I recently sailed through gale force winds in Alaska on board Silversea. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. It was fantastic.
Oftentimes the best time to book a cruise is in the shoulder season. Prices are less and crowds are fewer. The biggest question people have though is what about cruising in bad weather? I have cruised shoulder season many times in many parts of the world and the vast majority of the time the weather is fine. In fact I often recommend early spring and early fall to Alaska cruisers because it’s a great bargain and the likelyhood of really bad weather is incredibly small. Even when it’s bad it’s never been THAT bad (until now). So what happens if it is THAT bad? I can now answer that question.
September is one of my favorite times in Alaska. There is an impending sense of urgency to nature. The leaves start to turn. The arctic squirrels feverishly run about preparing for winter. The sky is often a cacophony of birds migrating south to escape the soon to arrive cold winter snows. The bears gorge themselves into a rotund salmon induced stupor. Honestly, it’s usually a fantastic time to come to Alaska.
Mostly in September we savour the last warm days of sun and at the same time welcome a touch of frostiness to the breeze. Straddling the fence from summer to winter autumn here, can though, lull you into a false sense of security. I was acutely reminded of this last week while on an Alaskan cruise.
Luxury cruising is my favorite way to travel and I was thrilled to host a Distinctive Voyages group on the Silversea Silver Shadow Alaska early September sailing. When I planned this trip I imagined crisp fall mornings on my stateroom balcony with the refreshing gentle breeze biting my cheeks as I sipped my morning coffee.
Our embarkation day was amazing. During our transfer to Seward we saw trumpeter swans gracefully swimming Potter’s Marsh and a pod of beluga whales was frolicking in the Turnagain Arm. If you were quick enough to look in the right direction we also got glimpses of dall sheep on the rocky cliffs framing the road. There were of course beautiful blue glaciers gleeming in the sunlight. Dark green forests with meandering streams were just starting to burst out in the fall colors. It was a fantastic start and gave little warning of the bad weather ahead.
I ate my first dinner on board at The Grill– Silversea’s casual outdoor dining option that includes grilling your own steaks to perfection on 400 degree rocks that they bring to the table. I indulged in a beautiful NY strip steak and also tried their tofu steak vegan option. It was fabulous. The weather was perfect on deck and a waiter brought me a cozy blanket as the sun set just in case the chill was a bit much.
Later that night though the ship began to rock and roll and 50 knot winds and nearly twenty foot waves battered the ship throughout our first night and day on board. My balcony, six stories up, was getting spray from the violent waves crashing all around. I wasn’t deterred though and got up early to do some time on the treadmill. The captain though informed us that the weather situation was deteriorating and in order to ensure the safety of crew, guests and the ship we would need to immediately seek refuge at anchor in Yakutat Bay. Eventually he informed us that he needed to cancel the port call at Juneau because we needed to stay safe in the shelter of the bay overnight.
I’m not going to lie I was really disappointed. I had planned on kayaking by Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau and was really looking forward to it. Like most experienced travelers though I reminded myself that it’s about the journey and not the destination. I ordered a martini and caviar tray and drew myself a hot bath. Silversea has the most comfortable tubs in their staterooms. Watching the water slosh around with the shifting ship, sipping my martini and feasting on caviar I realized– this is actually fantastic.
The weather continued to be an issue. It poured rain in Sitka. Ketchikan was cancelled because we couldn’t safely moor in 50 mph winds. There was a lot to be angry and disappointed about, but all was not lost. The capatin did backtrack a little so we could see Hubbard Glacier. The weather in Skagway was outstanding. And the Inside Passage was teeming with wildlife under blue bird skies.
On board the experience was fabulous. Silversea really shines with on board experience. The suites are large and comfortable meeting the difficult balance between sophisticated luxury and homey warmth. The perfect place to unwind and relax with a walk in closet and the aforementioned bath tub Silversea suites are anything but your typical cruise cabin.
The food and drink aboard Silver Shadow was also exquisite. Menus that included both local Alaskan cuisine and classic dishes the variety was astounding. Service was impeccable and the atmosphere of the varied dining venues was ranged from casual elegance in Hot Rocks to opulent grandeur in La Dame. In room dining included the Silversea’s renowned caviar tray as well as everything from burgers and chips to fine dining.
The spa was another place to relax and unwind. The gym was well equipped and when paired with some time in the saunas or a sumptuous spa treatment you could easily while away the at sea hours leaving pampered and relaxed.
Silversea’s guests are interesting, intelligent and for the most part well traveled with a heart for adventure. The design of the ship with it’s many public spaces and varied bars and lounges really was conducive to both seclusion and socializing. Traveling alone I sought both refuge and companionship depending on my mood and I was able to easily find both on board Silver Shadow.
I have traveled many times on cruise ships and never in my life have I encountered such adverse weather conditions. The crew said it was by far the worst they’d seen. So keeping that in mind it’s unlikely you will ever encounter the same. That being said if you do I assure you it will still be a fantastic trip on Silversea. I’d go again in a heartbeat. Even with all I wasn’t able to do I still saw tons of wild life, went ziplining in Skagway, saw salmon jumping out of a stream in Sitka, experienced a bit of indigenous Alaskan culture, relaxed on board and enjoyed fabulous food and had the adventure of a lifetime.
Weather is something that no one can control, but when a cruise experiences the most adverse circumstances and is still able to deliver a relaxing and exciting vacation that’s truly amazing. Contact Christopher Travel to plan your next cruise vacation and we will do everything possible to book you on a fantastic journey even if the weather is bad.