ACL Alaska cruise

By Elizabeth Johnson
This item appears on page 27 of the November 2021 issue.

Tired of being at home and thinking things might be getting back to normal, in April we booked a family vacation for six that seemed manageable: a 7-day small-ship cruise in Alaska’s Inside Passage, departing July 21, 2021.

American Cruise Lines (800/460-4518, asked us to confirm we were vaccinated. As it turned out, two guests and a crew member on the July 4 sailing tested positive, and it was canceled as well as the following one. We waited nervously about our cruise but finally got the “welcome” letter and went to the airport.

Upon arriving in Juneau, Alaska, at 10:30 p.m., we were met in the airport with offers of COVID vaccines and tests to be done right in the terminal.

Arriving ship’s passengers over nighted in Juneau, and the next morning we all showed our vaccine certificates and were given rapid COVID tests. After a day trip to Mendenhall Glacier provided by the cruise line, we boarded our ship, the 175-passenger American Constellation.

We were asked to wear masks at all times unless we were eating or drinking, which encouraged most of us to do a lot of both. The ship had many outdoor spaces where we could drop the masks, and we also did so on our private balconies. (The balconies were wonderful — huge, usable.)

During the cruise, the impact of the virus on Alaska was clear. We saw only one other cruise ship the entire week (one of Lindblad Expeditions’ National Geographic ships). In Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve (where, some years ago, our ship had waited in line for its permitted one hour), we were able to spend nearly a day, since no one else was coming.

Skagway was a ghost town. Many stores were empty shells, and the few that were open (it was a Sunday) were not heavily loaded with merchandise, though we did our best to support the economy.

Buses dedicated to cruise ships were parked side by side in remote lots. As our small buses moved through town, locals waved and hollered “Welcome!”

Midway through the cruise, while the CEO was visiting the ship, it was announced that a crew member (vaccinated) had symptoms and had tested positive for COVID. The cruise wasn’t canceled, but passengers were asked to be more stringent with masks; we had all relaxed a bit. The infected crew member and his/her close associates were quarantined.

The cruise was very nice. Any irregularities we encountered were chalked up to the stress of COVID and cancellations and the difficulty of obtaining supplies in Alaska at that time. Some routine items just ran out, like orange juice. (A manager told us that suppliers just weren’t showing up.)

I have absolutely no complaints about this cruise, and I would certainly go with American Cruise Lines again. We were so happy to be somewhere besides home that we didn’t complain about anything.

Our family ended our trip with two nights in Seattle. Pike Place Market was packed with tourists, almost none masked. There were lines for everything, and we noticed two big changes: few places accepted cash, and there was a 20% service charge at restaurants, similar to the European model.

On another note, one of the taxi companies in Juneau had gone out of business, and our shuttle company in our hometown that always took us to the airport had also gone out of business in the pandemic. So lots of little notes in the music of travel are missing.

Lee’s Summit, MO

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