It has been mere days since I disembarked Norwegian Jewel, making it both my first cruise and first trip to Alaska, and I’m still processing everything. Not to mention I’m just now recovering from the food coma of the trip. Being the independent traveler that I am, this was a break from my typical style of travel. While you’ll often find me putzing around destinations on my own agenda, this saw me aboard a cruise ship with thousands of other travelers on behalf of Expedia to find out if Alaska is really all it’s cracked up to be; and it is. Without a shadow of a doubt, I can recommend an Alaskan cruise to others.
For years I was uninterested in cruise travel. While I love being on a boat (Whatever you do, don’t call a cruise ship a boat), I wasn’t so persuaded to being on a ship with hundreds of others to destinations I could just as easily access by plane. With a few exceptions, most of the world’s oceans were like westerns to me -- once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. However, now that I’ve experienced it for myself, I can truly say that seeing the waters, wilderness, and coastline of Alaska from a cruise ship is unlike antying else I’ve done.
While I certainly expected my share of “ooooh” and “ahhhhh” moments, I didn’t imagine the entire trip would be a string of mesmerizing moments. If it wasn’t the sun rising from behind snowcapped mountains, then it was the sun setting behind snow-covered mountains, and if it wasn’t a bald eagle spreading its wings and rising up from its nest, then it was a humpback whale spouting water in the air. The wildlife, wilderness, and scenery -- it was all so mesmerizing.
What really stood out to me was that while I was seeing Alaska from a cruise ship, everything was so natural about the landscape, such as the waterfalls flowing into Glacier Bay, which were as result of the snowcapped mountains above. Another example comes from the sunrises and sunsets of Alaska. While I’ve always been captivated by Pacific Ocean sunsets, there was something even more enchanting about seeing the rays of light and color beat off the snowy peaks. I believe these benefits alone make a strong case for the benefits of an Alaskan cruise. These aren’t things I would have experienced by just flying into one of Alaska’s cities. While I could have seen remnants of it, I wouldn’t have seen the natural, undeveloped landscape in its entirety like I did from a ship.
That brings me to what I did while in port, the shore excursions. All of the cities (Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway, and Victoria, British Columbia) we visited had just as much uniqueness to them as the landscape, from the lumberjack show in Ketchikan to the Liarsville Village and Brothel Museum of Skagway. Yes, you read that right, a brothel museum, whose slogan was: “$5 for 15 minutes, just like 1898.” That is, a 15-minute tour, and not whatever else you may have been thinking. But while most of one’s cruise experience, from dining to accommodations to nightlife, is planned for them, I recommend doing more research and planning before deciding on shore excursions. Talk to others who have visited Alaska and done so by cruise ship, while also talking to cruise staff. You can even wait until you get on the cruise before you book.
Your time in ports is limited, providing what’s more of a taste of Alaska. I saw our time in port as more of an introduction to the cities of Alaska for when I can return and spend at least a couple days in each Alaskan town. If you’re more of an independent traveler, I recommend doing some research ahead of time and come up with an itinerary that maximizes your time. Consider going off on your own or doing more personal excursions, such as a seaplane ride. The more popular excursions, such as whale watching, typically consist of being transported with a large group in a motor coach. While this suffices for many vacation travelers, this isn’t always the ideal experience for some travelers.
More than anything, my first cruise was a good introduction to a part of America I want to experience more. It showed me where I would like to spend more time in, such as Juneau, while also peaking my interest to get further north, such as Anchorage. I think knowing some of these things ahead of time can help you maximize your own Alaskan cruise. One last thing though: Save the diets and cleanses for after your Alaska cruise. However, if you do intend on working out, riding the exercise bike with waterfalls, snowy peaks, and icebergs floating by isn’t a bad way to do it.
What immediately comes to mind when you think of Alaska?