Alaska is one of the most beautiful states in USA. Full of wildlife and adventure. One of the best ways to visit Alaska is via a cruise.
At the beginning of our marriage, we made a point to have a "honeymoon" vacation every year. I am a great believer that parents need time alone to relax and enjoy themselves at least once a year, as my husband always says "Happy Parents, Happy Kids". This year, we spent our "honeymoon trip" cruising throughout Alaska. We have created a list for your reference if you decide to visit Alaska anytime soon. Here are the "20 Things You Need To Know" before going on a cruise to Alaska.
1. Price: Do your homework!!!! We own a timeshare and we got a good deal through them, however, before buying your package, check different websites. A couple we met in the trip got theirs throughout COSTCO and got a great deal (even better than ours).
2. Cash: The cruise doesn't accept cash on board. You will need to connect a credit card (not a debit card) to your room key, however you will need cash in the ports. Talking about that.....
3. Ports: we visited 4 cities: Ketchikan, Juneau (which is the capital of Alaska), Skagway and Victoria (Canada). Make sure you don't blow your cash in the first stop!!!! We realized that the souvenirs we bought were cheaper in the last stop. Let's talk about shopping...
4. Shopping: If you know a little bit more of history than me, you probably know about the "Golden Rush Era" (guys walked hundreds of miles back and forward to find nothing! No gold!!!)- anyways, Alaska is an amazing place to buy Diamonds. If you are a person who enjoy diamonds, save your money and spend it in Alaska!!! They have amazing pieces at a great price. My husband bought me an "Anniversary band" for my wedding ring 50% of the regular price. They have all kinds of Jewerly made in Alaska. Make sure you check them out. Another thing they are famous for is Salmon. Make sure you buy your salmon (not in the first port!!!) before you leave to Canada.
5. Excursions- DO NOT BUY YOUR EXCURSIONS ONBOARD!!!! They are expensive!!! You can get the same excursions cheaper at the port.
Must do: Wildlife excursions: We got to see eagles, bears, eagles, seals, deers, humpback whales and eagles (did I mentions eagles?). If you have that kind of cash, you can also take an helicopter ride and land on a glacier. Amazing!!! (If you have the $600 per person)
6. Visiting the cities: there is not much time to visit the cities (6 to 8 hours). We are not the "shopping" kind of people so we decided to walk around and visit the museums. We went hiking in Juneau. ($33 per person to get into the top of the mountain by trans trolley). Once you get to the top of the mountain, there are great things for you to do; live shows, movies, sight seeing, more bald eagles, etc....
In Ketchikan we did a 90 minutes "wildlife tour" ($60 per person) in which we were able to see bears and more eagles.
Skagway was my favorite. Although we did not pay for any tours, we were able to walk the town and enjoy the amazing history of the community. In the late 1800's during the "Golden Rush Era" there were thousands of people who came looking for gold to find nothing by the time they arrived, a little community was created. During that time the community thrived from more than 80 saloons for 1,800 people, prostitution, gambling and everything in between. Most of the buildings are 150 yrs old and you get to see the original buildings.
Victoria : Must do: CraigDarroch castle. ($15 Canadian dollars per person- $80 at the boat!) so again, don't get your excursion on the boat. This is your opportunity to visit a castle and take pictures pretending your are a queen or king.
7. The ship: we were in the "Norweigean Jewel" for 7 nights, 8 days. The ship has 14 floors, 2 heated pools, 1 water slide, 6 jacuzzis, 1 casino, Spas, 10 restaurants (buffets - every night had a different theme) sushi bars, Brazilian, Thai and Japanese), many bars, dancing places, over the top fitness center, shows every night, over 100 daily activities and over 1,200 staff members. I am already tired just writing about it.
8. Food: OMG! Let's put this on the table, get ready to gain at least 10 pounds. I am not kidding. The food is "top quality". There is food available 24 hours. If you are "too tired" to go out, you can order food to be delivered directly to your cabin. The buffet had a "theme" every night (Mexican, Asian, international, ribs, fisherman's, country, etc). Everything we tried, we loved. There is also a 24 hours food bar for kids (we got cookies from it).
9. Traveling with kids: Hell no! Lol! (Just kidding). If you can travel alone with your partner, do it! If you need to bring your kids (poor you), there is a "club area" for kids AKA "free babysitting" (if you are one of those lucky parents that your child will stay with a stranger without crying). There is also many activities for teens to do during the day. Some people were making jokes about telling their kids on Saturday "see you next Saturday". There are clubs specifically for teens. Although they have activities for 0 to 2 yrs old, I feel there was not enough activities for the little ones. I recommend you leave your kids at home (lol).
10. Entertainment: I am serious about this, what you are paying is worth the amount for the the shows alone! I am talking about "Broadway" type of shows. They had 2 comedy shows: one with Magician/ which also does comedy and one comedian "Rodney" (you see, we didn't forget your name Rodney!- inside joke). Both shows were amazing. The rest of the shows: Luminescent, Tina Turner Tribute and Cirque Bijou were simple extraordinary. Shows are 7:30 pm and 9:30 pm (first show was always full and most kids attend that show) Also, they had movie showcases every day and a Casino full of old people. By the way, due to Canadian Water regulations, the casino is closed the entire time you are in Canada (24 hours).
11. Beverage: ok, let's talk about drinking. We don't drink much so we decided not to add the drinking package (extra $699 per person). Ugh! Big mistake!!! Why? Beverage are super expensive (my husband's whiskey $20, margaritas $16, etc...). We learned that many couples get at least 1 beverage package and order the beverage for their partner. The same for the soda package ($69.99 per person). Yes, you need to pay for the soda too (and water! 12, 1 L bottles for $24). There is juice, coffee, flavored water and tea all the time free of charge.
12. Staff: talk to them! They have incredible stories!!! They have staff from all around the world. They work 8 months in the same ship and then they go on vacation. I was so interested in their stories that I would ask them all the time how long they have been on the boat. They all seem to love and enjoy their work. I seriously never confronted someone upset. Hey! It's a great job! They get to visit so many places, free "top of the line" food (when they are in their "free time" you see them eating and drinking with the rest of the population) and free housing! Heck! Let's start taking to our high schoolers who don't want to go to college about getting a gig like this!. The guy who was in charge of our cabin was from India. He left us cute surprises every night in our room.
15. Internet: buy the freaking internet if you want to stay connected ($189- but some places offer fee internet as an add on when you buy the package with them) You won't be able to surf the internet while at sea and I am sure you want to stay connected to your kids (that you left at home lol)
16. Passports, ID's and other things: you need a passport since you will be entering Canada. Don't even try to come without one. You will also need ID's to purchase in some stores while using your credit card in the ports. You can use US dollars in Canada but you will get the change in Canadian currency.
17. Clothing: we visited Alaska in Mid July. You need at minimum, a jacket. I ended up getting a hat in a store because it was too cold (and I am from Chicago!). Don't be like me, bring warm clothes, especially if you want to do some "Whale watching". Speaking of that...
18. Whales: I don't recommend you pay for a "whale watching" excursion. The day you are traveling to Alaska you will pass throughout the "Whales Cave". There are hundreds of whales in there!!! You will see them! Make sure you bring your binoculars with you from home or pay close to $100 for them on the boat.
19. Fitness center: since you will be eating like a pig, you need to work out. They have a great fitness center with all kinds of cardio equipment. My husband practices boxing and they had multiple punching bags, gloves and all the crap they use. I encourage you to go to the Fitness center. Please do or you will be crying when you weigh yourself at home.
20. Rooms: we got an inside cabin (we saved hundreds). Room was small but cozy. It has all the essentials. There was a fridge full of goodies (with a fee), hair blower, and all the little cute things you find in a hotel (soap, shampoo, conditioner, etc...). You can request an iron if needed. We had the opportunity of seeing (more expensive) cabins. Same cabin but with a window. If you need a window and have the money, go for it! We were fine without it and actually loved the feeling of coziness in our cabin.
Washy Washy- Happy Happy! Yes, they will make sure you are clean and your hands are desinfected at all times. You will here "Washy Washy" many times during the trip. They even have songs about it!
Unfortunately, we heard that the ship will be moving to Australia in November 2017, however you can still cruise in the sister boat the "Norwegian Pearl" or go with other Cruise lines like "The Princess".
Definetly this was a one in a lifetime adventure! Highly recommended. Can't wait to plan our next adventure.