I Went On An Alaskan Cruise | Recap + Q&A

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Putting up this post has been a battle. My original intention was to share my vacation through a vlog. I had brought my camera with me on my trip and filmed all of the highlights. I spent hours going through the footage and editing it together, only to find out that the files didn't input correctly and I couldn't save the footage out as a file. Despite trying out a few workarounds, it's looking like my only option is to completely redo it all from scratch. I don't know if I have the time or energy for that. We'll see.

I still want to talk about my trip, though, so I guess I'm doing that through a regular post now. That makes me nervous because while I usually prefer expressing myself through writing (obviously), I'm not great at reviews or recaps. Everything is "cool" and "awesome" and "pretty." I don't do it justice. But – I'm happy to give it a try.

At the end of July, my family and I took a week-long Alaskan cruise on Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas. We sailed out of Seattle, stopping in Juneau, Skagway, and Victoria, Canada. We arrived back in Seattle on a Friday, and spent the weekend there before heading back home Sunday night.

Overall, the trip was insane. I can't believe we've already been home for two weeks. Usually by the time our vacation is coming to an end, I feel ready to go back home. This time I absolutely did not.

J U N E A U , A K

I've never been to any part of Alaska before, so docking in Juneau gave us our first taste of what it's like. I had two strong first impressions. Firstly, it was much warmer than I expected. I was initially dressed in workout pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and a jacket on top of that. After only a half hour outside, I ended up changing shirts to just a t-shirt. I know it's summer, but still. It's Alaska. I thought it'd at least be chilly. The second thing I noticed was, holy moly Alaska is gorgeous. It's truly a real-life postcard.

Our excursion in Juneau was a canoeing trip on Mendenhall Lake. The five of us plus six other people paddled our way over to Mendenhall Glacier, then over to a small beach by a waterfall for a break. I learned that the only way to get in to Juneau is by boat or by plane. Even though it's the state's capital city, there's too much ice surrounding the city to drive into it.

Rahul wants to take a photo from our trip and blow it up on a canvas to hang in our apartment, and I'm thinking it's definitely going to be one of our pictures from Juneau.

S K A G W A Y , A K

We docked in Skagway the very next day. It was the excursion I was looking forward to the most: dog sledding.

Since we went in the summer, the sledding is different than you're probably picturing. It wasn't a toboggan pulled down a snowy hill by big, fluffy huskies (though I hope to do that one day). Instead, it was a a team of sixteen medium-sized, very strong huskies pulling us on a wheeled cart down wooded trails. Still awesome.

What I loved the most was how happy the dogs were. When touristy activities involve animals, I'm always wary because you don't know how the animals are treated when the tourists aren't there. And do the animals even enjoy what they're doing? Here, it was obvious that yes, they did. When we arrived, dozens of dogs were barking and howling, eager to get going. Any time we stopped, they were antsy to continue. After the sledding, we got to play with some of the puppies, soon-to-be professional sled dogs. The mushers explained to us that it's actually important for the puppies to socialize like that. Otherwise, if they aren't used to people, they'd get too distracted or overwhelmed by the crowds of people during the Iditarod race.

V I C T O R I A , C A

Our final full day of the cruise was spent in Victoria, Canada. We didn't have any excursions booked, so we spent most of our time just wandering around. Short and sweet.

Victoria is a very pretty city. Look at those flowers. Their flower beds get watered every single day. We took a horse-drawn carriage ride, admired the houses, and tossed seagulls scraps of our food during dinner.

Q & A

One reason I don't like talking about my travels solely via writing is that I'm worried I'll ramble, and in an effort to not do that, I probably end up not saying enough. I wanted to make sure that you got answers to anything you were wondering, so here's a little Q&A.

What did you want to do that you didn't have time for?

Good question. The ONLY thing that comes to mind is that I kept meaning to take some video around the ship so I could show people what it looked like. I never got around to doing that because I was too busy actually enjoying it, which I guess is a good reason.

What was your favorite part?

This is hard to choose. I feel like I should say dog sledding because it very cool and was the thing I was looking forward to the most prior to the trip. But! When I think about visiting Alaska, the canoeing we did in Juneau is what sticks out to me. The views were unbelievable. It felt like we really got to get up close and personal with Alaska, if that makes sense.

What is there to do on a cruise ship?

I'm not sure about other cruise lines (I'm sure all of them have a ton to do), but if we're talking Royal Caribbean, so much! Anything you can think of, really. There are multiple pools, a rock-climbing wall, surf machine, casino, ice skating rink, theatre, bars, restaurants, gym, basketball courts, and a lot more that I'm probably forgetting.

There are also a lot of events/activities held throughout the entire day, from trivia and game shows to movies and performances. You will never be bored.

What are positives and negatives of a cruise experience?

The biggest positive is how much there is to do on the ship – at no extra cost! Your ticket buys you a full week of luxury, including food. There are certain restaurants or shops on the ship that do cost money, but there are also multiple dining areas where the food is free. If you took a cruise and didn't do any excursions at the locations where you're docking, you'd still have a fabulous time.

Another positive is that you get to visit multiple places all in one trip. The cruises that I've been on have all been one week long and have stopped in at least three different locations.

Honestly, it was hard to think of negatives. I managed to come up with two, though I honestly don't think they impact the overall experience at all. The first is that you can't do laundry. Not a huge deal since I don't think people really plan to do laundry on any vacation they take anyway, but it does make packing a bit of a challenge since you have to bring a week's worth of clothes plus a separate dinner outfit for every day. (The dining room – which is free! – does have a dress code. A couple nights are formal, most require "smart" attire.) The second "negative" is that when you dock at a location, you are generally there for about six hours, in my experience. It's plenty of time to go do things, but be aware that you don't get a full day there.

What's the most surprising thing about Alaska?

How warm it was (nearly 80ºF!) and how green the mountains were. I don't know what I was expecting Alaska In The Summer to be like, but it wasn't that.

Travel recommendations for Seattle?

We were only in Seattle for the weekend, but here are some things we did:

Limebikes. A bike rental that doesn't require any docking station. You use their app to locate a bike, either regular or electric, pay to ride, and leave it wherever once you're finished. We came across this randomly because we kept seeing green bikes everywhere. It was my first time riding an electric bike! The electric bikes were one dollar to unlock plus 15 cents per minute; the regular bikes were one dollar per 30 minutes.

MoPOP. The Museum of Pop Culture. Very cool. If you've ever been to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, it kind of reminds me of that in the sense that it's interactive.

Pike Place Market. Definitely touristy but a place you just have to go to. For Starbucks lovers, this is where you can visit the first ever Starbucks location.

Gum Wall. It's near Pike Place and it's literally a wall full of chewing gum. It's as weird and gross as it sounds.

Space Needle. The Needle's observation deck gives you a great view of the city. There's also a newly remodeled rotating restaurant, which unfortunately wasn't open in time for us to go. We ate there the last time we were in Seattle ten years ago and it was awesome. People would leave notes on the windowsill for others to see as they passed by. We left a note asking people for recommendations on what to do in the city. An hour later when we had made our way all the way around, we picked it up and had a bunch of suggestions.

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