Sunday - Seattle, WA
Monday - The Alaskan Inside Passage, AK
Tuesday - Juneau, AK
PORT: SEATTLE, Washington
I had never been on a cruise, and despite all I had heard from friends, I was still a BIT skeptical as to
WHAT I would do all day??!
I am an active person and I like to transition from something to something and not doing one thing all day long. For instance, I can NOT sit on a beach all day and read. Give me one hour and then something else to do. AHDH? Yep - I have self-diagnosed this for me! So, a little nervous about the cruise before we left!
My mom and I had plenty of time to get to the boat before we had to board, but we heard it was fun to get on early and enjoy the buffet lunch (not like we wouldn’t have it for the next seven days!!), and to get acquainted with the ship before we left. So, we had a leisurely breakfast in my favorite hotel in Bellevue and headed into the city mid-morning. (we didn't have to be on board till 3 or something.)
It was an overcast/cloudy morning with a little drizzle. Not an ideal situation, but the best of our options... I dropped my mom off at the cruise with all our luggage. It was a madhouse at the port! I will never forget the totally illegal turn I made in the middle of the street while a cop stared at me, and I held up traffic on both sides, just so I didn’t get stuck in the madhouse traffic (mind you, this is after stopping in the street to let me mom out and unload our luggage!)
Anyway, I left her there so I could drive about 12 blocks away and return the car (straight uphill! As noted in previous post, I couldn’t believe how steep it was!). Well, I was lucky enough with my timing, that just as I was returning the car it decided to start to drizzle, so I ran the 12 blocks in the rain (fortunately mostly downhill) to meet my mom who was also standing in the rain! Whew. Somehow we both remained cheerful during all of this! By the time I got there I was also sweating and wet… so much for looking cute when I got onboard!
We waited in long lines to board the ship, and I loved this because I am such a people watcher. I love making up stories in my head of how everyone is related, where they’re from and why did they choose to go on this cruise! We were surrounded by people of all ages, and some of the kids kept trying to butt in front of others (while dragging their suitcases) so they could move faster in the line… that got slightly annoying, but I had to remember the excitement I felt as a child with certain things and how hard it was to WAIT!
I also felt like a fish out of water because everyone seemed to know what they were doing, but my mom and I were SO confused! Fortunately, we learned early on, that EVERYONE who works for a cruiseline is there to MEET and EXCEED your needs! So, we had very helpful, and patient people help us along the check-in process!
Around the time we got on, the sun decided to show its face! We made our way to the Garden Café (the buffet!!) and I was shocked! I had been worried they wouldn’t have any healthy food… or food I liked, but OH MY WORD! It was the largest buffet I have ever seen of foods from ALL around the world and a huge salad bar with anything I could imagine putting on my salad! I was IN heaven! Literally, I think I went to the buffet three or four times (Why? I ask myself now that now!! It’s not like they wouldn’t have that EVERY day, ALL day for the next seven days. But this didn’t dawn on me then!)
We ate and then walked around a bit more before they called out on the loudspeaker that our room was ready. Here are some pictures of the ship and our room… Some places we loved that didn’t make the cut for pictures was the workout room which had a fabulous view of the water, the library, and man,… just the entire ship was beautiful!
Our 2nd Home and Meeting Place on Board!
the temps though when it got sunny and went swimming!
The Spinnaker Lounge.
We also enjoyed some of the evening entertainment
from these comfy couches!
The other half of our cabin. There was a bathroom with a shower, sink and toilet to the left.
After putting some of our stuff away, we went up on deck to enjoy the sunshine and enjoy the view as we left the port.
We spent the rest of the evening, going back to the buffet for dinner (!!) and enjoying the evening show! FUN!!!
Monday was our day where we spent all day on board as we sailed all the way to one of our top destinations in Alaska, Juneau. It was a rainy, overcast day. We had heard this might be the weather everyday… so we were prepared… and fortunately we could stay inside the ship all day!
I woke up crazy early because I was still on east coast time and because we gained an hour by going to Alaska (had no idea they were 4 hours behind EST!). But, I’ll take an hour whenever I can get it! So, I got up and worked out (which I did EVERY day on this trip because 1. I had the time; 2. I ate SO much food!!) I didn’t realize how hard running could be on a boat rocking back and forth! Fortunately, our trip was smooth for the most part, or maybe I just grew accustomed to it, but I do remember this morning being hard to run so I had to hold on to the treadmill! I joined my mom at the buffet for breakfast and we planned out our day after reviewing the ship's daily schedule! We had some fun classes to attend and activities galore! Everything from health and beauty, to fitness, to informational classes about the towns we would visit, to organized family games, etc. Endless! And, of course the buffet was open all day long… just in case you had that strong urge for ice cream or a cookie! It was hilarious because I think I saw some of the same kids with ice creams in their hands all day long the first two days. It must have been dessert heaven for them too!
Norwegian is different in that it does freestyle dining. Meaning, you can dine whenever you want, and wherever you want. I loved this option because I didn’t want to be tied down to a certain time to eat if there was something I wanted to do onboard at that time as well. There was always the buffet, but you could also make reservations at some of the special restaurants as well. We did that only one night… simply because the buffet had more options and was just so dang good! And, I am not a formal diner anyway. Well, I think I loved the buffet more than my mom… but she was so patient with me on this trip and she is very easy to please!
I thought it was so funny how that even in the specialty restaurants, you could order whatever you wanted, as many orders as you wanted, and just endless amounts of food. If you wanted five desserts – Cool! No questions asked! I also thought it was amazing to watch the mounds of food that people would pile on their plates.
I was also just so surprised and impressed by the staff. Companies should learn how to train their staff like cruise lines do. These people were so friendly, nice, helpful, and just a pleasure! I was also just amazed and in awe of how a cruise ship runs. Where do the staff go when not on duty? Where do they eat? They just seemed to appear and disappear - like they vanished in the wind when not on duty!
I was also surprised at how well the security remained unseen… except when there was a problem. For instance, one day right before meeting my mom for lunch I heard “Code Alpha” being spoken over the loudspeaker. Hmm… what does that mean, I thought? Ten minutes later, I heard “Code Alpha Stand Down” as I walked to meet my mom in the buffet. Well, when I got there, I was SHOCKED at the number of security and medical people surrounding one woman who had fainted, but seemed to be OK. I thought… where do all these people hang out when there’s no emergency!! I was dying to see the inside workings of the cruise ship, but when the tour was offered later in the week it cost $50 to go on… so I opted to just remain curious!
I quickly learned that many things on board are free, but that they also charge an arm and a leg for many, many other things! They lost money on my mom and I, I think… because we didn’t drink, didn’t gamble, didn’t use the spa, and didn’t shop on board! I was amazed how the onboard casino was packed all hours of the day and how many people just ordered whatever they wanted to drink and signed the bill away. I would have loved to see their bills at the end of the cruise! It’s so easy for money to quickly add up on a cruise if you’re not careful.
Anyway, we had a fabulous day on board and didn’t find ourselves with a lack of stuff to do. We also read some, took a little nap, and just enjoyed relaxing. I also enjoyed just people watching!
Our cruise director, Andy, would come on the loudspeaker and announce what was going on, and he had more energy and enthusiasm than the energizer bunny! I don’t know when he slept… cause he was always awake when I was and I know he stayed up late at the parties they had until 1 or 2 AM!
Here are some pics from Monday as we cruised up Alaska…it was a cloudy day... better pictures of this beautiful state come later in the week.
TUESDAY - JUNEAU, ALASKA
Fun facts about Juneau – No road in or out and state capital… only sea and air!!!
The area is larger that Rhode Island and Delaware individually and almost larger than both combined! And has a whopping 30,000 people with ONE MILLION coming in each summer on cruise ships!
Tuesday – We didn’t arrive in Juneau until 1 or 2 PM, so we had a nice relaxing morning. It was still overcast so we prepped ourselves with raingear and chose what adventures we wanted to do when we got off the ship. I had done a lot of research, so I knew that we could book an excursion for cheaper when we got off board. The top excursions were: 1. Mt Roberts Tramway (but everyone said to not book that till you got there in case it was cloudy and you wouldn’t be able to see anything… which it was so we didn’t do that!); 2. Dog Sled Tour (way fun, but not in the rain); 3. Zipline (but again, not in the rain); 4. The Red Dog Saloon … ummm not really that appealing; 5. The Mendenhall Glacier – which is what we did!! My mom and I chose to book a roundtrip bus tour to the Mendenhall Glacier which also happened to stop by Homestead Park and some salmon locks. Homestead Park is a scenic outlook across the river from the main part of Juneau. It is a series of stairs leading down to the scenic outlook. A little slippery when wet, but we did get pictures!
This was the salmon locke we stopped at. Can you see them? They blended in with the rocks in the river, but there were a TON of salmon!
Our featured destination of the Mendenhall Glacier was AMAZING! Because of the rain and amount of time we had there, we didn’t walk all the way to the closest viewing point, but we did get some good pictures and enjoyed touring the museam!
Info about the glacier is here : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mendenhall_Glacier
Tuesday night it was back on board for buffet dinner and some awesome entertainment!
Speaking of entertainment, I was TOTALLY impressed! We had comedian David Naster, who I thought was funny, but also LOVED that he did some workshops during the day for kids who wanted help in dealing with bullies. (I attended and basically it was giving them tools on how to turn around what a bully says to make it funny, etc). He also did a class on finding laughter and happiness even when things are not looking good.
Then there was Shark Bait, two guys who used to be clowns with Ringling Brothers, but left to do highly entertaining shows on NCL with juggling and similar stunts. AND, if that wasn’t enough we also had the group called “Oh What a Night!” … 4 guys who were perform in tribute to “Frankie Valli and The Four Season”. They were incredible! Most of the songs from this original group were produced in the 60s and 70s, but I was amazed at how good they sounded as well as how many I recognized!