In June 2015 we took our first cruise on the Norwegian Pearl to Alaska. On our Alaska cruise we sailed 1,760 nautical miles over seven days from Seattle, Washington to Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan in Alaska, through Glacier Bay National Park, to Victoria, British Columbia, and back to Seattle. Check out our route:
On the final day of our cruise we arrived at port in Seattle at 8AM. We elected to be one of the last passenger groups off the ship so we had a leisurely morning packing up and having breakfast in the main dining room.
Another beautiful day in the Pacific Northwest. Makes me never want to leave.
Disembarking the ship could not have been easier. Norwegian’s process is called “Freestyle Disembarkation” (“freestyle” is basically the motto of the NCL experience – it basically just means everything is stress-free and informal – meals, dress code, events, etc) and has two options: 1) “Easy Walk-Off” which means you’re first to get off the ship and carry all of your own luggage off or 2) scheduled disembarkation.
We opted for the scheduled disembarkation which is basically just a scheduled departure time where your luggage is taken off the ship for you. It sounds complicated but it was really simple – the night before disembarkation you pack your bags, pick up colored luggage tags that correspond with the time you want to leave the ship, put the tags on all of your luggage, and leave your bags outside your room anytime before midnight the night before. The day you disembark your luggage is organized by color and is waiting for you in the checkout area of the pier. We picked the scheduled departure for a few reasons: 1) our flight was at 4PM so we weren’t in any rush (we figured let the people who actually need to catch early flights off first without us in the way), 2) we didn’t have to worry about hauling our luggage, and 3) we got to enjoy a few extra hours on the ship as it emptied out.
We finally disembarked around 9:30AM, walking off with just small carry on items. The luggage pick up area on the pier was super organized (even though it looks a little nuts in the picture below), we found our bags easily, and we were off to the airport.
We got to the Seattle airport at around 10:30AM which meant we had about 5 hours to kill before our flight home. Thankfully SeaTac is full of awesome stuff so we didn’t have any trouble passing the time.
We hung out in the Sub Pop shop…
…checked out the Push Me, Pull Me: Pearl Jam and the Art of the Screen Printed Poster exhibit…
We finally boarded our flight home to Boston around 3:30PM. We, begrudgingly, flew Alaska Airlines home. I prefer JetBlue but there were no non-stop flights back to Boston that afternoon. I have never had a pleasant experience on Alaska Airlines – they nickel and dime their customers, skimp on refreshments, charge for checked luggage, the paid wifi doesn’t work reliably, and their staff/customer service is the pits. We flew AA on our honeymoon and it was such a bad experience that I have disliked them ever since. Sigh. It’s a necessary evil sometimes though to get a non-stop flight home.
On the flight I watched Wild which was excellent. Totally a spirituality-in-nature type movie, so appropriate for this trip. We landed back in Boston at midnight, cabbed it home, and crashed. We took the following day off to unpack, do laundry, go grocery shopping, and ease back into real life. It was hard. It’s still hard and I’m writing this a month later!
I can honestly say that this trip was one of the best of my life. Not because of the cruise itself – we decided that we liked the cruise well enough but won’t be rushing to do another one – but because Alaska is a magical and heavenly place. Obviously I expected something like that since everyone who has ever been says so, but it was definitely something I needed to experience for myself. I immediately felt moved by it and connected to it. This was the best type of trip because it gave me brand new eyes and a rejuvenated purpose – to be a little kinder to the Earth, to respect what is wild, to make more time for solitude, to slow down. It reminded me how big the world is and how small I am. How limitless and evocative nature is, how enduring yet fragile it is.
“It was all unknown to me then, as I sat on that white bench on the day I finished my hike. Everything except the fact that I didn’t have to know. That is was enough to trust that what I’d done was true. To understand its meaning without yet being able to say precisely what it was…To believe that I didn’t need to reach with my bare hands anymore. To know that seeing the fish beneath the surface of the water was enough. That it was everything. It was my life – like all lives, mysterious and irrevocable and sacred. So very close, so very present, so very belonging to me. How wild it was, to let it be.”
– Cheryl Strayed, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
Stay tuned for my final trip posts about the cruise ship itself and the food on the cruise ship!