Back from our Cruise to Alaska: the Land of Taku, Glaciers and Gold

Well, I’m finally back from our adventure. I’ll do a  roundup of all the “sky is falling” miles and points news on Friday, but today we talk actual travel. Because that’s why we do this crazy hobby, right? Right?

Remember how I said that my son was coughing his head off a week before the cruise? Well, he has decided to generously pass it on to the rest of the family, and we were all in various stages of  misery while on  vacation. But it was still fun.

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So, let me do a  short recap of our trip. I’ll have separate posts on Seattle stay, flights, ship overview and excursions later on. Oh, and the Centurion lounge, of course. This is  more of a “movie trailer” write-up.

Before we even left on our cruise, there was a hiccup with my husband’s job. Yup, another IT disaster. Instead of resting the night before the flight, he was working away trying to fix it. In fact, before he went to the office, he said if he couldn’t take care of it, the trip was toast. Say what? I didn’t get insurance for that! Thankfully, things got stable enough that other guys could take over.

Out of all times, his work partner Jose was also on vacation, so that added to   the overall stress. My husband texted him and said that it’s like IT systems know when they both take a day off at the same time. Jose’s response: “Those bastardos!!!” He loves to play on his Mexican heritage and often speaks with a fake heavy accent just to mess with vendors at work.

When we were in Alaska, my husband has sent Jose this photo and asked if this is an Alaskan version of a taco:

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Washy washy, happy happy

Speaking of ethnic stereotypes… We were crusing on NCL’s Norwegian Pearl, and most of the service staff were from poor Asian countries like Philippines. Cruise lines take hygiene seriously because one sick passenger can literally ruin vacation for thousands due to closed-in environment of the ship. So, few  staff members were instructed to stand at the entrance of the dining  room with a hand  sanitizer  and encourage guests  to use it.

But they didn’t stop there. Every one of them was told to say loudly to each passing cruise guest “Washy washy, happy happy!” We’ve heard it so much that it became a running joke. People were saying it in the elevators and my kids absolutely loved it. My husband? Not so much. He said it promoted ridiculous Asian stereotypes. I’m not sure if that’s really the case, but it was a bit silly to see grown, fluent-English speaking individuals talk in such a manner. But that’s what they are instructed to do. Or else.

I  feel bad for the ones who have children because they leave them for up to 8 months at a  time. At least, according to our room steward who has two kids and a wife back home. It honestly made me feel sick to my stomach knowing the type of sacrifices some make in order to support their families.

To my reader Cheapblackdad, I’m sure you are dying to know this one. Yes, there were black cruise passengers on our ship. I counted at least 20 out of 2,000, which is actually pretty diverse compared to The Hobby.

Having a balcony on Alaska cruise is VERY nice

No, it’s not essential, and if you can only afford the cheapest inside stateroom, don’t think twice. I absolutely don’t mean to suggest that you should go balcony or go home.

But I can honestly say that out of all the itineraries, this is the one to splurge on. Especially, if you are an introvert the way my spouse  is. Not having to leave the stateroom in order to experience the wonders of Alaska really does enhance the overall experience. You can watch the sunset and not have to share the moment with other people on deck:

DSC_0002You can sit on your balcony and watch planes land in the water while the ship is docked in port:

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Occasionally, you may even  spot whales:

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You might see some otherworldly sights that almost don’t look real:

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But where the balcony really pays off is Glacier Bay National Park. While standing on main deck, you will have to fight hundreds of people who will also be trying to get a good look at the star attraction of the Alaska cruise. But not in your own stateroom, unless you are fighting with your spouse that is.

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Get off the ship! 

And no, I’m not just talking about going shopping for trinkets and souvenirs.  There are several ways to see the interiors of Alaska. If you are cruising with a family, taking a taxi or renting a car will almost always be more cost-efficient that taking tours. That’s what we did in Juneau when we rented an SUV that fit 7, at the price of $85 for the whole day. The goal was to see Mendenhall Glacier, and it didn’t disappoint.

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My husband and his sister even got to hike to a waterfall:

DSC_0076 NCL was charging $59 per person to essentially do the exact same thing.  We did stick to doing ship excursions in other three ports, but this wasn’t my decision to make. With the exception of Yukon territory bus tour, I feel strongly that taxis would have been the way to go. But once again, for various reasons, it just wasn’t a fight worth fighting (I think). I will have a separate post dedicated to this topic, so will leave it alone for now.

I loved all the Gold Rush stories and learning the background of some of the famous writers and poets who drew their inspiration while digging for gold in Alaska. One of the most well-known, of course, is  Robert W. Service and his poem called “Cremation of Sam McGee.” Here is an excerpt:

“There are strange things done in the midnight sun 
By the men who moil for gold; 
The Arctic trails have their secret tales 
That would make your blood run cold; 
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights, 
But the queerest they ever did see 
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge 
I cremated Sam McGee.”

I just love a feel-good story!

Some of my favorite memories of the trip have to do with  watching my kids’ faces when they were making yet another discovery. Like picking a flower that doesn’t grow in Florida:

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Or finding a tiny train in the middle of nowhere:

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This truly was a cruise/vacation of  a lifetime!

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6 thoughts on “Back from our Cruise to Alaska: the Land of Taku, Glaciers and Gold

  1. Sounds like a great trip! Did you look into the Disney Alaskan cruise at all and chose to take this one instead? Or, maybe the better question is, why did you choose this particular cruise?

    I’m asking because I’m debating on which Alaskan cruise to take with 2 elementary aged kids. 🐋

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    • @TravMom Thanks for stoping by! I did look into Disney cruise but unfortunately, it was out of our price range. I would love to try it one of these days, but it will most likely be a 3-day Bahamas cruise during off-season.
      Our budget was somewhat limited, so we had to work around it. My main criteria besides the price was the itinerary. I really wanted to go on a roundtrip cruise from Seattle on a route that included Glacier Bay. So it came down to NCL and Holland America. I’ve been on the latter a few times in the past and really like it, but the price was considerably higher.

      Additionally, at the time, NCL was running “kids cruise free” promo, so that sealed the deal. I had to pay $200 in taxes for my son, but it was a drop in the bucket compared to the overall cost. See this post that shows the price breakdown https://milesforfamily.com/2015/11/04/can-a-middle-class-family-really-afford-a-cruise-to-alaska/ My daughter stayed with my SIL and we also paid $200 to add her to the reservation.

      I’ll have a separate post on NCL Pearl, but in short, I think your kids will like it just fine. Honestly, I think they will like any cruise line, they are all very similar. There is lots to do, and Kids Club has nice activities to keep them entertained. My son really enjoyed it, and he is not an outgoing type. Feel free to email me or comment here if you have any additional questions. I’ll be happy to help.

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