Two months later and I am finally getting back online. I'll blame it on the loads and loads of laundry I had to do after the cruise, involving clothing for Spring, Summer, Fall AND Winter for each member of my family. Or being a wife of a resident in our sixth and final year of residency. Time for me and hobbies are kinda on the bottom of my priority list these days. Regardless, it was a trip of all trips and to see my Dad's eyes as he shared what he loved about the state he left over 38 years ago with his family and especially his grandchildren, was just amazing.
As far as meals go-- We ate at the buffet for most breakfasts and lunches, since it was the most kid-friendly and the food was surprisingly good. There were other good dinning choices for extra fees and we ended up going to several of them and it was worth it--Mexican was $15 per person extra, steakhouse $25 p/p, French $20 p/p, Italian $15 p/p, Sushi/Japanese Steakhouse $20 p/p. We had both set of grandparents there so it was nice to go out and the small price for dinner was nothing in comparison to what we pay at home plus a sitter. Plus, one thing to note on Norwegian compared to the others, it is free style, which means you eat and do activities whenever you want. Other cruises you have an assigned eating time for breakfast, lunch, dinner and follow an itinerary more stictly--so I've been told as I've never cruised before, but my friends said that was why they don't cruise more often--the lack of flexibility.
Booking excursions was interesting. If you book through the cruise than you pay more, but you don't risk getting left behind if for some reason there is a delay and you can't get back to the ship on time. If you call around and book on your own, you get better prices, but plan accordingly and make sure you leave plenty of time to get back to the ship before the deadline. It seems the local companies are wonderful and understand the rules of the game. Some cruise lines actually have contracts with the local businesses and the smaller ones aren't able to accommodate clients without going through the cruise lines, while the bigger companies are able to do so, probably because of the nature of the excursion, like helicopters, dog sleds, etc. There are only so many of those companies and it seems like the cruise lines can't bully them around as much. So whoever you book with, keep that in mind. We tended to tip well, especially for that lone fisherman that took the guys out for their trip, who was convined to the cruise lines guidelines. That's a whole different post for another time, but let's just say that my family and I always root for the underdogs.
So back to the excursions--they were great! I highly recommend the very expensive $600 per person helicopter, dogsled excursion in Juneau. We booked directly through ERA since the cruise line options were fully booked, and we were able to save $100 per person. All of us went with the exception of my then 18 month old daughter and my mom. The staff was so friendly and professional. I can't remember our bus driver's name since it's been several months now, but she's been coming back for years to work with ERA and was full of information and charm. You just wanted to hug her, I may have even done that! Mike was our helicopter pilot--I think that is correct as my son named his dogsled stuffed doggie after him. I am hoping that didn't morph into the incorrect name after all this time. Regardless, he was amazing with my son and my family, full of information and the love of the land was evident as he toured us around the Taku glacier. He was truly a large part of making the experience so wonderful. We loaded up in fours and fives into two different helicopters and flew over the glaciers. There is nothing to really accurately describe how amazing the views were-even our pictures don't convey the beauty of the land. Our dogsled portion was cancelled due to fog and heavy rain at the higher elevation at dog camp, so instead we were able to do a glacier tour. We actually got $300 back per person for not doing the dogsled, and you can request that itinerary instead. As disappointed as we were to not be able to get up to dog camp, we now think we would have missed out had we not gotten to land on the glacier. We were able to land on the Taku glacier and walk around a bit--it was the most incredible experience to stand on a glacier and see the bright, almost sapphire blue, popping through this meringue iced wonderland that stretched beyond the horizon. This was the highlight of our trip!
|On Taku Glacier|
|Our whole clan except for mom and my baby girl.|
|Dog sledding in Skagway.|
|White Summit Pass|
|Lumberjack Show in Ketchikan|
|Pool--it was only warm enough really as we were leaving warm Seattle on departure.|
|Play Area in Sea Tac Airport|
We used a driver Marriott recommended, Elmi 206-271-5783 and he was able to provide car seats and accommodate four adults and two kids for transport from airport to hotel. There is no room for car seats in your state room! Another reason to stay at the Marriott Waterfront as it is walking distance to all Seattle sites while off the ship.
If you are looking for a totally kid friendly cruise to Alaska, check out Disney. There first Alaskan cruises were this summer, so we haven't seen any reviews yet. They were more expensive and our initial feeling was that we wanted a balance b/t kid-friendly and adult friendly, so opted not to go Disney. We are still on the fence on if that was the right choice... We had a great time, don't get me wrong, but you know how it is when you travel with kids, just more challenging. And we didn't realize how our son would be out of sorts a bit with the crowds. Just typical terrible threes, but with a lot more people around. Great cruise and bon voyage if you choose to go!