Juneau at dusk
August 2011
 I'm back from the Alaskan cruise! I enjoyed the time with my family (and thanks, dad, for paying my way so I could go) on the Norwegian Pearl, which my father booked through Costco (yes, the discount warehouse people). Alaska is, indeed, the breathtaking natural wonder that everyone raves about. As it turns out, however, I am not a cruise person.

I had never been on a cruise before. I'm not much of a structured vacationer or touring type. I amble into town, rent an apartment or check into a cheap hotel, unpack my bags, and settle into base camp, taking day excursions at my leisure.

Cruises are relatively structured. Although good food is available 24 hours per day, the best food is served at set hours, and every time you walk into one of the dining rooms, they immediately spray you with hand sanitizer. Activities and use of facilities are also limited to certain times. Plus, you can't just leave town at will. If you get antsy, you can either jump into freezing, deep water or wait until the ship reaches a port... which brings up ports.

Glacier Bay, reversal print
At each port, you have 8 to 10 hours to do everything you want to do in that area. Pre-planning and prioritizing are essential. Although the largest cities in Alaska are still relatively small towns, they still have more than 10 hours' worth of wilderness, quaint town experiences, and museums I'd like to see. Plus, there isn't much opportunity to interact with the locals to get advice, other than the tour guides.

The typical port call goes something like this... everyone rushes off the boat to find their scheduled tour or transport. During the day, you rush from place to place, listening to tour guides, snapping photos, buying trinkets. At the end of it all, the tour drops you exhausted at the docks, just in time to crawl back on the boat before it leaves you behind. My sister and her husband, both flight attendants, are accustomed to, and I think very much enjoy, the frenetic pace.

Mendenhall Glacier
The highlights? Our tour guide in Skagway, Klondike Kevin, takes groups of 6 to 10 and will personalize your tour to your wants. He hasn't done anything with his web site, but we booked him through Dyea Dave, who takes larger groups. The crew on the ship made the renewal of vows by my sister and her husband a special day. And we saw a lot of animals, which I hope to cover in a separate entry.

I needed a vacation after my vacation! Actually, in spite of the crew's best efforts to wipe out every viri and bacteria on the ship, I managed to come down with a sore throat and the sniffles on the last day, just in time to meet my boyfriend in Seattle and spend a couple days with him there.