Wow. That was fun.
So, we survived our first Alaskan cruise – our first with my wife’s family, first on a Breakaway Plus class ship, first cruise from Seattle, first visit to Canada… and so on.
Seattle to Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Victoria (It’s cold! We must be in Canada!) and back to Seattle.
- Alaska. The scenery is amazing, so if you don’t like looking at nature, this is not the cruise for you. We didn’t see a lot of the ship because we spent so much time on our balcony (get a balcony for Alaska), just looking at the world go by.
- The ship. Norwegian Bliss is a massive ship (for Norwegian), and I was really concerned about that many people in an enclosed space. However, it wasn’t bad. There were a couple of times it felt crowded, but again – if you’re on your balcony a lot, nobody is going to get in your way.
- The people. Much like the Caribbean, the people you interact with in Alaska make their money from tourism, and they have six months to make enough money to last a year. They tend to be nice.
- The port times. It’s a long way to Alaska from Seattle at twenty knots, so the port times tend to be compressed. There is also one day you visit a glacier (which is amazing) but it really cuts down your time in port. Some of this can be remedied by doing a one-way sailing (or doing a back-to-back), so you don’t have to spend time getting back to Seattle.
- No sleep. (See port times.) When you’re due at your excursion at 7:30am every morning, it tends to be wearing. Take naps.
- The prices. When you’re quoted over $300 per night for what is a basic hotel anywhere else, something’s wrong. The Seattle hotel market is vastly overpriced, so don’t plan to stay longer than you have to.
- The weather was amazing. Even the days it rained, it would stop just as we got off the ship for excursions. I don’t know who paid the extra upgrade for “no rain”, but thank you.
- The Captain said we got closer to the glacier than any other trip that year. It was a good day.
- Don’t expect to just use your cell phone. You need a real camera.
- Don’t expect to use a point and shoot – you need a fast lens to actually capture whales, eagles and other wildlife. I used my point and shoot for video.
- Learn to brace – when we were on a whale-watching trip, I got some great video of “it’s the sky, no, the sea, no, the sky, no, the sea” until I learned to brace and move with the boat.
- Don’t expect to use all the bells and whistles on the ship. I’m not really sure when anyone interested in the Alaska scenery would have time to drive go karts or play laser tag, but they’re available. My note to parents? If you’re spending the prices we spent so you kids can play laser tag, you’re wasting your money on this cruise.
We need to do this again, now that we’ve done it once and learned some lessons. We need a smaller ship, longer port times, and more camera gear.