I have to admit an Alaska cruise was never on my bucket list. My dream trips include land or cruise vacations to exotic places, historic cities or warm beaches. Sure, I like wildlife and pretty scenery. But Alaska? Even though my clients have come back gushing, it stayed firmly on my maybe list. But when my mother and sister, both of whom live far from me, suggested we go, I wasn’t going to miss a chance to spend time with them. I’m not too proud to say that it was one of the most incredible places I have ever visited and a trip that will always be close to my heart.
It wasn’t without its challenges. I packed all the wrong clothes. And way too much. My suitcase hovered at 50 pounds and I’d bet that I could have eliminated half of its contents. The weatherman threatened cold and rainy days and what we got was relatively warm and sunny. Yeah for us, except that suitcase was damn heavy.
We started in Seattle, which is a cool hip city. I loved the Pike Place Market. My mom dragged us up the Space Needle, which was cool, but I could take it or leave it. When researching cruise lines, I realized that even though I love a luxury ship, the NCL Bliss provided the itinerary and experience that was right for us.
Once we embarked on the ship, a behemoth of a thing, I was thrilled by the fantastic spa. We spent many an afternoon in a robe laying on the warmed chairs overlooking the scenery with the floor to ceiling windows, or in the sauna, hot tub, salt, and steam rooms. Having this additional place to relax was a godsend. I also made time for a massage on the second day, which set a wonderful tone for the rest of the vacation. And I am the first to admit I love to be spoiled. So, when one of the bartenders remembered that I like a bloody Mary, I was touched that she often had it made before I even opened my mouth to order it. It’s the little things.
Our first port was Juneau. It had me at hello. Glorious, unforgettable Juneau. We went whale watching and although we saw numerous whales, I fell in love with a humpback calf showing off its breaching abilities. And when I looked up at the sky, I saw countless bald eagles. Yes, bald eagles everywhere! It took my breath away. As we were headed back, we were treated to sea lions sitting on a big red buoy.
On day four we disembarked in Skagway and headed for a wildlife center that promised a kiss from a moose. I was thrilled when I was lovingly smooched by a baby moose. I touched a porcupine and picked up a couple of quills I found on the ground. Here’s what I learned. Do NOT put porcupine quills in your pocket. They end up in your finger and it hurts. We saw so many animals, it was thrilling. I also found a shop in town that offered hand-dyed yarn.
I want to describe sailing up the Tracy Arm fjord, through Glacier Bay, on our fifth day of cruising, so that if you haven’t been, you can understand the breathtaking moment when you see the glacier, hear the explosion of the ice calving into the water and how it was life-changing, but I fear I can’t do it justice. With rugged mountains jutting above the coastline, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is a highlight of Alaska’s Inside Passage. The landscape is inspiring and the park has so many animals that can be seen from a ship: humpback whales and seals in the sea and grizzly bears, eagles, and mountain goats on the land. My heart be still. It took most of the day to cruise through it. Sitting on the veranda at 6 AM, I was taken back by the serenity of the morning. Later, when passing the glacier itself, I sat outside in the warmth, taking in how absolutely small and peaceful I felt. I actually felt sad when we headed out of the park. I need to go back someday. To take my husband and kids to share with them this miraculous experience.
What I remember about our next port of call, Ketchikan, is that fishing boats are everywhere….as this IS the salmon capital of the world. That is immediately obvious when the first sight we saw as we entered the port is SALMON–buy one get one free. I admit to trying salmon at every tasting stop I passed. We did a little gift shopping. It’s hard to return from Alaska without bearing presents.
If Alaska isn’t on your bucket list, I promise you it should be. It far exceeded my expectations and I can’t wait to return.
Collaborating with the right luxury travel advisor can make a meaningful difference to your cruise experience. There are so many different cruise lines and port tours in Alaska, it’s imperative that you have someone to guide you to what will make your trip meaningful and special. He or she will have the knowledge, connections, and buying power to get you the suite you want on the line you prefer at the best value, as well as the ability to advocate on your behalf if things go wrong. We save you time and headaches and ensure you have the best vacation experience. So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to start planning your Alaska cruise!
PS. We’ve already booked next year’s vacation: an Azamara cruise going to Italy, Croatia, and Greece.
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