When dreaming about an Alaska vacation you may
envision the romantic essence of yourself reeling in King Salmon, roaming the Alaska wilderness shooting wildlife pictures or simply observing the awe-inspiring beauty…but there’s more.
Alaska still remains one of the last frontiers on our
planet. Its harsh extremely rugged environment can put any well-equipped adventurer to the test. Yet for the wise, you can engage in a thrilling Alaska vacation, experience the rugged Alaska environment, the awe-inspiring beauty and participate in Alaska’s beckoning adventurous surroundings as much or as little
as you want. And you can do it all from the safety of your home away from home!
Your Alaska vacation setting, your home away from home, is
aboard one of the most spectacular means of transportation known today, a luxury cruise ship. Granted, these cruise ships are monstrous in their own right, dwarfed by jutting mountain peaks and colossal glacier ice fields. Yet, you have the opportunity to experience some of Alaska’s finest, right from the luxury and comfort of your home away from home, a cruise ship. What a
romantic way to travel!
Advantages Of Living In The Northwest…
For those living in the Pacific Northwest, you have the ease and
advantage of experiencing a wondrous Alaska vacation by driving a vehicle to your departure port, either Seattle, Astoria
or Vancouver, B.C.; making your Alaska vacation that much more of a vacation.
You’ll experience the joys from NOT having to deal with the anxieties of a possible flight delay or flight cancellation and no additional strain on the pocket book requiring additional money for flights or possible hotel stays.
If you’re driving, the ideal is to find a friend or family
member to drop you off and pick you up. You do, however, have the option of parking at the Bell Street Garage located directly across from Pier 66, the cruise terminal in Seattle.
Fee: $12.00 per day.
25 handicap parking stalls.
No oversize or RV parking is available in the garage. Vehicles must be less than 6’6″ high.
Republic Parking operates the garage. Questions? Call the garage staff at (206) 783-4144.
On-line reservations are available through Republic Parking.
Location: 9 Wall Street. Enter at the corner of Alaskan Way and Wall Street.
The ability to leave home and drive to your cruise ship
is truly remarkable. We took that opportunity to engage in an Alaska vacation with Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) the summer of 2004. Previously we’d explored Alaska by air; vehicle, foot and most recently the favorable moment came, to explore Alaska by way of a cruise ship.
Past Vacations Were Work…
In the past, our Alaska vacation required an immense amount of
planning, organization, and ultimately, “work”, yielding very little time for some true relaxation and quality time with loved ones. An NCL Alaska Cruise allows you to truly relax and spend the necessary quality time with loved ones. The cruise gives you options. If you want to engage yourself into an intense schedule, you can. If you don’t want the intensity, that’s your option.
Cruising With NCL…
We elected to cruise with NCL for various reasons:
they’re very competitive in price, they offer “Free-Style Cruising”, they have fabulous children programs (we could spend some quality romantic time together while the kids were fully involved in the children programs), superb entertainment, an international crew and they were the first cruise line in Seattle. We had to check them out…and that we did!
Six of us, 2-adults and 4-children, set off to explore the
qualities of NCL on an Alaska vacation. Our vessel, the “Norwegian Spirit” was docked at the Port of Seattle, the Pier 66 Terminal. Our scheduled departure was a Saturday afternoon allowing us the relaxing time to get some last minute things together. We were in no rush whatsoever. We could arrive at the ship between 1:00 pm and 4:00 pm. How soothing this was to all the family members.
Arriving at the terminal was a little confusing; it appeared as if every passenger descended on the ship at the same time. Amongst the confusion we found a courteous NCL employee who directed us to the appropriate baggage check-in and ticketing lines. We were impressed how quickly and orderly the lines
flowed. NCL did a fantastic job of getting us through the baggage check-in, ticketing and on-board the ship.
Each passenger is issued an ID card before boarding.
This ID Card serves as your room key, boarding pass and credit card for any onboard shopping. It’s imperative that you guard it like your credit card, do not leave it unattended. You’ll need it in ALL ports of call for departing and boarding the ship.
Before the ship left the Seattle dock, on to our Alaska
vacation, we were exploring. The Spirit carries 1,996 passengers with a crew of 920. That’s nearly 1-crew member for every 2-passengers! And we have to say; the crew was there to serve us and make sure we had the absolute best Alaska vacation. We appreciated all of the nationalities represented on the Spirit. It’s truly a vessel of international flair.
Our kids, of course, loved the stern section of the ship,
the Kids Club. It’s amazing, an entire mini-amusement park with tunnels, tubes and balls, a pool with slides, fountains and a mock pirate ship yielding water-spouting cannons that make up the upper portion of the stern section. This is a kid’s heaven. When our kids were tired of the water games (that rarely
happened), the arcade was only steps away.
The restaurants on board were numerous from fine dining to
buffet style and fast food offered 24-hours a day. You’ll never go hungry. If you’re dieting to lose weight, put the diet on hold for the duration of the cruise. You’ll want the flexibility to enjoy all the fabulous food entrees.
The Many Options…
We especially enjoyed the many options of simply watching
whales spout, the beautiful scenery passing us by, picking up a movie in the theater, dining, playing cards, trying our luck in the casino, listening to some live entertainment at one of the many bars, lounging on the deck by one of the pools, pumping iron at the gym, shooting some hoops on the basketball court…the
list seems endless. This is the ultimate Alaska vacation; you can do it all, part or nothing.
Our family of six always had something to do, there was
never a dull boring moment. Each one of us had the option to choose what we wanted to do. My wife, for example, read a book in the library while I watched a movie in the theater, our oldest hung out with some new found friends and the other three played on the water slides. Our Alaska vacation was unlike any other,
there was literally no sacrificing the wants and likes of other family members. And above all, we didn’t have to drive to any of these recreational activities!
One of our favorite functions were the evenings live
high quality professional entertainment in the grand Moulin Rouge showroom. It’s unique in that the Moulin Rouge utilizes two decks, with theater style sitting. You ultimately get a great view from every seat, including the seats in the balcony! On our
particular cruise, the Cruise Director, Adrian Lewis, did a fabulous job organizing all of the professional entertainment. The picture depicts a special attribute to all the crew who made our Alaska vacation an unforgettable experience.
Ports of Call…
And of course, there are the ports of call: Ketchikan via the Inside Passage from Seattle, Juneau, Skagway and Prince Rupert with a sneak into the Sawyer Glacier. The ports are all awesome. You have the choice of departing the ship and venturing out into the Alaskan territory or stay in your second home, onboard the Spirit. It’s your choice to expand your Alaska
vacation to meet your adventurous needs and desires.
On shore you can experience nearly any level of excitement
you so desire. You’ll have at your disposal helicopter flights, fishing opportunities, river rafting, guided tours, shopping expeditions or simply strolling around on a self-guided walking tour. The ports of call, on our Alaska vacation, were relatively small. This enabled us to walk around the towns to capture the Alaskan lifestyle. Granted, our stay in each port was limited but it did yield enough time to get a taste, an experience of Alaska. The ports were showcased enabling us to see the highlights and if so desired we could return at a later date.
Ketchikan was our first port of call after cruising through the majestic Inside Passage. Ketchikan is a
shoppers dream, an added feature to experience the ultimate Alaska vacation. The historic downtown and specialty shops are within minutes from the cruise ship docks. You’ll find a wide selection of native art, jewelry, sporting goods and even the Alaskan themed toys.
We especially enjoyed walking around town, watching the
salmon run through a stream in the center of town and riding the
city bus to Saxman Village, a native village 2-miles south of Ketchikan. The village is literally a totem pole park revealing the native’s culture. Returning to the ship we decided to walk the 2-miles back along a fabulous waterside walkway that portrayed the beauty of this Southeast Alaska area.
Juneauwas the second port of call. We were amazed how much the city had changed over the past 10-years. The
cruise ship industry had a great effect on the coastal Alaskan towns. Shops literally sprung up overnight to accommodate the thousands of passengers descending upon Juneau and the other coastal towns.
Juneau is the capital of Alaska, nestled between
towering mountains. The enormity of the cruise ships makes for an awesome sight as they cruise between the mountain ridges.
Juneau is also home to the Mendenhall Glacier. This is a sight to be seen, especially if you’re not familiar with glaciers. We took the city bus to the Mendenhall Valley and walked about a mile to reach the glacier. Of course, there are other options to get to the glacier via helicopter or one of the many bus-guided tours.
If you plan on visiting the glacier bring along your
National Parks Pass. This will entitle you free entrance to the visitor’s center.
Our third Port of Call was the infamous little town of
Skagway. Our route to Skagway took us up the Tracy
Arm to the Sawyer Glacier. We cruised past icebergs and gushing water falls. The captain brought the cruise ship near the spectacular ice-flow, a sight you have to see. Our kids continued playing on the water-slides as we cruised along
the towering pieces of ice, truly an amazing sight.
Skagway welcomed us with open arms. It’s here that
the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898 began. It’s hard to imagine more than 30,000 gold seekers set out from this once tiny village. And now, Skagway is experiencing it’s second gold rush. Approximately 5- cruise ships visit Skagway every day during the months of May – September, that’s 10,000 visitors per day bringing money into the community!
The town is very easy to get around; it’s about 7-blocks
long all encased with specialty shops. The prices are extremely competitive yielding some good quality products. Regarding the tours, you can always sign up for a tour aboard the ship; however, if you didn’t make previous tour arrangements you still have ample opportunities on shore.
Skagway is known for the famous scenic railway. It’s a
3-hour ride out of Skagway following the gold rush route into the Yukon. We decided against the train ride and hopped aboard a personalized driving tour with the Skaguay Tour Company. We like the added edge a personalized tour gives. The tour consists of a historic city tour and a drive to the summit of White Pass, essentially paralleling the train route but only half the cost. We also had the opportunity to stop at various points of interest along the way, unlike the train. Before you go to Skagway check out Skagway Tour Company. Be sure to bring your passport, you’ll cross into Canada and may need the identification for re-entry into the U.S.
Our last Port of Call, before returning to Seattle, was
Prince Rupert. This cosmopolitan city encompasses
many cultures and is the home of the First Nations people for 10,000 years. Near the cruise dock is a native museum with a variety of shops nestled along the waterfront. Compared to the other ports, we found the various gift items expensive even with the good U.S. dollar exchange rate.
There are tours that you can participate in; however, we
took advantage of the walking tour along the waterfront visiting the sunken gardens. It made for a nice walkabout; however, our kids were anxious to return to the ship and engage in the many wonderful activities. That’s the beauty; you have a home away from home, a comfortable place to return to creating a relaxing and enjoyable Alaska vacation.
Seattle, our off-boarding port, came far too soon. None of us were very anxious to leave the ship; we were ready to do the cruise again, back to our Alaska vacation. But the reality, we had to disembark. NCL made this an extremely easy process.
Each passenger is given a color-coded baggage tag depending upon your on-shore schedule. For example, if you had a morning
flight scheduled out of SeaTac Airport, your color-coded baggage tag indicated early ship disembarkation. You’d simply listen to your color tag announced over the loudspeaker system and proceed to depart the ship.
NCL makes it a relaxing experience even when the ship has reached its final destination. You can sit
back, relax and continue to enjoy your Alaska vacation while eating breakfast looking out at Seattle’s skyline.
Foremost, the things we bring with us from any vacation is
the memories, the experiences. It, therefore, makes sense to have a memorable vacation. Unfortunately there is a cost to it, any vacation or anything we do in life will cost in some form, either money, time, material things, etc. A cruise costs money. If money is a concern to you then we can show you how to save money before you purchase your cruise tickets.
The Alaska cruises book-up quickly. We encourage you to get the most of your Alaska vacation by booking early. You will not be disappointed. And we’ll help you through the booking process, your memories are a keepsake; therefore, book early.
We do not sell cruise tickets, airline tickets or any travel tickets, we simply reveal the Facts so you can make an informed decision and get the most for your hard earned dollar.
Step out into the exciting, adventurous, and romantic wonderlands our planet has to offer…make your Alaska vacation an Alaska Cruise.
Some Things To Remember Before Leaving The House:
NCL Luggage Tags on your bags
Craig Dahl – Senior Editor