I embarked on my first ever cruise through Alaska's Inside Passage on the Norwegian Pearl in 2007. The day before our ship sailed off into the Pacific, I felt a mix of excitement and anxiety, especially at the prospects of packing my necessities into what looked to be too small of a suitcase.
Alaska was at the top of my bucket list and a cruise seemed like the perfect way to explore it without having to haul my luggage around to a new hotel every night. Norwegian Cruise Line's Freestyle Cruising® option seemed like a fit for someone (like me) who isn't fond of set schedules. The fact that it was easily accessible from my home city of Seattle was a plus.
Day 1: Boarding the Norwegian Pearl
I arrived at Pier 66 in Seattle three hours before the Norwegian Pearl was scheduled to depart, but I certainly wasn't the only one. After handing over my luggage to security, I retrieved my solo ticket to The Last Frontier and boarded the ship I would live on for the next seven days.
The common areas were crowded as people acquainted themselves with their temporary home-at-sea. The decor and atmosphere were reminiscent of a lively casino. After a quick lifeboat drill on deck that evening, the Norwegian Pearl sailed out to sea.
Day 2: At Sea
The waters west of Vancouver Island were rough and I felt every wave in my stomach as I tossed and turned in my cabin all night. In the morning, I tried to ignore the motion sickness by visiting the upper deck, but walking around the boat quickly became unmanageable.
I sought relief in the form of a seaweed wrap and massage at the spa, which relaxed me only until I stood up to walk again. The concierge, who called to invite me to the Captain's Dinner later that evening, had ginger ale and crackers sent to my cabin while he explained the waves were merely "moderate," not "rough."
The Captain's Dinner comprised cocktail hour at Spinnaker Lounge, whose windows offered views of a humpback whale in the distance, and dinner at an intimate French restaurant that served a mean warm goat cheese tart and duck à l'orange.
Day 3: Juneau
On the third day of the cruise, the Norwegian Pearl entered the Alaska Inside Passage. Whales sightings became more frequent as the ship weaved through the surrounding snow-capped islands. Other guests spent their mornings at the driving ranges, the tennis court, or the rock climbing wall.
Upon arriving in Juneau, the ship provided a shuttle to the Mt. Roberts Tramway, from which guests could walk to the center for shopping, museums, and restaurants. The Alaska State Museum in Downtown Juneau featured exhibits on natural history, native art and culture, the era of Russian possession, the transition to American possession, the gold rush, and modern-day tourism. Shopping at the port proved fruitful for souvenirs and local artwork.
Day 4: Skagway
The boat docked in Skagway—whose colorful buildings nestled in the mountains made it look like a model of a town from the ship—at 6 a.m.
Skagway offered a number of fun activities, such as the Gold Rush Cemetery and Reid Falls, albeit they're a two-mile walk from the dock. This little compact city has plenty of shops, galleries, and the charming Skagway Museum to peruse.
Day 5: Glacier Bay National Park
Waking up to a view of Glacier Bay National Park from my balcony wasn't a bad way to start the fifth day.
About a dozen guests—me included—were invited to view the 21-mile-long Marjerie Glacier from the Bridge. The boat maneuvered around the icebergs in Glacier Bay for about an hour before departing. Lamplugh Glacier was visible on the way out.
Day 6: Ketchikan
The Norwegian Pearl docked at Ketchikan at dawn so that guests could explore the town's totem poles, waterfalls, mountains, and salmon-spawning streams until lunchtime.
An aerial acrobatics show was on at the Stardust Theatre later that evening, during which the crew convened on stage to sing a farewell song.
Day 7: Victoria, British Columbia
On the last full day of the cruise, the Norwegian Pearl was at sea until about 5:30 p.m., when it arrived in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Guests took the opportunity to relax as the ship passed through the Strait of Juan de Fuca that afternoon.
Upon arriving in Victoria, I boarded a bus to Butchart Gardens. The route was rural and picturesque, the gardens immensely colorful. The tour allowed two hours at the Gardens and when the bus returned to Downtown Victoria, it was already dark. The next morning, I would be back on home soil.
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