S: Alaskan Cruise 2010 starring Mayrene, Cindy, & Ann
FC: Alaskan Cruise 2010
1: August 28 - September 4 Norwegian Star, NCL Mayrene, Cindy, & Ann | Alaskan Cruise 2010
2: Seattle, Washington | We had a great time in Seattle, Washington and it's a place I definitely want to go back and explore more! The first night we walked to IHOP. Yes, IHOP. Don't make fun. It's International, you know! (and the only restaurant within walking distance of the hotel. And, it was delightful!
3: Saturday morning, after a great breakfast, we boarded the bus for our Pre-Cruise Tour of Seattle. If anyone is planning a cruise out of Seattle, I highly recommend the tour before you go. They handle your luggage, show you the sights, and drop you off right at your cruise ship! We used Let's Tour Seattle.
4: Everywhere you looked, someone was cleaning up a table, refilling the soup pots, spraying your hands with hand sanitizer - and doing it all with a smile! We originally had an inside room without a view. Mom upgraded us to a room with a large picture window - guaranteed unobstructed view! Yeah! | The Norwegian Star | The Star was "born" in 2001 and has a capacity of 2240 passengers. There's also one crew member on board for every two passengers! And honestly, every single crew member we met seemed genuinely happy about being there and wanted to hear about our day, what we saw in port, etc.
5: Then, after hearing from several friends who had been on cruises with balconies, I upgraded us to a balcony. I'm so glad I did because we spent lots of time in the room, just staring out at the ocean. The first night we slept with the door wide open! We also got good pictures right from our own balcony. Our only complaint with it was that our neighbor was a smoker, and it blew right back onto our balcony and into our room if the door was open. YUCK The ship was huge. I think we finally got it figured out by Saturday morning when we left. =) The Theater was in the front of the ship, the restaurants were in the aft/back of the ship. The Market Café (where we ate almost every meal) was mid-ship on the 12th level. The upper levels were where you would find the pools, the sports areas, the giant chess set, the jogging path, and more. It was awfully windy up there! The seventh level was where you could find the atrium, the theaters, the lounges, the picture gallery, souvenir stores, and lots of jewelry and cigarettes for sale.
6: Our room was nice, although not terribly roomy. There were two twin beds, and a small loveseat that made out into a bed. I opted for that, but unfortunately the end of it met up exactly with the table on the "other side" of the room. That meant, to get out of bed, I had to crawl over the foot of mom's bed and try not to trip over the chair and the footstool that were stuck under the table. Problem solved though ... we realized we could take the last cushion "off" the bed, shove the frame further in, and there would be plenty of room to walk past the foot | of the bed to get to the balcony or wherever. So, for the remainder of the week, I slept on a square bed, with my feet hanging off on the plastic chair. Kinda funny, but it didn't keep me from sleeping!
7: FAVORITE view of Seattle! (from the ship)
8: Somehow it's easier to get up in the morning when you sleep with the sliding glass door to your balcony open and you can open your eyes to all this beauty! Our guides for this trip were lots of fun and very informative. They shared lots of general information about Alaska, the animals, the plants, the float planes, the people, etc. We spent some of the time in the warm, comfortable inside room of the vessel, but were able to go upstairs to get some beautiful pictures and enjoy the amazing views anytime we wanted. | Ketchikan, Alaska | Our first stop was Ketchikan, Alaska. We had to be off the ship and at the catamaran bright and early.
9: One of the unexpected sights of the trip was the Eddy Stone, which is a leftover volcanic plug from eons ago. We were able to get close enough to see the sea lions that were hanging out on the island. Our guides told us that it's a favorite place for people to get married. If the marriage is a success, people say it's "solid as a rock". If it doesn't work out, then "it started out on the rocks."
10: Next we boated into the Misty Fjords National Monument. From about.com, "Misty Fjords, a 2.3-million-acre National Monument near Ketchikan was created by the last great North American glaciers. These ice sheets ground the landscape down to solid rock and left behind an area of mile-high mountains rising straight from the sea. Waterfalls cascade as much as 1,000 feet down 3,000-foot-high cliffs." | Misty Fjords Ketchikan, AK
11: After returning to the ship dock, we walked up into the little town of Ketchikan for some shopping and salmon watching. I wasn't 100% what to expect of the salmon, but it was truly an amazing sight. I can't begin to guess how many there were in this one little stream we found, but once you started really watching, they were everywhere! I took lots of video of them trying to jump. Unfortunately we saw more fall backwards than jump forwards. Amazing!
12: Another early morning ... 7:20 am, and we're on an old school bus, heading to the marina in Auke Bay to board another catamaran. I spent almost the entire four hours outside on the top of the boat so I didn't hear much of what the tour guides had to say during this trip. This tour guide was run by the same company as our trip to the Misty Fjords, so I'm sure it was good information too! | Juneau, Alaska
13: Steller Sea Lions ... close enough to see them AND smell them!
14: The captains were good about slowing down and announcing when/where the humpbacks were spotted. We got pretty good about seeing the "spray" and then watching for him to come back to the surface again. Getting a great "still shot" isn't as easy as I had expected. I did manage to get some pretty good video though, although you may need to take Dramamine in order to enjoy them! This camera person was pretty shaky from time to time!
15: The whales and sea lions were amazing - perfect weather for a tour like this too! On the way back in, we were able to see many beautiful glaciers. We boarded the buses again to go back to the dock. We stopped at a beautfiul little park where we took pictures of the spectacular Mendenhall Glacier.
16: For our third day of early excursions, we hit the jackpot! The most popular excursion in Skagway is the train trip, which we really wanted to do. However, the idea of getting up close and personal with a glacier was just calling our names. We loaded into old "prison buses" that took us a short distance to the harbor where we boarded another catamaran. Our guide, Danny, is a self-professed Hippie, who lives out on Glacier Point with 8 others. | Skagway, Alaska
17: Calling their camp "primitive" is an overstatement. They each have their own "cabin", which is only large enough to lay out their sleeping bags on a plywood floor each night. No electricity, no water. It's basically there to keep them from being bear bait! They do have one larger "common" cabin with a full kitchen, electricity, running water, and one shower. Whew ... I could never make it out there, but they seem to love it. They do tours like ours 1-3 times a day, 7 days a week. The catamaran pulled right up to the sand and we got off the boat right onto the beach where we walked up to some old school buses. We rode those buses up to an area where they outfitted us with coats, raincoats, life jackets, and boots. Next, we walked about a quarter of a mile through the rainforest, where we saw amazing plants, trees, and the occasional glimpse of "our glacier".
18: Our canoe only had about 9 people in it. There were 4 other canoes in our group, but we stayed quite spread out so you really felt like you were out there on a personal canoe trip with your one guide. Our guide, Matt, "let" us row for about 10 minutes before he cranked up the motor and let us get going a little faster. (At this point, all of us were pretty warm with all of our coats, etc. The breeze felt great!) | Matt took us to several different spots, and each time we could see the glacier from a different angle. It constantly surprised us! Ultimately, we were within 150 feet or so from the face of the glacier. We could hear the small rocks and chunks of ice cracking and falling into the water. The cold breeze off the glacier was plenty chilly, but quite pleasant with all of our outerwear! We did all take the chance to dip our hands in the water ... brrrrr!
19: After we returned to the beach and were traipsing back through the rainforest, we got the word that the canoe that came in immediately after hours had just seen a bear come to the shore of the river, and then he slowly swam across the river right in front of their canoe. Dang ... we were so close to seeing that! On the catamaran trip back, we enjoyed a nice boxed lunch and more information about the area from Danny. It was a great trip and I highly recommend it for anyone going to Skagway!
20: Prince Rupert, Canada | We did not plan an excursion in Prince Rupert. We had already had three days of excursions, and there wasn't anything too tempting for us to plan. Instead, we decided to just go in port and enjoy the town. All three of us were excited to get the first stamps in our passports! Although the customs agents didn't have stamps for us, we did find the Prince Rupert Information Center that did stamp them. I don't know if it's official or not. It could just be a stamp from their Dollar Store (that we saw) for all I know! LOL
21: We did not take the advice of the girl standing on the port pointing us to the souvenir stores. I'm not sure why we didn't, but instead we walked up into the actual town. Unlike Ketchikn, Juneau, and Skagway where the townspeople count on tourists for their income, the citizens of Prince Rupert didn't exactly seem thrilled that 2000 people just piled off a ship and flooded in. We filled the crosswalks with picture-snapping, umbrella-toting tourists. We were on a quest for Totem Poles, and we did find a few, but we would have been better off taking the advice from the girl on the dock. | We did find a beautiful little church and garden that was just begging to have pictures taken ... so we did.
22: We finally made it down to the "tourist" section of Prince Rupert and found more opportunities to purchase decks of cards, disposable cameras, and magnets. We were actually in port from 4pm to 10pm in Prince Rupert. That meant we finally got to sleep in (yeah!) and we could have stayed in port for dinner if we'd wanted to. Instead, after a couple of hours in town, we went back to the ship and enjoyed a couple of shows on board and a fun evening that included the Chocolate Buffet! From what I've read, NCL is the only cruise line that visits Prince Rupert. We did hear that one of the whale watching excursions from there was fabulous, but other than that, I'm not sure why NCL continues to dock there. It wasn't our favorite, but it wasn't terrible either. =)