My wife and I took the cruise to Alaska as par of our Honeymoon, and I could not have selected a better trip, to have a relaxing time.
Saturday (getting to Seattle): Unlike many people, we took Amtrak Cascades Service from Vancouver, Washington (just north of Portland, Oregon) to catch our cruise. We caught the train at 9:00 am, and arrived at Seattle's King Street Station by 12:15 or so. We caught a cab (15 cabs or so were waiting outside the station doors), and for $7.00 + tip, we whisked Bell Street Pier (about a 5-10 minute ride).
Embarkation was easy with the right paperwork in hand. We were aboard and checked into our state room by 1:30pm, with plenty of time to spare before the ships departure. We went up too the Market Cafe for lunch, which was quite tasty.
The views of downtown Seattle from all of the decks of Norwegian Star were wonderful. Around 3:30 pm, we did a quick and non-dramatic lifeboat drill.
The ship departed Seattle around 4:10 p.m.; as there were two other cruise ships that pulled out before us, and we followed them out the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Depending on your dining style, there are several options to choose from; including the Market Buffet on Deck 12, which offers lots of food options, in a relaxed setting with more foot traffic; The Versailles Dining Room, also included with the cruise, is much more relaxed and elegant.
Sunday (sailing): I would have to say I was disappointed that this cruise chooses not to go northbound through the British Columbia Inside Passage passing ports such as Port Hardy and Bella Bella. There are not many maps on the ship to get an idea of where you are, so I do suggest getting a set of simple road maps from AAA to give you a framework to start with. There are also some great inside passage maps available on the market as well. The day was fine with plenty of activities to keep one occupied. We had our meals that day at the Market Cafe, which were fine. The Caesar salad with was exceptional.
After dinner (and more ice cream and crepes with assorted fruit of the day) we went to a stage show in the Stardust Theater. It was a musical review of all the Andrew Lloyd Webber shows including: Phantom of the Opera, Evita, Cats, Jesus Christ Super Star, and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coats. It was a good show, we both enjoyed it. After the show we took a walk around the boat again and yes, got more ice cream. Then we went to bed for our early morning awakening.
Monday (Ketchikan): Waking up in Ketchikan, Alaska, USA, was exhilarating!!! We had breakfast at the Market Cafe, which was very crowded with others going to explore the city (i.e. get jewelry). The weather was rainy when we got off the ship, which should be of no surprise, as Ketchikan get nearly 170 inches of rain per year making it one of the wettest places on earth. We, however, were going on a "Wild Life" rainforest tour. It turned out to be a van ride tour of the city and a visit to a couple of look out places south of town past Saxman. Here, the only wild life we really saw were a bunch of salmon going up the creek and sea gulls. We were driven to Rainbow Falls to take some pictures then headed back to town. We did see a Bald Eagle far away in a tree, but couldn't get a picture of it.
We had dinner at Cagney's Steak House around 5:30 p.m. Dinner was very nice and yummy. My wife had crab cakes, clam chowder, fillet mignon - captain's cut with cafe de Paris butter and onion shoestrings. I had colossal shrimp cocktail, clam chowder, prime rib of beef - king cut, and potatoes au gratin. For dessert, I had the cheesecake with strawberry compote and my wife had the sinful chocolate obsession (so good!). We went back to our cabin to write some post cards and then we'll take another walk and hopefully get some more ice cream. The food on the cruise ship is defiantly geared towards carnivores, as vegetarian or non meat selections are available; however, they are somewhat limited.
Tuesday (Juneau & Endicott Arm): Juneau is the capitol of Alaska. After grabbing a quick bite to eat for breakfast, we headed off the boat to catch the shuttle bus into downtown. Our shore excursion was set to begin at 9:30 a.m., so we got there a little after 8:30 a.m. while my wife looked in a couple shops, while I looked for a mailbox to mail some postcards.
In Juneau we took the bus ride out to the Mendenhall Glacier. The Visitor Center is a terrific vantage point and there are a variety of ways to walk around the Glacier. It was amazing to see how much the glacier has recessed over the years. The water was icy blue. On the way back from the glacier, our driver delivered us to the dock rather than the tram terminal, which saved us from a long line. We had a lunch by the pool, which consisted of juicy burgers and French fries. Again nothing fancy, but hit the spot after a day of seeing the town.
Our Captain announced that weather conditions were not favorable to go see Sawyer Glacier in the end of Tracy Arm, the typical route of our cruise. However, he felt that we could have a good glacier experience by cruising Endicott Arm to the Dawes Glacier. The cruise into Endicott Arm was beautiful in itself, with mountainous terrain and waterfalls on both sides, and remarkable turquoise ice floes in the aqua-colored water. The U-shaped glacial valleys and hanging valleys were classic text book images. Cloud/mist lifted off the Dawes Glacier just as the captain artfully turned the great ship 'round, creating memorable moments for all of us on board. When a glacier shows its true colors, it's a truly breathtaking image. The captain wanted to be out of the Endicott Arm by sundown so we had to turnaround by 6:00 p.m. It was very cold and crowded up at the front of the boat, but we got some pretty good pictures anyway.
The best attraction of Gatsby's, and perhaps one of the best entertainers on board Norwegian Star, was Jana Seale "Acoustic Coffeehouse". She sang nightly in Gatsby's, and attracted a regular following of people who enjoyed her mix of pop and folk music from the 60's and 70's to today. The space was nice and relaxing as we found ourselves drawn there night after night. Jana was responsive to requests from her "song book," as the "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," was requested for nights in a row.
Wednesday (Skagway): We didn't have a shore excursion to get up for today, so we slept in until 8:00 a.m. Breakfast was crowded, I guess others were getting up later too. As predicted, it was cold, super windy and drizzly in Skagway. Did I say it was windy? Well, it was down right blustery... as we were both blown around a lot while walking from the ore dock to downtown. Skagway was an old gold miner's town, and many of the buildings have been restored to look the part, as the town even has wooden plank sidewalks. We looked in many shops and just wandered around the town (of course going to the Depot where the White Pass & Yukon Railway is) About 11:45 a.m. we had been blown around and rained on, we decided to go back to the ship. We had a nice lunch in the buffet, got some ice cream, and went back to the room to relax. We had dinner together around 6:00 p.m. then went downstairs to listen to Jana Seale's "Acoustic Coffeehouse" again and turned in around 9:30 p.m.
Thursday (Prince Rupert, BC): The morning waters were "Moderate" once again, and we woke up and had breakfast. The day went pretty slow because we spent more time in our room resting and dealing with the moderate seas. We had lunch at the Blue Lagoon, which had fish and chips, which were good.
Later in the afternoon, we heard an announcement from the captain that we would be about an hour late getting into Prince Rupert (6:15 p.m.) We also heard that there would be gale force winds if we went on the Ocean side of Vancouver Island on Friday, so the captain made a change of course from the ships normal routing, to head south through British Columbia's Inside Passage which will proved the passengers with calmer waters. This didn't leave us much time in town. We got dinner around 5:00 p.m. because we wanted to see a show on the ship when we returned to the boat later.
We pulled into the dock at Prince Rupert around 6:15 p.m. We left the ship around 6:30 p.m. along with what seemed like the rest of the boat passengers. We didn't go into downtown, but instead went to the Waterfront Building which included the visitor's center We headed back to the boat at about 7:30 p.m., so we could catch the ship show "Band on the Run" which was a review of some 70's music. After the show we headed back to see Jana Seale. We stayed until the end of her set at 11:00 p.m. because we were going to get some goodies at the "chocoholic buffet," but the line was too long and we were both tired, so we skipped it and went to bed. It was rough sailing again during the night, but we kept speed and will have good weather going along the inside passage of British Columbia on Friday.
Friday (sailing): The waves were still rolling us around in the morning and it is starting to take its toll on us. By 11:00 a.m. we entered sheltered waters so the waved began to be calmer (once we entered into the Queen Charlotte Sound) and the rest of the day was the same. The rest of the day we relaxed, packed our bags and walked around the ship around deck 7, to take pictures of the scenery along the Inside Passage (places such as Port Hardy and Alert Bay). We had a nice treat when we saw some dolphins jumping in the waves created by the ship, as we headed trough Johnstone Strait. We had dinner around 6:00 p.m. then went to see Jana Seale again, then went back up to have more crepes and ice cream and then went back to listen to more music. We put our big bags out in the hall for a pick up to be delivered to the docks.
Saturday (back in Seattle): Our boat pulled into Seattle around 7:00 a.m. Our baggage call was supposed to be at 9:40 a.m. but we were called shortly after 9:00 a.m. We had breakfast then headed down to our room and off the ship. Going through customs was a breeze and we found our bags easily. Self-selecting by color worked fine. We found our luggage off-board with no difficulty. Taxi cabs were waiting for us and we had a quick trip to the train station in Seattle. We had about a 4 1/2 hour wait at the train station and a quick 3 1/2 hour train ride home to Vancouver.