they had a sculpture exhibit which was interesting to see among the gardens.

Tucson Botanical Garden opens at 7:30am so even if you visit Tucson during the hot months, you can enjoy it.

Mission San Xavier del Bac

Visit this historic Spanish Catholic mission on the Tohono O’odham Nation Indian Reserve. 

You can take a docent-led tour Monday – Saturday mornings. Learn about San Xavier Mission and the religious, artistic, cultural, and historic significance to the state of Arizona.

You will be stunned by the scope of the building and how well it was designed.

There is a small gift shop. You are welcome to attend mass as well.

This is just 10 miles south of downtown Tucson. You can explore the mission and then head downtown to eat and to enjoy the people watching, murals, and diverse restaurants and breweries.

Agua Caliente Park

Anyone who loves bird watching will want to check out peaceful and beautiful Agua Caliente Park. Bird watchers come here to see migratory birds as well as year-round birds. 

Depending on when you visit, the small nature center and gift shop may be open. There are sometimes special talks as well.

You can plan to picnic and walk around the marked paths. It’s a quiet, beautiful spot out in nature.

Bike riding in Tucson

You will see cyclists meeting up at Le Buzz coffee house at Tanque Verde Rd and Catalina Highway. Cyclists will ride up Catalina Highway up to Mt Lemmon. 

Other areas you will see cyclists include on Speedway near the entrance to Saguaro National Park.

El Tour de Tucson is an annual bike ride which attracts cyclists from around the world. There are different distances, from 25 miles to 100 miles along with various fun rides up to 10 miles.

Tucson Atmosphere and Culture

Tucson is known for its eclectic atmosphere and fun culture.

There is always something happening in this amazing city, including gem and mineral shows, book fairs, music and arts festivals and so much more.

There are always parades going on also, with the St. Patrick’s Day parade attracting folks who want a little luck of the Irish from all across the world.

University of Arizona

The University of Arizona is in Tucson. This adds yet another level of fun, entertainment, culture, arts and sports to Tucson.

Take in a sporting event such as football, basketball or baseball game at U of A. It’s fun to walk around campus, visit the lively restaurants, and check out the bookstores. 

There are musical and theatrical performances and other events as well.

Restaurants in Tucson

This amazing metropolis is known for it’s thriving food culture also.

This bustling metropolis puts a new spin on comfort food, like its ranch fries that are deep-fried, crinkle-cut fries liberally sauced with mayonnaise and bacon bits.

Be sure to try a Sonoran hot dog!

There are local breweries downtown as well as throughout Tucson. Be sure to check out downtown Tucson as well as the famous 4th Avenue.

Eegee’s is a local a sandwich shop with many locations throughout Tucson.

There is a substantial Mexican influence in this city also, with many of the dishes echoing Mexican tastes and styles.

Since this city is home to a local college, the vibe is young, friendly and open-minded. You won’t have to walk very far to find a local coffee shop or bar in this amazing city.

More things to do in Tucson

Bookman’s Entertainment

If you love books, music, musical instruments, games, and local stores, you must make a trip to Bookman’s Entertainment. The one we’ve been to is at Speedway and Wilmot and it’s fantastic.

There’s a mix of new and used items here…. You never know what you’ll find. In addition, Bookman’s is very generous in the community, always donating to my children’s schools.

Tucson sports

As mentioned above, Tucson is lucky to have the University of Arizona’s sports teams. There’s a wonderful fan base of locals and transplants who have fun supporting the Wildcats.

Tucson Roadrunners – hockey team

Tucson Sugar Skulls – arena football

Broadway in Tucson

This has been great for locals to support theater. It also might be nice to take in a show while you’re in town visiting Tucson.

Tucson weather

Tucson is in the Sonoran Desert, in the southwestern part of the United States. It’s dry and hot. Winters are mild; plan to dress in layers. Monsoon season peaks in July and August; however, through the years, it’s been sporadic.

Summers in Tucson can be brutal, and even though this city enjoys a dry heat, when you are in the direct sun, the weather is oppressive especially if you are not used to it.

Winters are often the best time to visit this city since they tend to be mild and bearable. Plus, many people from northern states love coming to Arizona during the winter because it gives them a nice break from ice and snow.

Some winter months can be a little bit on the wet side, so make sure that you check the forecast before making your travel plans. There have been very dry winters and some that were quite wet. 

The good thing is that if inclement weather happens, it usually passes fairly quickly and will not disturb your day too much.

Make sure that you always take plenty of layers with you when you are hiking on the trails. You don’t want to get caught in an impromptu rainstorm or find yourself knee-deep in the snow without any proper boots.

Visiting Tucson attractions

Tucson’s amazing atmosphere, gorgeous natural features, and global food scene put it on the map as one of the top places to visit in Arizona.

Although often overlooked for places like Phoenix, there’s a reason why Tucson is one of America’s — and one of the world’s — most beautiful cities.

Interesting things to do in Tucson

If you’ve never been to a desert, it may be different than you expect. Many visitors to Tucson are surprised it’s so green. And when the desert cactus bloom, it’s even more colorful.

Tucson is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts but know there is a lot to do here. There are plenty of ways to explore the great outdoors. Tucson residents and visitors enjoy hiking, horseback riding, climbing, and biking.

Yet, even if you aren’t as mobile or don’t want to be active, there is still a lot to do.

Tucson is a city is the perfect mix of old and new. No matter what your interests, you will not run out of things to do here. There are so many reasons Tucson makes for a unique destination.

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Travel and Planning Tips for Your Hawaii Snorkeling Holiday

Travel and Planning Tips for Your Hawaii Snorkeling Holiday

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Hawaii Snorkeling Holiday – The beautiful island chain of Hawaii is home to gorgeous landscapes, unprecedented ocean views, as well as unbelievably fun activities!

Take in the gorgeous blue salt waters of the Pacific with healthy and fit things like surfing, kayaking, and even snorkeling.

If there is one thing that will make life-long memories, it’s snorkeling in the pristine waters of Hawaii.

Traveling to Hawaii can sometimes feel a bit overwhelming.

From the extremely detailed travel itineraries, to packing for the weather, as well as the long list of active gear you may need, planning can feel like an arduous task!

To ease your worries, and maybe plan out a few overlooked destinations, here are a few tips for planning your Hawaiian snorkeling vacation!

Travel and Planning Tips for Your Hawaii Snorkeling Holiday
Travel and Planning Tips for Your Hawaii Snorkeling Holiday

Hawaii Snorkeling Trip Planning

If the many breathtaking Hawaiian Islands are your travel destinations, then planning ahead is a must!

If you don’t get a head start on this particular holiday, then you may end up in over your head with all the stress.

However, there are a few things that you can take into consideration when first planning your trip.

Saving Money on Hawaii Snorkeling Vacation

  • Save your money for a more expensive destination
  • Book in advance for as many things as possible
  • Plan your packing around weather and activities
  • Look into all the details

By having this game plan set and ready for action, you’ll be able to plan a remarkable getaway.  

Saving Up for Hawaiian Vacation 

Hawaii is a little on the expensive side.

Because of its location, practically everything that isn’t naturally grown on the islands is shipped from other countries or mainland USA.

This is also true for hotels, parks, tourist attractions, and so much more.

Start saving now for all of your planned expenses, as well as those everyday items.

Cause everything may cost just a bit more in this island paradise.

Book in Advance as Much as You Can!

If you’ve found the perfect place for your snorkeling adventure, then booking ahead will save you a lot of stress, as well as money!

Let’s say you plan to snorkel off the Molokini Crater.

This stunning volcanic islet off Maui’s south shoreline is picturesque, but you can’t just show up expecting to get a tour!

Not only do snorkeling tours require a lot of planning for the day, but they also take place on boats.

In the middle of the ocean.

And last for a nearly the whole day!

Reserve your tickets ahead of time for a five-hour Snorkel Molokini tour.

This will mean that you won’t miss this fantastic experience, and you won’t miss the boat to take you there!

Hawaii Snorkeling Day Trip Details 

While most snorkeling holidays won’t be completely all-inclusive, it’s really simple to find a tour or class that will treat you well!

Great companies will plan every detail down the last minute so that your whole trip will be stress-free and fun.

The little things that are included in your tour costs can really add up to make your snorkeling holiday a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

This can include some, if not all of the following luxuries:

  • Breakfast on the yacht
  • Beverages of all kinds on board
  • High-quality snorkeling gear
  • Certified, licensed, experienced instructors
  • Detailed safety course
  • GORGEOUS yacht
  • Lunch, or dinner on the boat
  • Well-Trained crew
  • And so much more!

Finding a tour that includes all of these things isn’t actually too difficult.

When the tour is over, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy a beach holiday on one of the nearby beaches!

Hawaii Beach and Snorkeling Holiday
Hawaii Beach and Snorkeling Holiday

Pack Accordingly

Hawaii has a fantastic tropical climate.

That means the weather stays pretty consistent throughout the year.

However, it does mean that packing for the humidity and heat is a must!

Pack your suitcase with light layers, as well as the appropriate beach, hiking, and active gear!

Your snorkeling gear is typically included if you book a tour with a respected company, so there is no NEED to bring your own.

That is unless you prefer your own snorkeling equipment.

If that is the case, make a detailed list before you pack so you won’t forget anything.

Don’t forget to pack a great underwater camera for those unforgettable underwater scenes!

You should also pack personal items like sunscreen, a change of clothes, and other individual needs or travel gear while on your snorkeling adventure!

Travel to Hawaii for a Snorkeling Holiday You Won’t Forget!

There are a lot of things in life that you may never forget. Kauai’s 5 Must See Tourist Attractions

Traveling to the remarkable islands of Hawaii to snorkel can undoubtedly be one of them!

Observing spectacular fish, seeing the underwater volcanic rocks, and exploring the beauties of the ocean can all be a part of this fantastic holiday!

(Images Source: 1, 2)

Top 10 Romantic Getaways in California Perfect For Couples

Romantic Getaways in California

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Romantic Getaways in California is home to alluring mountain scenery, majestic sunsets and serene, palm tree-lined beaches – and also the ideal backdrop for a romantic getaway.

From the idyllic island ambience of Santa Catalina to the breathtaking beauty of Napa Valley wine tours to the gorgeous beach towns of Santa Barbara, California is rife with romantic getaway spots.

Here Are Our Top 10 Picks for Romantic Getaways in California

Mesmerizing Santa Barbara

The palm-fringed coastline is home to the beautiful Santa Ynez Mountain and snuggled comfortably behind the foothills is Santa Barbara – also known as the American Riviera, given its resort-like atmosphere and scenic Mediterranean seaside.

The sandy, picture-perfect beaches and historic Spanish Mission will have romantics in sheer awe as they take in the Pacific Ocean’s calming waves crashing against the shore, coupled with unbelievable sunsets. 

The sophisticated spas, Spanish-inspired building, boutiques, art galleries, cafes and restaurants, along with the impossibly beautiful natural environment are perfect for romantic dinners and shopping or outdoor activities like sailing, hiking, and biking.

Romantic Getaways in California
Romantic Getaways in California   

Unspoiled Mendocino County

With abundant wildlife and flourishing redwood trees that can be found running along the craggy coastline, the only way to describe Mendocino County is peaceful and “unspoiled”.

Romantics will surely feel renewed and rejuvenated the moment they arrive at this perfect couples getaway spot.

Mendocino County is complete with its relaxing ‘hidden’ beaches, pure and pristine air, and an environment that’s beyond perfect for hiking and camping as well as outdoor sports like boating, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and more.

And make sure you take your fishing gear for a stop at the 700-acre nature reserve called Lake Mendocino, which is truly is a sight to behold – and a perfect excuse to pop that bottle of wine, wouldn’t you say?

Dreamy Santa Catalina Island 

Santa Catalina Island offers just the right stuff for the perfect romantic getaway: a scenic and dreamy island, secluded beaches and picturesque villages by the seaside.

The largest town on the island, Avalon, offers lovely modern resorts and historic hotels alike, along with palm-fringed beaches that can only be described as utterly stunning at first sight.

Let your inner enthusiast loose because there are plenty of spots to go swimming, snorkelling, and kayaking.

And overlooking peaceful coves and sandwiched right between two ports is the island’s western end, which gives off a vibe of paradise on earth…

Hilly Sonoma County

Drive an hour north of San Francisco and the vine-covered and pastoral landscape of rolling Sonoma hills come into view.

Couples have been vacationing in Sonoma County for decades, enjoy the relaxed pace of life and rejuvenating outdoor activities, including Napa Valley wine tours, that are also ideal for romantics as well as exciting hot-air balloon rides, hiking, and mountain biking, to name a few activities.

Sonoma County is also a great place for experiencing the freshest farm ingredients in the local gourmet cuisine and happens to have some of the top-rated restaurants anywhere in California.

Romantic California Getaways
Romantic California Getaways

Dramatic and Colorful Big Sur

Breathtaking, colorful, and beautiful in every sense of the word, Big Sur is one of the best escapes for romantics.

The magnificent ocean views and wild landscape truly captivate the senses. 

Despite the fact that Big Sur is somewhat cut off from civilization, given its remote location and no cell phone coverage, it has fantastic spa resorts, gourmet restaurants, and luxurious hotels, not to mention the rustic-chic campsites and inns.

Perhaps one of the biggest attractions for romantics in Big Sur are the lush redwood forests found on the coastline which towers a good 1,200 feet above the Pacific Ocean. 

Subliminal Lake Tahoe

Nestled comfortably at over 6,000 feet in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Lake Tahoe is a sight to behold, with its sublime alpine beauty.

The fresh and crisp air instantly invigorates the body while the lake’s mind numbing deep blue water urges the soul to relax and draw in the astonishing beauty.

It’s no wonder Lake Tahoe is such a popular spot for romantic getaways in California, especially since it’s nicely packed in winters, courtesy of all the outdoor activities couples engross themselves in: boating, skiing, biking, hiking, and camping.

things to do in Lake Tahoe
Top 10 best things to do in Lake Tahoe

Rustic-Chic Paso Robles

Travel 30 miles out from San Luis Obispo and you’ll arrive at the vine-covered hills of Paso Robles on the Central Coast.

This historic downtown is known for its old-time vibes and slow pace of life – with plenty of outdoor dining spots and tree-lined streets.

But that’s not all it’s known for – the spas offer some of the best wellness treatments and mineral water pools.

You’ll also find many boutique hotels and bed-in-breakfasts, which are charming to say the least.

Slow’n’Lazy Half Moon Bay   

Half Moon Bay is a small and slow-paced coastal town surrounded by woodlands, small farms, and rolling hills.

Due to the immaculate sandy beaches and picturesque hiking trails, it’s a very popular destination for nature lovers and romantics alike.

Despite the windy and misty weather, the scenery is always inspiring and dramatic as you hike along the coastline at the local beach.

Boutiques and bed-and-breakfasts can be found every few miles while the Mill Rose Inn is one of the most romantic places a couple could stay: floral-print bedding, vintage-inspired décor, and sumptuous guest rooms.  

Blissful Cambria

Another gorgeously romantic town that lies along the coast is the charming and alluring village of Cambria, with its romantic beach getaways and blissful seaside views.

The local Moonstone Beach which stretches for miles on end is the perfect idyllic spot for a romantic stroll, while Cambria’s East Village is known for its beautifully kept buildings that date well back to the 1800’s.

Winery Tours
Winery Tours

Romantic Wine Tours

There’s something innately romantic about taking wine tours in the beautiful Napa Valley in Sonoma County – one of the best romantic getaway spots that’s just a few hours’ drive from San Francisco.

Known for some of the most romantic hotels around as well as a tantalizing local cuisine, Napa Valley brings in plenty of couples from all over California, thanks to its picture-perfect wineries and unforgettable Napa Valley wine tours.

Why Is South America Tourism a Heaven for Tourists?

South America Tourism

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South America Tourism – South America is the hottest topic in tourism right now.

Travelers from around the world are visiting South American countries in flock to take a glimpse of stunning landscapes, snow-capped mountains, mysterious jungles, and endless deserts.

South America gives tourists every opportunity to embark on an adventure that they will remember for a lifetime.

The peace and tranquility found here is matchless.

Let’s see the most famous destinations you MUST visit when touring South America.

Why South America Tourism ROCKS!

Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu is South America’s most famous archaeological site and one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

Hidden within the Peruvian mountains, it a dream destination for millions.

Built in the 1450’s, the mysterious citadel with mortars, towers, terraces, wall and ancient stones continue to bedazzle everyone who visits Machu Picchu.

May to August is the peak tourist season, so if you’re looking to plan a trip to Peru, many travel agencies are experts in organizing personal trips for family, couples, and friends.

Machu Picchu Peru
Machu Picchu Peru

Amazonia, Ecuador

The Amazon jungle is the largest rainforest in the world.

This enormous region covers almost 35% of South America, expanding to a lot of countries.

Though the Amazon shares its border with a lot of countries, the safest and the most tourist-friendly passage is through Ecuador.

But beware, as the journey can be very rough and heart wrenching for people who are afraid of wildlife.

Crazy Travelers On A Mission Around The World Guy Who Walked The Entire Amazon River
Crazy Travelers On A Mission Around The World Guy Who Walked The Entire Amazon River

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Famous for its annual food festival, music, dance, and lively people, Rio de Janeiro is an emblem for art and culture.

Rio de Janeiro is also famous for its Art Deco styled 98 meter statue of Jesus Christ.

The city seduces millions of tourist yearly with its beautiful beaches, majestic mountains, joyous festivals, and the dance filled streets.

Rio de Janeiro Brazil
Rio de Janeiro Brazil

Cuzco, Peru

The trademark of the Inca Empire, Cuzco is the historical gem with a lot of ancient architecture from Inca civilization in Peru.

A lot of people with passion for architecture come here yearly and become fascinated by the ruins of peak Inca stone masonry.

Cartagena, Colombia

A port city on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, Cartagena is a 16th-century masterpiece with cobblestone streets and colorful colonial buildings.

The diversity of colors and material used to make each building is a pleasure for the eyes.

Cartagena is mostly visited by photographers as there is a natural filter in the air around Cartagena, Colombia.

The old wooden balconies, beautiful pastel-colored buildings, and the historical castles give a very scenic background to the pictures.

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Chile Exciting Destinations to Add to Your Bucket List

Santiago, Chile

Located in the heart of Chile, it is a very resilient city most famous for its political, financial and cultural background.

Santiago sits in a valley surrounded by snow-capped Andes mountain range, so it is inherently an aesthetic heaven.

Angel Falls, Venezuela

Located within the Canaima National Park, Angel Falls is the world’s highest uninterrupted waterfall.

However, it is just the cherry on the top of the cake.

The accompanying jungle is an untouched beauty because only a few dares to trek through the tropical wildlife including poisonous orchids, fierce monkeys and poison arrow frogs.

Top 5 Family Friendly Destinations in the United States South

Family Friendly Destinations in the United States South

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Family Friendly Destinations in the United States – If you’re in the process of planning a family friendly vacation in the United States, you have a lot of options available.

The southern region of the U.S. offers a wide variety of different types of travel destinations, including beaches, mountains, and big cities.

Some of the country’s best travel spots are in the southern part of the country, and the following are five favorites.

Family Friendly Destinations in the United States SouthGatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are only around six miles from each other.

They are two of the most popular places in the Smoky Mountains to visit, for a wide variety of reasons.

First, they’re located near Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which happens to be the nation’s most popular national park.

Along with the hiking and other outdoor activities of the park, there’s a lot more to this area.

For example, Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are known for fantastic dinner theater options, hospitality, a thriving arts scene, and amusement options for the whole family.

The area is home to Dollywood and the Titanic Museum, as well as the Island which is a shopping, dining and entertainment complex with a Ferris wheel.

You can rent a cabin or opt to stay in a hotel, but regardless of the specifics of your trip, it’s a perfect family-friendly destination.

Hilton Head, South Carolina

All of the beaches along the North and South Carolina coast are stunning and great for families, but Hilton Head tends to be a real standout.

Hilton Head is an island, and it’s incredibly casual and laid back.

There are sports like golf and biking, and boating as well as being on the beach of course.

Hilton Head is pristine and largely unspoiled by major development, which can be a rarity in coastal communities.

You’re not going to find high rises and some of the other things you might think of when you consider a tourist destination.

Of course, if you do want something like that you can go north to Myrtle Beach, which is another excellent southern destination for families.

Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston is one of the most picturesque historic locations in the country, and it’s packed with family-friendly activities as well.

The South Carolina Aquarium offers the chance to see more than 5,000 fish and animals up close and personal.

The Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry is an interactive venue particularly good for younger kids, or you could make your way to the Angel Oak Park on John’s Island.

The tree is thought to be at least 400 years old.

The Battery is the heart of the Charleston historic district, and along with the truly stunning homes, there’s a public park, White Point Gardens.

The Charleston City Market offers local artisan items as well as books, toys and children’s clothes and it’s right in the middle of the activity of downtown Charleston.

Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta is a big southern city, but it can feel like a small town in many ways.

It’s an affordable place to visit, and since there are so many hotel options, they tend to stay relatively affordable.

You could also rent an Airbnb if you’d like more space.

The Georgia Aquarium is in Atlanta and is the largest aquarium in the country.

The Ponce Market Rooftop Arcade features old-school carnival-style games and city views, and there’s Zoo Atlanta.

Another family-friendly activity is padding along the Chattahoochee River, or you could visit the Atlanta Botanical Garden.

The Botanical Garden features the Lou Glenn Children’s Garden, which has a treehouse and other kids’ activities.

Atlanta is home to the Center for Puppetry Arts, and they have the interactive exhibit “The Jim Henson Collection.”

It features scenes from the career of Jim Henson and puppets like Kermit.

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Perdido Key, Florida

Perdido Key is an ultimate family travel destination.

First, it has an average temperature of 75 degrees, and there are typically around 343 days of sunshine every year.

Perdido Key is a community between Pensacola, Florida and Orange Beach, Alabama.

Perdido Key is home to Perdido Key State Park with white dunes and views of the Gulf.

There’s also Big Lagoon State Park, which is great for hiking and camping.

You can visit the nearby Historic Pensacola District, or go to Five Flags Speedway.

There are lighthouse tours, and the historic forts of McRee, Barrancas, and Morgan.

Dolphin cruises, charter boats, deep-sea fishing, and scuba diving are all available, and the area is home to the USS Oriskany, which is the world’s largest artificial reef.

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Travel Guide to Puerto Rico

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Travel Guide to Puerto Rico is a uniquely beautiful, magical, and interesting island.

A gem floating in the Caribbean, it is a fascinating mix of cultures and influences, part American, part Spanish, part Caribbean

It is a tiny place, yet absolutely brimming with remarkable sights.

History and heritage bursts from Old San Juan and Ponce, while the cuisine, particularly in the island’s capital, is delectable.

It boasts a stunning array of landscapes, with high mountains, deep underground caves, and lush, verdant rain forest.

Travel Guide to Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico also has some of the most glorious beaches in the Caribbean, all white-gold sands and azure waters.

Puerto Rico offers a tremendous amount to the adventurous traveler, and is charming, rewarding and beautiful in equal measure.

With nature, stunning architecture, and a wonderful blend of cultures and traditions, it’s as close to paradise as you’re likely to find.

San Juan

San Juan is a bright, vibrant, buzzing city, and absolutely gorgeous, with its brightly colored Spanish colonial architecture, cobbled streets and magical Old Town.

It is also a wonderfully accessible city, with an international airport, and the second largest cruise port in the western hemisphere.

Cruises to San Juan are immensely popular, and run throughout the Caribbean and from across the East Coast of the US.

Wandering through the Old Town can take up an entire day all by itself.

The gorgeous architecture, cobbled lanes and charming brightly colored houses transport you back in time, and there are any number of museums, galleries and historic sights, including Castillo de San Felipe del Morro, the majestic 16th century citadel that guards the port.
San Juan Puerto Rico
The dining scene in San Juan has become increasingly varied and cosmopolitan in the last few years, and there are a wealth of fantastic cuisines and restaurants to explore.

Despite being part of the US, Puerto Rico has retained its rich cocina criolla heritage, and no visit would be complete without trying lechon, arroz gandules, alcapurrias or sofrito.

Seafood is obviously a big hit here, and some of the fusion restaurants, merging traditional cocina criolla with Asian and European flavors, are imaginative and worth the risk.

Beaches

Whether you are a sun-worshiper looking for stretches of golden sand and flat-calm blue sea, or a surfer looking to catch more adventurous waves, Puerto Rico will have something for you.

This tiny island boasts some of the best beaches in the Caribbean.

If relaxing on a lounger, soaking up the sun and taking the occasional dip in warm, placid waters is what you are after, you won’t have to look very far.

Gorgeous beaches like Buye, Boqueron, Sucia and Flamenco are scattered all around the island, and almost all of them are within an hour’s drive of San Juan.

Throw together a day bag (or pack light for an overnight stay if a night in a cabana on palm-lined shores is appealing!), and set out for the ultimate day at the beach.

Domes Beach, near Rincon, is one of the most sought-after surfing beaches in the world.

Wave-lovers flock here every year for competitions, and just to catch some of the best breakers around.

If the surf doesn’t materialise, there’s always the old abandoned nuclear plant (the ‘domes’ which gives the beach its name), which is currently being converted into a science museum.

In the winter, Rincon plays host to visiting whales, making the beach an excellent spot for whale watching.

Isla Palominos, and its tiny sibling Isla Palominito, are almost cliches in their perfection; genuine desert island paradises.

Palominito was even used in the final scenes of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides! Pristine, ivory beaches and clear turquoise water are the order of the day here, although you do need to charter a boat to get here.

Natural wonders

El Yunque is Puerto Rico’s most famous national park, and the perfect showcase for the incredible natural beauty of the island.

Lush, verdant tropical rain forest covers the 16 square miles of this stunning place, and exploring on foot on well-marked trails under the green, misty canopy is a genuinely magical experience. 

For the more adventurous explorers, the majestic 3,500-foot peak of El Yunque is a challenge waiting to be attempted.

For hikers who don’t quite fancy a day of mountain climbing, the park is full of remarkable trees and plants, and a number of jaw-dropping beautiful waterfalls, including the 85-foot tall La Coca Falls.

Ardent naturalists should keep their eyes open for the Puerto Rican parrot, which has been a native of the island since before the Spanish arrived.

Bio Luminescence ~ Glow-in-the-dark water

One of the most spectacular sights to be found on this continually surprising and enchanting island is the glow-in-the-dark waters of three of its secluded bays.

La Parguera, Laguna Grande and Mosquito Bay are all rich in the phosphorescent bio luminescence that under the right circumstances becomes a magical, natural light show.

Laguna Grande and Mosquito Bay have plenty of kayak hire companies, and the thrill of moving your boat slowly, delicately through the dark waters and watching the water burst into light with every touch of the paddle is breathtaking.

La Parguera goes one further, as the only bio luminescent bay to allow swimming and snorkeling, which dials the fairy tale up a fair few notches.  

Bio luminescence is a fragile ecosystem of living organisms, and a rare find.

The bays in Puerto Rico are carefully protected, and it is important to be mindful of the natural world you are surrounded by.

That said, this is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see one of nature’s most spellbinding sights, and not to be missed.

Puerto Rico is charming, exciting, vibrant and beautiful.

A wonderful combination of cultures, traditions and history, with magnificent natural wonders around every corner, some remarkable and fascinating heritage, and a warm, welcoming and laid-back population.

Despite its many attractions it remains somewhat under the radar, and far less discovered than many of its Caribbean neighbors.

All in all, it is a wonderful and truly special place to visit, and one that should be high on the bucket list of all world travelers.

Princess Cruises to Alaska ~ What to Know for a Great Trip

Ruby Princess view

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We just came back from an Alaskan cruise with Princess Cruises. After having one of the best vacations ever, we wanted to share what we learned, offer tips for packing, and answer some questions we had before we went.

We went on the Ruby Princess Cruise to Alaska from Seattle. It was seven nights. 

I knew my family would love being on the ship — who wouldn’t?! There is so much to do, even once the novelty of being on a cruise ship wears off. What’s not to love?

I also knew the food choices would be incredible. The food on the Ruby Princess way surpassed my high hopes and expectations.

In addition, the perhaps once-in-a-lifetime chance to go to Alaska is incredible. I knew we would enjoy seeing the scenery and having fun spotting marine life off the ship. It would be fun to explore the Alaskan ports.

Ruby Princess Cruise to Alaska Princess Cruises 

We had a lot of questions when we booked our Alaska cruise. Then after we booked it, we had even more. What to do, what to pack for an Alaskan cruise, what time can we board the ship, and what will we do on the ship?

Alaska cruise glacier bay

I also wondered if there was anything we would need to pay for once on the ship. What is free and included when you go on a Princess cruise to Alaska? When is the first meal on the ship?

We also wondered about what excursions to take and if there were other things to do in the towns. Would we have to book an excursion (aka spend money) in every port in order to have fun?

When to go on an Alaskan cruise

If you’ve been researching cruises to Alaska, you will have learned it’s a short season: mid April – September. We were bringing our kids so we needed to work around the school calendar.

Is weather a factor?

We worried less about chasing ideal weather and more about the price and the week that worked best for us (right after my kids got out of school before their camps and sports started).

We knew the weather in Alaska might not be the warmest; however, we all know enough about weather to know that anything is possible. So we took that out of the equation completely.

Different months you can see different wildlife

Also, depending on when you go, you will see different wildlife. We also took this factor out of our decision. We would be happy with whatever wildlife we would be able to see.

But if it’s important to you to be able to see humpback whales, seals, or salmon, then you should research to see which is the best time to increase your chances of seeing them. However, like the weather, there is no guarantee you will, so it may not be worth it to plan your trip around it.

While it’s probably not the best plan, we booked our cruise with 32 days out. We went online through Costco Travel to research cruise lines, dates, ports, and prices. We chose a week in May on Princess Cruises.

What cruise line is best for Seattle to Alaska

We hadn’t done any real research before booking. I was going off of the positive reputation Princess Cruises had.

Once we decided on Princess Cruises, we didn’t know enough about the different ships to pick one over the other. Princess Cruise lines has many ships that go to Alaska. 

It didn’t matter to us which ship we took because we believed they would all be relatively the same. They are all supremely dedicated to the passengers, providing amazing service, entertainment opportunities, and exceptional food.

Ruby Princess view
Walking along Ruby Princess, enjoying the view.

When we booked, it also seemed the prices were very similar. It seemed to have to do with the date, how far out or how soon you book.

Once we started comparing the dates and the ships, we learned seeing Glacier Bay National Park was an option. Being not many cruise lines and ships have authority to cruise there, we chose the Ruby Princess cruise which did. 

What to consider when booking a Princess cruise to Alaska

So ultimately, we chose our Princess cruise based on:

  • Port it was leaving from: We wanted to leave from Seattle.
  • Price
  • Date
  • Glacier Bay National Park

But even if we didn’t see Glacier Bay National Park (GBNP), it still would have been wonderful.  If I had to do it again, I wouldn’t have used that as criteria. 

And again, as far as which Princess ship to go on, it didn’t matter to us. I was hoping there would be a swimming pool and basketball court but we didn’t research that until after we booked on the Ruby Princess. We were happy to learn the ship had both.

What type of room to choose when booking a cruise?

On Princess Cruises, you will have four types of rooms — cabins — to choose from. 

For most people, it likely comes down to price. We chose the Ocean View which is the second least expensive room type. 

 When you book the cruise, you will be able to see a layout of the rooms on the ship. 

Looking at this diagram of the ship’s cabins didn’t tell us anything or help us in any way because we didn’t have a reference point. Now that we’ve been on the ship, we will have a better understanding for future cruises. 

Given the chance, you want to be toward the center of the ship. In this way, there will be less rocking and movement. However, we were near the front of the ship and only on one night did we experience any type of turbulence.

Not knowing what we were doing, and booking last minute, still worked out perfectly fine for us. We were happy with our rooms and where they were located. 

There were five of us: grandma, mom, dad, two children.

Grandma, mom and one child shared a room with twin beds. Dad and another child shared a queen bed in the second room. We chose two Ocean View Staterooms.

Inside Stateroom

This will be the most inexpensive room. You won’t have a window. Given I worried about being seasick without being able to see the horizon, I didn’t want to choose this room but it probably would have been fine.

Ocean View Stateroom on the Ruby Princess

We were on the Emerald Deck which is Deck 8. We were very happy with our cabins. They were six rooms apart which made it fun and still convenient to go back and forth. 

These rooms exceeded my expectations in every way. I expected them to be much smaller and more basic. 

Even with an obstructed view for one of the rooms, we still could see the ocean and had privacy. 

After booking, we saw online there were options to choose how to configure our cabins.

In the cabin with three of us, we opted for a ‘family cabin’, which we configure with twin beds and it came with two bunks that folded down. We could have chosen to have a queen bed in this cabin but the twin beds worked great with the bunks as well.

They set the room with four twin beds; two on top, and two on the regular ground level.

 In the cabin with my husband and other son, we chose a queen bed. We also used this cabin for our overflow storage of suite cases, clothes  and gear.

Ruby Princess twin bed configuration
Two twin beds plus there are two fold-down twin beds above.

We didn’t hear noise from anyone in the corridor or next to us or above us. This was a big surprise. We just had the gentle rocking of the ship to fall asleep to. 

Balcony Stateroom

I’ve been convincing my in-laws to go on an Alaskan cruise and am encouraging them to get a cabin with a balcony. I’m sure they will love sitting out on their own private balcony.

If you have the extra money to enjoy a balcony, do it. It can really open up the space and gives the feeling of more space. 

Suite Stateroom

I can only dream of how wonderful suites must be! NOT in our budget! And quite frankly, given our experience, I’d be concerned we (or the kids) would want to hang out more in the cabin than take advantaged of everything the cruise ship has to offer…which is A GREAT DEAL!

Our cabins were strictly for sleeping and showering.

Booking a Princess cruise

Then we called the agent to book it. It was easy.

Then we were given access to a portal and trip itinerary that we managed directly. This is where we needed to give them our names, birth dates, and other information. We paid for the fees — listed clearly so we knew what to expect.

We also paid the gratuity fee (Highly recommend to do prior). My husband was a little reluctant to do this prior to the cruise (he was reluctant to go on ANY cruise), but was very happy he did. Husband, “What I like about the cruise is that everything is done, taken care of, including the tips…no need to manage our choices or budget, it’s all done and I can just relax.”

What do you pay for in advance?

While cruises overall may seem expensive, you have to remember you are paying for everything upfront. On traditional vacations, you tend to pay as you go. Oftentimes, you don’t realize how much you pay. 

We paid for the cruise, government fees, and gratuity in advance.

What’s included in the cruise price?

With the cruise price, you will enjoy plenty of food, lodging, transportation on the ship to the ports, and recreation and entertainment on the ship. Our trip was in May, and my husband stated more than once “Don’t ask me if I’m hungry until July”.

For the majority of the cruise, the free drinks we had on the ship were on the Lido Deck, which is the 15th floor. They  include:

Self-serve drinks:

  • Water
  • Coffee with sugar, milk, cream
  • Tea — hot water; tea bags
  • Iced tea

Table service in the cafe; server pours drinks:

  • Orange juice – saw for breakfast
  • Lemonade – saw for lunch and dinner

If you choose to prepay for a drink package, you will have access to soda, specialty coffees, and alcohol. Otherwise, you can order a drink and give them your cabin number. You can pay at once at the end of the cruise. (We didn’t do this and happily drank water, coffee, and tea. One night we ordered wine.)

Kids can also get a drink package which includes soft drinks and lemonade. (Our kids drank water and didn’t do this.)

Government fees per person

There is an add-on fee as well. This will be stated clearly before you book. This is a fee which covers government fees, taxes and port expenses.

This is a per person fee.

Even if you get a good last-minute deal on the cruise price, this price won’t change.

Gratuities

It may seem like a lot that you are paying a certain amount per day, per person, for gratuities. However, the wonderful thing is that like with the food, you have already paid, so you don’t have to worry about it. 

Once you are on board the ship for a couple of days and see all the service staff helping you, you will realize this was a small price to pay.

The service we had on the Ruby Princess was amazing. There were always employees around trying to ensure you have what you need. 

The gratuity fee is based on your room. As an example, our room with the Ocean View Stateroom, it was $15 per day, per person. It’s less for the Inside Stateroom (no window) and more for the Balcony Stateroom and Suite Stateroom.

It’s just a few dollars more per person in gratuity fees for the “better” rooms.

Note if there are extras you pay for, such as the spa, you will need to tip. But you will have an account, similar to a hotel, that you can charge purchases and tips that at the end of the cruise will be charged to your credit card on file. No need to bring a lot cash.

Getting to the ship and back home again

You will have to get from your home to the ship. You will also need to find a way to get from the ship back to your home.

We drove to the airport from our home and left our car in the airport parking lot.

Once in Seattle, there are options. You can take a $29 per person shuttle from the Seattle Tacoma International Airport to the cruise ship. 

Because there were five of us, it made more sense for us to take a Lyft ($73 with tip) from the airport. 

If you are staying at a hotel in Seattle, make sure to book one that has a shuttle to the port to save money and hassle.

When our cruise (sadly) was over, we ordered another Lyft to get back to the airport. We did hear someone advertising rides for $15 per person but we had already called for a car.

Optional things to pay for on the cruise

Know that once you’ve booked your cruise, paid for the cruise price, the government fees, and the gratuity charges, everything else becomes flexible.

After that, there isn’t anything you HAVE to pay for once you are on the cruise to Alaska.

It will be your choice to spend money elsewhere.

Specialty restaurants and menu items

Once on the ship, it’s your choice to pay additional for food in a specialty restaurant or from the main menu.

We were thrilled with all of the “free food” on the ship and couldn’t imagine what more we could possibly want to eat that would be worth paying for. 

In addition to the specialty restaurants, there is a small section on the menu in the “included” DaVinci and Michelangelo dining rooms that you could pay additional for. Really, we had so many choices that were free/included and wonderful, we didn’t even read those options. We certainly didn’t miss them.

Cruise Drink packages and drinks

See above where we discuss the drinks that are “free” on the cruise. While they offer different drink packages, if you don’t purchase one, you can still order specialty coffees, coffees, and alcoholic beverages and charge them to your cabin.

Spa

They have a spa on the Ruby Princess. We didn’t inquire about services or prices but saw it. It looked really nice.

Casino, bingo, etc.

They have a casino on the ship. There were also some Bingo and other games of chance on the schedule activities.

Art gallery

They had a silent auction with paintings. You can enjoy walking through the galleries to see the beautiful pieces (for free). 

Other purchases on the ship

They have a little shop on the ship. There is also a jewelry store which ran a lot of promotions and events. 

We did quite fine not making purchases on the ship with the exception of buying the Princess Cookbook. In addition, one evening we had wine.

All of the extra spending will be your choice. We didn’t do any of it other than walk through the art gallery a few times, so I can’t really comment or provide insight on the value of doing so.

Spending money in the Alaskan ports

Yes, you may want to pay for excursions in advance or in the Alaskan ports. You may want to buy souvenirs or go out to eat somewhere other than on your cruise ship.

But all of these are extras and not mandatory. While the excursions are very fun and a great way to experience the Alaskan city, you will have lots to explore either way.

We spent WAY more on excursions that the cruise itself. Not sure if this is the case on all cruise to other parts of the world, but to Alaska it is to be expected.

After years of finally convincing my husband to go on a cruise, his one stipulation was he wanted to do at least one memorable excursion with his sons. The three of them took a helicopter to the top of a glacier and went dog sledding.

After booking Alaskan cruise ~ what to do

Remember to think of the cruise as you would an all-inclusive resort. You pay upfront instead of as you go.

It’s nice to not always have to be paying for a meal and transportation like travelers often do with other types of vacations.

We were excited for our round-trip cruise to Alaska from Seattle. It was 7 nights. We were going to be cruising on the Ruby Princess Alaskan cruise.

That evening, we looked for and booked flights to Seattle.

Flying in the day before the cruise

Most cruise experts will say to fly in the day before. This makes perfect sense due to the unpredictability with flights and weather.

However, we didn’t do that. We were trying to save money and the hassle of getting a hotel room the night before. 

We also were going with my mother who was flying in from another state.

So, while we got lucky it worked out, it probably better to fly in the day before, get a hotel, and then make your way to the ship later that morning.

Instead, we flew from Tucson to Seattle on an early flight before 7am. My mother flew in from Chicago on an early flight a well. We met up easily at the baggage claim area in the Sea-Tac Airport and made our way to the cruise terminal. 

It worked out really well for us but note we took a big chance doing this. As you can see, I’m nervous about travel issues that come up. But my husband is clearly not. He planned, managed and took care of everything to get us to the ship and then back home…on the ship was me.

He is always great and awesome about this. He sets a goal and doesn’t get sidetracked or upset about issues that do happen. He’s very organized and just keeps us moving and as unaffected as possible. He shoulders it all.

Boarding Princess Cruises the first day

We did our check-in process online at home. This made it easy to get through the cruise terminal as all we had to do was show our paperwork and identification (husband had it all organized for each of us).

Be sure to do this at home before your cruise.

Once we made it to the cruise terminal, we waited outside in line. We arrived around 11am. It was a little cold and rainy. We were able to take out our waterproof jackets and hats to stay warm.

The line went quickly and soon we were inside the terminal. Again, mu husband having everything organized and copies of all our paperwork, Id’s, passport, etc. in packets for each of us really made this a breeze and uneventful.

The staff in the cruise terminal were very positive and pleasant, making it an easy process to get through. They really helped to start our trip positively.

They will take your luggage from you and have it waiting for you outside your cabin. We were able to take out a few items we didn’t want to leave in our suitcases. 

We were on the ship within 45 – 55 minutes from getting out of our Lyft. 

Eating lunch the first day on the cruise

It was a great surprise that once boarding the cruise, we able to eat lunch. We went up to the Lido Deck on 15 to enjoy a buffet lunch.

Alaska cruise from Seattle

There was so much to choose from, including carving stations, fruit, vegetables, salads, fish, rolls, desserts, and more. There is something for everyone, and you get to enjoy the beautiful views of downtown Seattle, including the Space Needle.

Our rooms were ready around 1pm, and all of our luggage was outside the door. We rested a bit before going to the Safety presentation.

The entire process was seamless. A bonus was we were able to enjoy more time on the ship that first day of what turned out to be a wonderful cruise vacation.

What to do after booking cruise and flights

We booked our cruise and our flights, now what? 

While we didn’t do a tremendous amount of research before booking, we had some questions as we started getting excited about our cruise. 

I wondered about packing for the cruise and also what excursions to do at the Alaskan ports. 

What to pack for an Alaskan cruise

The five of us all brought a carry-on suitcase and a backpack or duffel bag. Because we didn’t want to pay to check bags meant we had to pack smart.

Packing for an Alaskan cruise is different than packing for a Caribbean cruise and more predictable climates.

Cold weather clothing takes up more room. Also, for a warmer climate, women’s clothing is more versatile. You can wear a sundress during the day and dress it up for dinner. 

I was also worried about what to pack  a formal night on the Alaskan cruise.

Packing layers for Alaskan cruise

Layers. That’s all I heard when I researched packing for an Alaskan cruise. I was sick of seeing that word. What does that mean in Alaska? How do I maximize my wardrobe with layers for the ship, including days at sea and for dinner?

I was tired of hearing about bringing layers. I wanted to know what it mean in the context of this trip.

With a few key items — these three below — I’m thrilled to say I accomplished dressing in layers AND packing light:

Rain jacket with hood

I bought a Columbia waterproof jacket with adjustable hood. I bought an unlined one because I live in a hot climate and wanted to be able to get more wear out of it. 

This jacket protected me from the wind. I could cinch the hood when it was windy. On the first day as we waited in line to get through the process to get on the ship, it was raining and cold. This jacket served it’s purpose right off.

It was easy to fit my puffy vest underneath. I wore a long sleeve shirt under it. These pieces made it easy to shed layers as it got warmer throughout the day. 

Then at night, it was easy to start putting them back on. 

Puffy vest

I already owned a packable zippered vest. I made sure the long sleeve shirts I brought matched the vest. It was versatile to wear with my jeans, leggings, athletic pants and even my black skirt. I had a scarf that also made it more versatile and warmer.

It had a zippered detachable hood but I didn’t bring it.

Good walking shoes

Something about wearing gym shoes with my jeans and black stretch pants/leggings makes me feel like a slob. I found amazingly comfortable black Sketchers without laces. I wore them for the entire trip.

They went with everything except for formal night. I wore them on the plane and packed my heels for the special dinners.

I was so happy with how comfortable they were and how I was able to wear them around Alaska, including hiking, and all around the ship. They looked nice with jeans as well for dinner. 

They were versatile enough to slip on when I went between our two cabins. I was able to wear them for hours walking around Alaska — we walked a lot in Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan — and was equally comfortable walking around on the cruise ship, on the track, to play basketball with my kids, etc.

Packing for Alaska cruise

In Alaska during the day, we all wore pants. At each port, I walked around in jeans, black stretch pants or yoga pants and a short sleeve shirt under a long sleeve shirt and my rain jacket.

I took off my rain jacket as the days were warm. Actually, I was fine in my short sleeve shirt most of the time. It was handy to put the unneeded layers in my backpack.

Other things to bring on cruise to Alaska

Sunglasses

Having polarized sunglasses isn’t necessary but it made everything sharper and clearer.

Good camera

Unless you have an updated cell phone that takes wonderful pictures, bring a decent camera. Bring extra batteries, a charger, an additional memory card… whatever you might need so you don’t feel yourself holding back from taking pictures.

Beanie ski hat

At times it will be windy and cold. You don’t want to have to hold down your baseball cap and worry about it blowing away. Bring a ski hat which will keep your ears warm. You can easily put it in your pocket as the day warms up.

Small purse

I saw a lot of people walking around with their room key in a lanyard around their necks. We didn’t do that.

I carried a small black purse for dinner and around the ship to hold my phone, room key, ID, and camera. This also fit easily in my backpack when I was in Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan and Victoria.

Binoculars 

We only had one pair at home, and I’m glad my husband thought to bring them. I wish we had at least one more pair.

When we were in Glacier Bay National Park (a day at sea) we spent hours looking out at the scenery and looking for marine life. Often times we shared the binoculars and missed seeing some activity. 

It would have been great to have each had a pair. 

You will want these to better see the humpback whales, seals, sea otters, orca whales, and other wildlife in the distance. 

Scarf

I got a lot of wear out of my thin scarf. It worked as a fashion piece with my long sleeve tee shirts, and changed up the look when I was wearing my puffy vest. It also kept me warm on our first day when it rained in Seattle.

Kindle or book

If you are a fast reader or plan to read and relax once on the ship, you will want to download more than one book. For us, we read on the plane and for only about 30 minutes on the ship.

We sure wish we had more time to relax but there was so much to do, plus we went with our kids and spent a lot of time exploring and playing cards, etc. with them. 

Alarm clock

I am thrilled I brought my alarm clock. It’s very easy to get hooked on using a cell phone for an alarm and to know the time.

However, I didn’t want to worry about my phone on the trip — especially because we gained an hour at the beginning of the cruise and then moved the clock back again toward the end. Would my phone reset? I didn’t want to worry figuring out what time it was.

My alarm clock was perfect. It’s small and easy to pack. It’s battery operated. To see the time in the dark, I press a button. I like that it remains dark.

Small thermos

I saw a few people with slim Thermos-type bottles. There were signs in the beverage area to not refill you water bottle from the water spouts. 

I did see people refill their small leak-proof coffee/tea holder — most of the people I saw do this used it for tea. I didn’t miss having this; however, my mother would have enjoyed the convenience of being able to carry around tea or coffee.

Reusable bag

Bring a nylon reusable bag that doesn’t take a lot of room. We used ours a lot on the ship. It’s easy to tuck into a backpack, jacket pocket, or purse. I used it a lot for carrying games and my kids sweatshirts around the ship. 

Ketchitkan port
Totem pole in Ketchikan
Small backpack

I carried a backpack to all of the Alaskan ports and to Victoria, Canada. 

It was a convenient way to bring water bottles, sweatshirts, etc. It came in handy every time, especially as it got warmer throughout the day. I also packed the reusable bag in the backpack and used at when we shed more of our layers.

Sunscreen stick

We didn’t bring a face sunscreen stick but would have used it if we did. The days we were in Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan were sunny and warm. 

Dramamine

I bought Dramamine before we went on the cruise. Our rooms were toward the front of the ship — known to be more rocky than being in the middle. 

Be sure to buy non-drowsy Dramamine. 

My husband and I were a little seasick walking around the ship the first afternoon. However, a lot of that probably had to do with being very tired. After we arrived on board, ate lunch, walked around a bit, we tried resting in our cabins for an hour and felt much better afterwards. 

We needed lip balm while we were in Skagway and found a great IGA store. 

They do have a store on-board where you can get necessary items as well. We didn’t see it until the middle of the week.

Gloves

I brought stretchy gloves for all of us but we didn’t wear them. These were small to pack, and I’m glad I brought them and would again just in case.

Phone chargers

While I didn’t want to use my phone on the trip, I did carry it with me to communicate with my teen and husband. We didn’t buy the internet package. For free, we were able to use the messaging / texting to reach each other. 

Alaskan cruise packing list

Aside from wishing we had more than one pair of binoculars and a small carafe for coffee, there wasn’t anything I wish I brought.

The best thing I brought was my unlined waterproof jacket.

What to wear on formal night on Princess cruise to Alaska

The Ruby Princess has two formal nights on the 7 night cruise.

The dress code is probably the same for all the Princess Cruises to Alaska. We attended the two formal nights.

Our ship left on a Saturday and returned the following Saturday. The formal nights on our cruise were Monday night and Thursday night.

After seeing what everyone wore to these dress up nights: 

It seemed like you were meant to make an effort.

What’s great about this is that it can be different for everyone. It may depend on what you already have at home. A big factor for us was space in the suitcase. Do you have room for formal attire? Will you pack a garment bag with a suit or formal gown? 

Anything “nicer” goes on formal night. Just making an effort will make you feel a part of the excitement.

Women dressing for formal night on Alaskan cruise

Because we were only bringing carry-on bags, we went more simple. I packed heels and a sleeveless sheath dress with a dressier necklace — not expensive/real jewelry.

For the second night, I had a fancier top with the same necklace and a simple black skirt. I wore the sames heels both nights.

Women were in a variety of outfits. Some were in gowns, some in nice dresses, and other women paired blouses and sweaters with nice pants or a skirt. 

Men dressing for formal night on Alaskan cruise

My husband decided not to pack dress clothing and wasn’t going to attend formal night.

At that time, we thought there was just one formal night on the cruise. We didn’t know there were two formal nights.

So, had he known there were two — and that he would have gotten two “wears” out of his nicer shirt, pants, and shoes, he may have brought them.

Several men were in suits, many were in collared, button-down shirts with ties, and others had nicer shirts. Again, it seemed everyone “made an effort” in some way. 

Kids dressing for formal night on the cruise

My sons wore nice pants — dark twill pants — and polo shirts. They wore their tennis shoes.

They were perfectly fine and looked handsome. 

Going to formal night on Princess Cruises

You really don’t want to miss formal night. The wait staff dresses up; the food is (even more) extra special; and there is a featured dessert in addition to the other wonderful choices. 

For our first formal night we enjoyed duck. On the second, we enjoyed lobster tail. As with all the evening meals in the Michelango and Da Vinci Dining Rooms, there is a lot to choose from on the menu.

Formal night on Princess Cruises

For both of the formal nights, we arrived earlier, around 5 – 5:30pm. It was less crowded. 

On the second formal night, one of the waitstaff recognized my husband wasn’t there and asked about him. I said how he didn’t bring clothing for formal night. He said how he should have come anyway, that it would have been fine… everyone wears anything. It was nice of him to take the time to note my husband wasn’t there and seemed to feel badly my husband missed out. 

My husband was fine but would have loved going to the formal nights and definitely will should we have this opportunity again. Instead, he enjoyed eating somewhere else, reading and relaxing until met up afterward. 

How many formal nights on Ruby Princess?

Our 7-night cruise had two formal nights. Go to both of them. You will be thrilled with the evening.

While the dinners in the DaVinci Dining Room and Michelangelo Dining Room are incredible any day, on formal night, the foods are even a step above. The waitstaff will be even more dressed up. You can expect the same professional, attentive and polite service as the other evenings.

The second formal night on the Ruby Princess involves the waitstaff in a really fun way. We loved it!

Packing tips for Alaskan cruise

You never know the interesting things you might find in the ports, so be sure to leave room for souvenirs. We packed some snacks for traveling to and from the cruise ship so we had extra space in our backpacks for Alaskan souvenirs. 

If you need toiletry items, the ship’s store probably has them. We didn’t go into the store until later in the trip.

Packing for kids for Alaskan cruise

My kids brought two pairs of athletic pants. However, my kids both wore the same pants most of the time. My older teen wore his dark twill blue pants and my tween wore his skinny jeans (which is funny because he never wore them at home).

They brought one pair of pajama bottoms and slept in a dri-fit type tee shirt. Each of them brought a waterproof jacket and a sweatshirt. They brought two long sleeve dri-fit type shirts as well for layering but didn’t wear them.

The ski caps they packed were perfect. They wore their gym shoes on the plane and only packed their slides. They wore their slides a lot on the ship (except for dinner) and gym shoes to the ports. 

Ruby Princess Alaskan cruise

We enjoyed family time, sightseeing, taking in the scenery, looking for marine life, and having fun exploring all there was to do on the ship.

Electronics on Princess Cruises

We were looking forward to screen-free time on the cruise.

The only electronics we brought were my older son had his phone. This was helpful for when he went down to the Teen Room in the Kids Club. He has a good sense of direction, so we let him have a little independence and meet us a few times.

Both kids brought their Kindles.

We set up the Princess Cruises app which was free. It enabled us to send text messages for no charge. In addition, we were able to pull up the daily schedule of events, etc. on our phones.

We walked past an area with desktop computers and saw a few people in there using them.

Will there be a lot of kids on the Alaskan cruise

We went on our Alaskan cruise from Saturday, May 25th to Saturday, June 1st. Our kids got out of school on the Wednesday before Memorial Day, and we left that Saturday. 

We hardly saw any children the entire cruise. Throughout the cruise, we saw a few toddlers. There were a few tweens and teens in the Kids Club. 

However, around the ship, we could go an entire day and see just one or two children. 

Know that the earlier the season you go on an Alaskan cruise, the less kids you will see. Schools are still in session in April and throughout most of May. Many don’t get out until June. 

In addition, going toward the end of August and all through September will mean less kids as well. In the United States, most schools are back in session right after Labor Day at the latest. So if you go after Labor Day, you will most likely see less children on the cruise

Is it crowded on the cruise ship?

The only day that seemed a bit crowded was the first day. People were all arriving and using the elevators for lunch as soon as they boarded. There was a little bit of a wait for the elevator.

However, after that first afternoon, once everyone’s rooms were ready and people could go to their cabins, it wasn’t crowded at all. 

With the exception of seeing the service staff, we didn’t we see the same people over and over. Only once do I remember seeing the same person twice!

Most people will get off the ship to visit the ports, making the ship even emptier-feeling. 

Alaska ports

Our ship stopped in Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan, Glacier Bay National Park, and Victoria, Canada. The Glacier Bay National Park was a day at sea; we didn’t get off the ship. We were able to go 65 miles in to see the famous glacier, enjoying the scenery there and back. 

We weren’t far enough north to see the Northern Lights; however, everything we saw was stellar and magnificent. 

Days at sea on Ruby Princess

We loved our days at sea. 

Before booking our trip, we looked at different itineraries online. Some had more days at sea than others. While I wanted to see what we could in Alaska, I was especially excited to spend as many days at sea as possible. 

Princess cruise ships are fun! There is so much to do on a cruise — it’s a vacation itself on the ship — plus all of the gorgeous scenery and extensive eating. I know my kids and family would be enthralled with all of it.

And while I went in with high hopes and expectations, the Ruby Princess was even better than I imagined. 

We thoroughly enjoyed what Princess Cruises had to offer. We took advantage of so many things: swimming pools, hot tubs, huge theater, basketball court, putt putt mini golf, spontaneous entertainment and planned entertainment, and so much more on the ship. 

We sat in different areas and played cards. There was even a Library on the Ruby Princess. You can check out books and games. 

Time flies when you are having fun so be sure to think about what you want to do and be sure to fit it in. We wish we had another week to continue the cruise ship fun.

We would have loved more time to relax on the lounge chairs to read, eat, and enjoy the scenery. 

Lots of scheduled activities on board Princess Cruises

Each day there is a calendar of events. Each evening, when we returned from our evening of fun — dinner, walking around, playing cards, taking in a show, etc. — we would come back to our cabin. On the bed is a list of scheduled activities for the next day.

You can also access this from the Princess Cruises app. 

You can choose to take part in something or not. Many times were there overlapping things we wanted to do. 

Demonstrations

We happened to be walking by a Fruit Carving Demonstration in the Piazza and stayed to watch.

Later in the week, we saw there was an Ice Carving Demonstration on the Lido Deck which we enjoyed.

ice carving on Princess Cruises

In addition, we went to a Culinary Demonstration in the Princess Theater followed by a walk-through of the kitchen. 

Lots of things to do

My kids enjoyed the basketball shootout competition.

We hung out at night with a dance crowd to watch the balloon drop. 

Another time, we walked past a ping pong tournament against some of the cruise ship staff. Once we walked past passengers gathered around for a game show.

You just show up! If you go, enjoy! If you don’t and choose something else, that’s fine too.

There was also a Family Night at the Youth Center and Teen Lounge. The entire family is invited to hang out and play skee ball, air hockey, board games, video games, etc. It was a fun way to acquaint ourselves and our kids with the rooms. 

Shows in the Princess Theater

While we wish we had time to see more the performances in the Princess Theater, we were glad we saw Libby Riddles present. She was the first woman to win the Iditarod.

In addition, we attended the talk from the National Park Service while we were in Glacier Bay National Park.

We attended a culinary show with a cooking demonstration followed by a kitchen tour. 

Later that day, we attended the 50-minute finale of a singing competition which had been going on throughout the week with the passengers. It was tons of fun. My kids loved being able to vote for the winner. It was really well done. 

Fitness and recreation on the Star Deck

On the 19th floor — the top floor — there is a sports deck. There is a lot to enjoy. My family went up there many times.

Princess Links mini golf

There is a mini golf course with four holes. You can use the putters and golf balls and return them when you are finished.

Basketball and pickle ball court

There is a net above the sports court to keep the balls from going overboard. At times it was windy and chilly. We always brought our hats just in case.

There is a basketball court with two nets. There were four balls there to use. 

In addition, the court doubles as a pickle ball court. There was a net, paddles and balls there to use.

Is the sports court crowded? No.

There was one time we went up to play basketball but adults were playing pickle ball. We played miniature golf instead.

Another time, we were playing basketball, and adults came hoping to play pickle ball. They went to play putt putt until we finished.

A few times we shared the basketball court and the putt putt course but everyone was respectful.

Check the schedule because sometimes Princess Cruises has a planned activity on the court you might want to do. My kids did the basketball shootout. Sometimes we saw pickle ball on the schedule.

Track

On floor 19, there is also a small track. If you walk 16 times around, you will have walked one mile. You will be lapping the putt putt area and enjoying looking out at the water.

It’s also fun to walk on decks 7 and 8 (Promenade and Emerald decks) to enjoy the views. You can walk around the ship 2.5 times, and you will have walked a mile.

Fitness center

After we got home, my husband mentioned something about a fitness center on the cruise. There was so much to do and see, I didn’t even know there was one.

Swimming pools on Princess Cruises to Alaska

We wondered if the swimming pools were inside or outside on Alaskan cruises.

The swimming pools are outside on a Princess cruise. If you luck out with the weather like we did, you will enjoy swimming in the sunshine, and you might forget you are in Alaska! It was beautiful.

There are several swimming pools and hot tubs on the ship. There are beach towels nearby so you don’t have to worry about packing them. 

I didn’t pack my swimsuit due to space in my luggage and because we have a pool. However, my husband and kids enjoyed time in the pool one day when we got back from a port. The sun was shining and because the ship was docked, it was that much warmer. 

We saw people enjoying the swimming pools and hot tubs throughout the week. There was the day we were at sea when we were in Glacier Bay National Park, and it was so warm and sunny. There were a lot of people enjoying the lounge chairs, hot tubs and swimming pools. But even then, it wasn’t crowded, and I saw just three children.

Opportunities to be active on the Ruby Princess

Whether you enjoy swimming, exercising, walking, or being active on the sports court on the Sky Deck, you will be able to get exercise if you want to. At times, my kids and I took the stairs instead of the elevator to get more steps in. 

Nightlife on Ruby Princess

There are a lot of restaurants and lounges on the Ruby Princess ship. You can enjoy bands, singers, dancing, special gatherings, and more.

While we did partake in the balloon drop — which turned out to be a fun night with an announcer, band, and singer, we spent most of the other evenings in the lounges, playing cards and hanging out.

balloon drop on Princess Cruises
balloon drop dance party on Ruby Princess

You could order a drink or not. Oftentimes, they brought us water. There wasn’t any pressure whatsoever to order to do anything yet the staff was attentive if you wanted something.

There is a casino and the Princess Theater for additional entertainment.

Keep in mind, you can do whatever you feel like doing. You can go to one of the top decks and sit on a lounge chair with coffee. You can go get more to eat. Go dancing if you want. It’s your vacation, and you can spend your days and evenings as you wish.

Outdoor movies on the cruise

Enjoy a movie on the lounge chair watching a movie on the big screen. 

We didn’t have time to take advantage of this. We saw the staff putting cushions and pillows on the lounge chairs for a cozy evening movie experience. They even had blankets you could use.

The next time we go — if we can be so lucky as to go again — we will definitely be watching a movie!

Looking for wildlife on Alaskan Cruise

The Ruby Princess cruise we took had a day at sea while we had the chance to see Glacier Bay National Park. We spent a lot of time watching for marine life which was very fun. 

Bring binoculars and a decent camera so you can get some good shots. 

Again, we went Memorial Day week in May. During our cruise, we were lucky enjoy to see humpback whales, orca whales, sea otters, and seals. One seal came right up to the ship. It all happens fast though so you need to be watching. 

At times, there was an announcer who was spotting the marine life making it really helpful for passengers who were interested in spotting them.

The binoculars make it even better. 

Waking up early when in Glacier Bay National Park

Do be sure to wake up early some mornings. It’s important to wake up as early as you can the day your cruise ship is in Glacier Bay National Park.

While a lot of the time on the water may be the same — we loved it! — the time you spend in Glacier Bay National Park or any area with the glaciers such as Hubbard Glacier on other Princess Cruises to Alaska — will be unique.

At times you will see ice floating in the water. We saw a lot of wildlife, including birds. You can enjoy the views and may have a better chance to see marine life. We saw a lot of whales, sea otters and seals. 

Take advantage of your time spent in these glacier areas. It’s a magical time. 

Ruby Princess cruise review

Amazing food

We didn’t need to spend any money once we were on the ship to eat well. The food was outstanding. We ordered so many different foods, including duck, salmon, surf & turf, crab legs, mussels, scallops, prawns, and shrimp cocktail. If you don’t eat seafood, you will have so many other wonderful choices.

We really loved we could eat so many different foods. And even as we enjoyed a fabulous meal in the Michelangelo Dining Room for dinner, we knew there were fantastic foods in the Horizon Cafe on Deck 15, and in the International Cafe on Deck 5, as well as many other options. It just went on and on. 

Service

The service was outstanding. When we were eating dinner in the Michelangelo Dining Room, I would easily see five waitstaff at any time.

The waitstaff was attentive, professional and polite. They made it an exceptional dining experience each time we were there. 

The Head Waiter, was absolutely fantastic. He handled our son’s food allergies so well.

It’s always stressful when we eat out and this man went ABOVE and BEYOND making it safe and special for my son. If you have a child with food issues, you know how much it means to have them included in — rather than left out of — meals.

Relaxing vacation

So many times on vacation, we are worrying about where to eat and driving here and there. We have to check into hotels and leave again to see something else. With a cruise, you show up and it’s done! You can actually enjoy your vacation in a safe and carefree way. 

Get to do something in your down time

On other vacations, we usually spend the days sightseeing and the evenings in our hotel room. There is nothing to do but watch television.

On a cruise, it’s completely different. You can spend the day exploring one of the Alaskan ports and then come back to enjoy dinner and continue on with an entire evening of fun.

Eating dinner on the cruise

Anytime dining versus Traditional dining

Anytime dining

We chose Anytime dining. On the Ruby Princess, this meant we could eat in the Michelangelo Dining Room anytime after 4:30pm.

When we booked our cruise, we were told anytime after 5:30pm so we didn’t know we could have gone earlier until midway through our cruise.

We liked going earlier — even 5:30pm was good — because it enabled us to have more time with our incredible Head Waiter, who helped us immensely with our son’s food allergies.

Traditional dining

On the Ruby Princess, this meant you choose a dining time and have the same table, same waitstaff and same table mates (people you then dine with throughout the cruise) in the Da Vinci Dining Room on the 5th floor.

If you want to dine alone, you can. Be sure to state this when you book your cruise.

While the Da Vinci Dining Room is for passengers who selected Traditional Dining, after 7:30pm, anyone can eat there. 

Food allergies on Princess Cruises

When we booked our cruise through Costco, the agent asked us about food allergies. We told them about my son. His is an uncommon intolerance which makes it difficult for him to have desserts as well as foods with vegetable oil.

On our first night at dinner in the Michelangelo Dining Room, we asked to speak with the Head Waiter. I gave him a list of all the ingredients my son couldn’t have. Most of them would be in breadings, French fries, and desserts. 

The Head Waiter was exceptional. He took the time to learn about it and the ways he could work around the allergies so my son could still try new foods and have desserts. Though the intolerance/allergy is uncommon, he took the time to investigate on his own and was proactive about speaking with the chefs, reading ingredients, etc. 

The chef made this cake safe for my son.

He gave my son the menu each night for the next day. My son pre-ordered his food. This was a lot of work because our Head Waiter had to work with the kitchen staff and chefs to sure everything was safe for him. 

In addition to that, he went out of his way to bring raw vegetables as an appetizer for him. After that, he worked with the chefs to come up with desserts he could have. This was amazing as they had to make these special for him. 

Throughout the cruise, the Head Waiter made my son feel very special. He was professional, knowledgeable and took pride in his work. He is a huge asset to Princess Cruises and my family will be forever grateful for the way he cared for our son. We had one of the best vacations ever not having to worry about food. My son tried new foods, had tremendous desserts, and didn’t get sick at all. 

Another amazing and safe dessert they made.

I’m sure the Head Waiter had a long list of special food accommodations for other passengers. We always saw him working with staff and guests, and despite his workload, always seemed calm and professional.

Yet, despite the amount of responsibilities he had, he worked so hard for us, he made us feel like we were the only ones.

Princess Cruises staff on Ruby Princess cruise to Alaska

From our experience on the Ruby Princess, all of the employees work very hard to give you every opportunity to enjoy yourself in a carefree manner. 

The staff was service-focused, not just service-oriented. (There’s a difference!)

Every single employee we encountered was professional, polite, and (amazingly) always seemed happy to be doing their jobs. 

The service employees were always doing something. They were always working hard while putting the customer first. 

None of us wanted our vacation to end. We would love to go back. 

Princess Cruise Alaska

We loved our vacation. While the weather was perfect, even if it wasn’t, there’s so much to do on the ship, you will have a great time. It’s a true vacation — without all the planning, figuring out food, driving and dealing with transportation, worrying about where you are and whether it’s safe, etc. 

Whether you take an Alaska cruise from Seattle or from a port in Canada or Alaska, it’s a unique vacation in so many ways. 

Ruby Princess Cruise Alaskan cruise review

We were thrilled our choice of taking an Alaskan cruise. We didn’t “choose” the Ruby Princess — it’s the ship that worked best with our dates and price. However, we loved it and will recommend it again and again. 

Know you won’t have enough time to enjoy all the ship has to offer. Once you’re back after exploring the ports, you can do as much or as little as you want.

So many times on vacations, we are stressed out and have to do so much planning, driving, and worrying. On a cruise, all you have to do is do the preliminary work to get on the ship and then enjoy. It’s truly a vacation. 

You don’t have to worry about getting from Point A to Point B. It’s a very safe way to travel. It’s truly a stress-free, “real” vacation. 

And the food! Typically on vacations, there’s always discussion about where to go, when to eat, etc. You don’t have any of that with a Princess Cruise. 

Reasons to Book Small Ship Cruise to Alaska

Cruise to Alaska 

We can only hope to cruise to Alaska again or cruise to a different destination. I would go as often as possible and stay as long as possible. It’s such an easy vacation to go on with kids. We weren’t glued to our phones — we were in the moment, exploring, enjoying, etc. 

There’s something for everyone on the Ruby Princess. That’s the great thing about it. Options. There are plenty of options for whatever you want to do, whether it comes to eating, recreation, entertainment, relaxing, exercise, scenery/wildlife, learning, etc.

We have many more pictures and lots of videos we will be adding to this post, so check back. Have you traveled on a cruise to Alaska? What are your tips? Please leave your Comments below. 

5 Places to Visit on Your Next Boating Trip to Seattle

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Boating Trip to Seattle is one of the top tourist destinations in the US.

Other than foreign tourists visiting this magnificent seaport city, many local tourists flock Seattle waters to enjoy the city as much as outsiders.

Soaking in the sun while riding on a boat with family or friends is an activity that many crave for when visiting this city.

But riding on the water all day or night isn’t fun if there are zero destinations to explore in between the water rides.

Places to Visit on Your Boating Trip to Seattle

With the increasing popularity of Boat rentals in Seattle, below, we explore 5 places to visit on your next boating trip to Seattle:
Places to Visit Next Boating Trip to Seattle

The Bell Harbor Marina

The Bell Harbor Marina sits pretty in the middle of the downtown Settle waterfront district.

Tourists can come to the Marina with a charter boat or in their boats.

If you come on your boat, you’d be wise to make reservations prior, but almost always you’ll never miss a spot.

The Marina has reliable Wi-Fi and clean bathrooms and is secure.

The docks are secure, and the staff at Bell Harbor are not only friendly but accommodating.

The Marina is adjacent to the Anthony’s Seafood Restaurant as well as the Bell Harbor Convention Center.

You will enjoy the numerous waterfront activities that you can reach with ease.

Walking short distances to get to each venue one of the main attraction pieces in the Marina is the Ferris wheel, known as “The Seattle Great Wheel,” that hosts 42 gondolas, which each ferry eight passengers.

The Marina is set up at Bell Street Pier/Pier 66, and close to shopping malls, hotels, restaurants, and the famous Pike Place Market.

You can walk to the Space Needle, Seattle Center and the Seattle Aquarium all spots that are worth visiting as you spend your time in the Bell Harbor Marina.

Bainbridge Island

Bainbridge Island sits on the west side of Seattle.

The island is surrounded by saltwater.

The island is accessible by boat, and as you near it, you will be wowed by its breathtaking beauty, that will introduce you to the island’s rustic character.

The island can be accessed by private charter or through the Washington State Ferries.

The 35-minute cross gives you ample time to soak in the spectacular Seattle skyline across Elliot Bay.

It will give you an opportune chance to gaze at the Space Needle set up in the Puget Sound area.

Once on the island, you can take a walk down the waterfront trail to explore.

Taking the western trail will lead you to historical sites, parks, and restaurants.

Within the distance are picnic sites that you can visit to have your packed lunch or take a breather as you soak in what the island has to offer.

If you’re a water sporting enthusiast, you can rent sporting gear at the Back of Beyond store that is a short distance from the ferry pier.

You can rent a paddle board, kayak or canoe.

You can hire experienced guides to give you a lay of the water and the best places to partake the sporting activity of your choosing.

Lake Union Restaurants

The Puget Sound area is America’s best dining by boat destination.

A plethora of restaurants placed all over this area, allowing boaters to come in from their boats and into the restaurant to have their meals.

One major area of interest is the Lake Union area that is home to the following restaurants:

Chandler’s Crab house has a slip where you can leave your boat and get in for some of the best Crabmeat.

Set up in 1988, the restaurant serves Dungeness Crab that lives in the Washington waters.

There are eight crab varieties seasonally, and you can order from the twenty different crab dishes featured on the menu.

Duke’s Restaurant & Bar is located on the South Lake Union; the place has a comforting atmosphere and serves both cold beers, tasty cocktails, and delicious meals.

Many people come from all over Seattle on their boats to enjoy the restaurant’s Seafood & Clam Chowder recipe.

When you are in the area, you should give it a try!

Poulsbo City

If you enjoy traversing the waters, you will enjoy a visit to Poulsbo City.

It is located 20 nautical miles from Seattle in Liberty Bay.

The city is regarded as “little Norway” and is an ideal cruising destination.

The city retains the Scandinavian theme, which makes it a popular tourist destination.

You arrive on your trip to Seattle by boat and can spend the day visiting the three marinas located in the city.

A walk around the city will introduce you to the early settlers’ livelihoods and how their culture is still preserved in these modern times.

San Juan Islands

Taking a leisurely ride on a Washington State Ferry or private boating means exposes you to the archipelago’s beauty.

There is four islands setup in the archipelago that you can choose to visit; they’re; Lopez, Orcas, Shaw, and San Juan.

The best boating routes you can take include the Victoria Clipper that allows you to visit the islands from Seattle’s waterfront, or you can settle for the seasonal Bellingham or Port Townsend ferries.

Any route you prefer will make it possible to look at the staggering beauty all around the waters as you leave Seattle and approach the islands!

Wellness Retreat Gem in the Green Mountains of Vermont Vacation Like No Other

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Wellness Retreat Gem in the Green Mountains of Vermont Vacation – Founded in 1978, New Life Hiking Spa has been organizing wellness vacations in the Green Mountains of Vermont for over four decades.

From the very creation of New Life, the mission has been to offer affordable, all-inclusive healthy retreats using hiking and nature as the focal point of the program.

New Life Hiking Spa is located in the lush mountains of Killington, Vermont where the famous Long Trail and Appalachian Trail meet offering some of the most incredible hiking in the country. National Parks Travel List

New Life Hiking Spa in the Green Mountains of Vermont Vacation

Three levels of professionally guided hikes are offered every day during the season to accommodate the guests varied levels of fitness.

That’s twenty-one weekly hikes and nature walks to provide guests an authentic Vermont hiking experience with professionally trained hiking guides who live, love and breathe Vermont.

Getting back to nature and using mountains instead of a treadmill, is what sets this wellness and weight loss retreat apart.

This all-inclusive wellness getaway starts off with a healthy, fresh breakfast, takes you on an invigorating morning hike, gets you back to the lodge for a farm-to-table lunch and has massages and fitness classes all afternoon.

A delicious but healthy dinner ends the day with massages or evening activities afterward.

On a typical day at New Life Hiking Spa, you’ll meet downstairs after breakfast with fellow guests and collect your gear.

There are 21 treks, and the terrain is hiking level appropriate that challenge according to your fitness level:

The Nature Walk, (flat or rolling hills 2-4 miles in length capturing Vermont scenery at a more relaxing pace).

The Classic Hike, (4-6 miles on wooded trails, beautiful lookouts and serene waterfalls).

The Advanced Hike, (Covers steeper more challenging terrain at a more vigorous pace).

Some elevations are over 4000 feet.

Local Vermonters are hired who know every inch of the terrain who are attentive to their hikers’ needs.

Guests hike from 9 until lunchtime, the perfect time to be outside.

There is no getting up at 5 a.m. to hike before the heat hits…think–cool mountain breezes!

Hiking Green Mountains Vermont Vacation
Hiking Green Mountains Vermont Vacation

Hiking Green Mountains of Vermont

Each morning you’ll choose from three trails; and with three levels of hikes being offered each day, every guest’s fitness level is accommodated as they enjoy nature and the great outdoors.

Beginner hikes are nature walks that take guests along picturesque country settings, mountain streams, and working farms.

The nature walk will be flat or rolling hills two to four miles in length.

This will provide a good workout for the beginner hiker while enjoying the beautiful Vermont scenery at a more relaxing pace.

Solo Road Trip in America for Women

Intermediate hikes lead guests along the diverse terrain of the famous Appalachian and Long Trails.

Intermediate hikes provide a scenic workout for the advanced beginner, intermediate or experienced hiker, covering anywhere from four to six miles on wooded trails and ancient ways.

Visit beautiful lookouts, ancient mines and serene waterfalls.

A ratio of no more than 6:1 hikers to hike leaders insures that guests feel comfortable at their own pace while being appropriately challenged.

Advanced hikes challenge guests further up some of the highest peaks in Vermont with breathtaking views.

Advanced hikes cover steeper more challenging terrain and longer distances at a more vigorous pace.

Not for the faint of heart, the rewards are inspirational views from the very top of Vermont.

Some elevations over 4,000 feet will be reached where guests experience a different climate and Vermont’s unique high elevation alpine tundra environment.

For intermediate and advanced hikers, the Long Trail and the Appalachian Trail aim to please with inclines leading to Pico or Killington Peak.

Atop hikers can rest on a flat boulder and take in the panoramic beauty of green pine.

Green Mountains Vermont Vacation
Green Mountains Vermont Vacation

Nature is food for the mind, body, and soul.

Exercising outside improves concentration, boosts memory and serves as an antidote to a stressful life.

New Life Hiking Spa Vermont

The theme of getting back to nature carries over into New Life Hiking Spa’s food philosophy.

The program advocates a respect for the nutritional value of whole food, as well as its origin, seasonality, availability and freshness.

Three meals a day are prepared fresh, on site, and created by a team of professional chefs who specialize in whole foods and work with Vermont farmers to source ingredients for meals.

In addition to their award-winning hiking program, healthy food, fitness, and wellness programming, New Life also offers their guests holistic massages set in a casual, accepting, come-as-you are environment.

The company has become widely known over the past 40+ years as an unpretentious “destination spa,” but many return guests who know and love the program also refer to it as “grown-up camp.”

Guests have commented that eating together in the dining room, bonding with the hiking guides and participating in carefree, outdoor activities, make them feel “like a kid again.”

Science tells us that spending time with Mother Nature helps benefit both our brains and our bodies.

Most of New Life Hiking Spa’s guests are solo travelers, duos or small groups.

Because of the affordability of New Life’s all-inclusive extended stay wellness retreat, many guests are looking to lose weight and take charge of their health and wellness.

Anyone looking to take a retreat vacation to de-stress, lose weight, or recharge would feel comfortable selecting New Life.

Recognized as one of the most affordable, all-inclusive retreats in North America, the atmosphere makes it extremely comfortable for guests to visit on their own and the longer stays tend to be the most popular.

New Life Hiking Spa Wellness Retreat Gem in the Green Mountains of Vermont Vacation
New Life Hiking Spa Wellness Retreat Gem in the Green Mountains of Vermont Vacation

Three different pricing options are available, depending on the length of stay.

New Life Hiking Spa offers

The three to ten-night Jump Start Getaway is priced from $249 per night, per person for double occupancy.

The 11-20 night Weight Loss Retreat is priced from $239 and the 21 night (or longer) Extended Stay Wellness Retreat begins at $229. (All prices are based on per night, per person, double occupancy.)

The minimum stay is three nights, and all rates include a private room with a private bath, three meals a day, healthy snacks, daily guided hikes, use of hiking poles and backpacks, all fitness and wellness classes, evening activities, and one massage for each three-night stay.

From delicious healthy meals to the best hiking in the country, to rejuvenating holistic spa treatments, New Life Hiking Spa has become one of the most popular wellness retreats in North America.

It’s no wonder it just placed in the #1 spot on the annual Spas of America list for the fifth consecutive year and was Travel + Leisure’s #1 destination spa in 2016.

The 2019 season dates are May 16 – September 30. www.newlifehikingspa.com

The Best Wineries a Short Drive from San Francisco

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The wine country in San Francisco’s backyard is a place that’s ideal for group travel.

The very famous Napa and Sonoma Valley are practically made to be experienced with friends, especially once you count the amazing wine in the equation.

A lot of these wineries offer the full visitor’s experience, so you’ll get to taste fine wine and see how it’s made.

There’s just so much to see and experience that you’ll definitely want to be back over and over again.

Best Wineries a Short Drive from San Francisco
Best Wineries a Short Drive from San Francisco

How to get there

While it’s possible to visit the wine country without a car, it’s not always the most effective solution.

The main problem with driving on your own is that there will always be at least one person that won’t get to enjoy the good wine.

In that case, the most effective solution would be to charter a coach bus or minibus out of San Francisco.

That way, the group could stay together the whole time and experience the road trip, too.

No one would be left out due to driving duty, so you might want to consider chartering a bus.

Better yet reserve an RV rental San Francisco.

Napa Valley Wine Tasting
Napa Valley Wine Tasting

Ridge Vineyards

There are few spots near San Francisco that offer the entire package like Ridge Vineyards.

It’s located in the slopes of Cupertino, and one of the first things you’ll notice are the breathtaking views.

The entire time you’re there, you’ll be treated to some of the finest views of Silicon Valley, all the while sampling some of the most exquisite wine in the region.

Ridge Vineyard’s wine has been considered of superb quality for decades, and it’s a winery that’s been consistently praised by critics.

Loma Prieta Winery

This spot is one of the most group-friendly wineries out there.

It’s been designed to allow several groups to do some picnicking, and pets are fully allowed, too.

You can also play a lot of games there as visitors are actually encouraged to try a game of bocce.

The single most memorable thing about Loma Prieta are the views.

You’ll have unforgettable views of the Santa Cruz coastline.

And if you manage to catch the sunset, you’ll see a scene that you won’t soon forget.

That’s not to say that the wine is bad, because that can’t be further from the truth.

Larkmead Winery Best Wineries Short Drive from San Francisco
Larkmead Winery Best Wineries Short Drive from San Francisco

Antica

For those that prefer to have a rural, relaxing, and unique experience, Antica is definitely the perfect spot.

It’s located at the end of Soda Canyon Road, and while that might mean that there’s a bit more driving, the end result is absolutely worth it.

Antica has a heritage like few other wines in the world.

It goes back to the 14th century, which is why it’s considered as one of the finest today.

While you’re there, you’ll be enjoying your wine outside, if the weather permits, and enjoy some of the most beautiful vistas in Napa.

Larkmead

This is a winery that’s dedicated to complete luxury.

With over 120 years of experience, Larkmead has grown to be the most famous winery that people have never heard of.

That means that while their wines are all well-renowned, the winery itself is severely under-visited.

However, there have been recent changes and development in Larkmead.

There is now a special building that’s made just for tastings, and combined with the wonderful weather, it’s a spot that no one should skip on.

The wines themselves might be on the pricier side, but they’re completely worth the price.

Enjoying a sunset with friends and a glass of wine in one hand is definitely something everyone should aim for.

The wine country in San Francisco backyard is a place that’s made for group travel, and it’s an experience you won’t soon forget.