Cruising in Alaska finally!

How did we end up cruising in Alaska finally? One day in early summer, the L’auberge du Lac Casino in Lake Charles, Louisiana, sent me an email offering a complimentary seven-day cruise for two people, based on my casino play.

Claiming this prize meant physically going to the casino and waiting in line.

I was given a list of about thirty cruises to choose from.  We selected an Alaskan cruise on the ship, Norwegian Jewel, that departed from Vancouver, Canada. Our cost obligation: port taxes, gratuities, trip insurance, and travel expense to/from Vancouver, Canada, from Texas.

I upgraded our inside cabin to an aft balcony cabin (for an additional cost). We used hotel points for our hotel stays in Vancouver, one night before the cruise and one night after the cruise.

We were able to purchase our flights to and from Vancouver using United mileage points. Bonus: the hotel provided a shuttle service to and from the airport.

I prepaid three shore excursions at the three different port stops during the cruise, a trip to Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau; a White Pass Railway & Yukon Expedition Bus Tour in Skagway; and a Wilderness Exploration & Crab Fest in Ketchikan.

These excursions were, in my retired and fixed income opinion, expensive. Clearly, however, this was a fabulous seven-day cruise done very inexpensively. Did I mention that the drink package and Wi-fi were included by Norwegian also?

The hardest thing for us when planning a trip is providing care for our two dogs, Lilly, and Tank, while we are away. We have a terrific pet sitter/friend who stops in at the house twice a day to care for the dogs for three to four-day trips.

When we’re away from home longer, we prefer to have someone stay at our home with the dogs. Our super helpful grandson, Alex, has spent many many days at our house taking care of Lilly and Tank, but he’s in college now and is getting a much-deserved break.

I posted an advertisement at HouseSitters America requesting a house/pet sitter during the ten days we would be away. After several emails, texts, and phone calls, we settled on arrangements with a person we had never met, to stay at our home and care for the dogs.

More information regarding this adventure coming soon. What a terrific person and terrific experience!


We’ve been spoiled on past cruises because they left from Galveston, Texas — less than ten miles from our home. This Alaskan cruise required an international flight, overnight stays at a hotel, and transportation to and from the cruise ship.

We shared a cab to the port from our hotel with two fellow cruisers we’d met the day before. The check-in process with Norwegian was a breeze, and we were on the ship having drinks and lunch in no time at all.

Norwegian Jewel is a great ship, spotless and in excellent condition. The staff we interacted with during this cruise are genuinely lovely people, and all worked very hard to take care of all guests. I don’t know how they do it either; some guests, although not the majority, are VERY demanding. 

Our first day on the ship was a full sea day that we spent exploring the ship and getting familiar with all available to us. I participated in one of the ship’s slot tournaments in the casino and finished in second place in the first round.

Only the first place wins, so I was out of the competition. Great fun, though. We spent a short amount of time feeding machines in the casino.

Yes, it was just a bit chilly at sea that day. My recommendation is to dress in layers so you are prepared for anything, but you can always quickly go back to your cabin for additional warm clothing. Still, if you start in layers, I think you’ll be comfortable all day.

I am very cold-natured and carried a lightweight jacket with me whenever I was on the ship. Incidentally, this cruise was the first time I had worn real shoes since I had retired from work! We live on the Texas coast, and that is sandals only country. Shoes were definitely required for warmth during this cruise, though.


Cruising in Alaska

Our first port stop and shore excursion were in Juneau. It was cold and rainy, and I was not overly excited about getting outdoors in the wet and chilly weather. I began the day thinking maybe an Alaskan cruise was not such a great idea.

Before long, I changed my whiny, old lady, sissy mind and was extremely happy to be on an Alaska cruise — even in the cold rain. A tour bus took us to Mendenhall Glacier and Nugget Falls in the Tongass National Forest, which were terrific, vast, and beautiful.

The weather cooperated off and on, so we didn’t get rained on all day long. The thing about Alaska is that it rains — and often. You just have to be aware of that and dress accordingly.

We did not have umbrellas (forgot them), but we were both wearing our Frogg Toggs jackets that amazingly block wind and rain. I adore our Frogg Toggs!

We did tremendously enjoy seeing this glacier and the lovely scenery, but this “shore excursion” was simply a paid bus ride to and from the location.

I wish I had researched cabs and other available transportation in that area and that we had not taken a tour bus to this location. We walked a mile or so around the area, stopped briefly in the visitor center, and were driven back to Juneau, where we had time to shop and wander around a bit.


Cruising in Alaska finally!

Our next Alaskan cruise port was Skagway, and it was an early one. We boarded a tour bus at 7:30 a.m. for our full day White Pass Railway and Yukon Expedition. 

We were driven to the Yukon Train and went on a beautifully scenic and narrated hour and a half long train ride. The White Pass Railway was built in 1898 during the Klondike Gold Rush and is a marvel of engineering. 

Stunning views everywhere! We crossed into Canada during the train ride. The train stopped to let Canadian border officials board to check each and every passport before we were permitted to continue.

We were informed of this procedure beforehand, nothing unusual. A bit further down the track, we ended our trip and loaded back onto our bus with our terrific driver/guide, Paul.

He took us to Caribou Crossing Trading Post, a dog sled/petting zoo/restaurant where we were served barbecue chicken dinners with fantastic donuts. Donuts? Who would have thought we’d be having donuts in Alaska!

Steve got to pet a couple of the puppies in training to be sled dogs so he was pleased. After lunch, we boarded the bus and were driven to nearby Cargill, a small village, where we had free time to shop and wander around.

We purchased maple syrup that had been “aged” in whiskey barrels. It has a fascinating whiskey taste. We continued on in the bus with a few photo stops and the tour ended in the village of Skagway, where we meandered around in and out of shops.

We purchased some waffle ice cream cones from the ice cream shop (1/2 price since it is the end of the season!) and sat outside on a bench to eat them. This is the only time in my “I live in the South” life that I was able to leisurely eat my ice cream without a bit of it melting! That’s a plus for living in Alaska right there.


As we were heading back to the ship, I realized we had not yet found a geocache in Alaska, so I pulled one up on my phone.

As we were walking toward it, staring at my phone and still .3 of a mile away, we encountered a couple walking toward the ship that had been geocaching also! The gentleman gave us some general direction to help us along our way.

We walked along a beautiful walkway and a park, we would have never seen if it were not for our geocache hunt. Steve and I found it fairly quickly but we didn’t have a pen to sign the log.

I took a photo of the log to send to the owner in the hope that he will accept it as a legitimate find. We love to geocache on our trips because the hunt for the cache always takes us to such remarkable places.

We would never know these places existed if it was not for this great hobby. If you’re not familiar with geocaching and would like to know more, take a look at their website at I’d also be happy to tell you more about this fun hobby if you’re interested. This was a long, fun-filled day.

Northern Lights!

Cruising in Alaska finally!

Paul, our Skagway tour guide, said the Northern Lights had been visible in the Skagway area for the last two weeks. I left the curtains open all night, so all I had to do was look out, I figured.

Every night I stepped out on the balcony a few times during the night to check closer up but nothing. I was determined to see the Northern Lights! FINALLY, that night around midnight, I believe, after our Skagway stop, we were able to see the mesmerizing and dancing lights!

We did not see them off of our balcony but up at the very front of the ship! I saw mostly green dancing colors, but Steve saw reds and purples later in the evening. Amazing! We did see them again off of our balcony the very next night. Bucket list item!

Dawes Glacier

Cruising in Alaska finally!
Dawes Glacier
Cruising in Alaska finally!

The next day, despite our late “Lights” night, we were again up fairly early because the ship was headed to Dawes Glacier and through lots of ice. 

Our ship’s slow trek to the glacier was magnificent, so gorgeous! We walked around the ship outside to the front and took many pictures.

It was quite cold that morning, but I was prepared with gloves and earmuffs. We then moved to our balcony when the ship turned around, and we saw the entire show all over again, from the comfort of our aft balcony, Bloody Mary in hand.

I didn’t leave our balcony for many hours even though the glacier was long gone from sight, and very few pieces of floating ice passed passing by.  It was so peacefully beautiful.


What a quaint little town this was! Our shore excursion for this day included a brief tour bus ride to a boat dock where we walked down at least 70 steps (oh my knees!) to the water.

All 80 of us (two buses) loaded onto two different boats with inside, warm and comfortable seating. We took an interestingly narrated tour of the inlet and we learned a bit about the history of Alaska in that area. 


We were delighted to see many eagles soaring in the area. Bald eagles had been hunted for sport and as a method of protecting local fishing. At one time, it was believed that Bald Eagles preyed on chickens, lambs, and domestic livestock.

Although this was not the case, the large birds were shot to eliminate the perceived danger. This practice, along with diminished nesting habitat and use of the now-banned DDT, the Bald Eagle population became dangerously low.

After the passing of the Bald Eagle Protection Act in 1940, harming Bald Eagles was prohibited. Eagles went from 417 pairs, on an endangered list, to their present status where they are no longer considered endangered. On June 28, 2007, they were removed from the list of threatened and endangered species.

Cruising in Alaska finally!

Dungeness Crabfest

We stopped near the shoreline and received a lesson in pulling up crab traps — Dungeness crab. Our guide pulled up one trap that had a dozen or so crabs in it and allowed everyone the opportunity to hold a crab or touch it if they chose.

All crabs were finally released from the trap, and the trap was lowered back into the water to catch more. The boat docked at George Inlet Lodge bit further down the waterway.

We were pleasantly greeted and all shown to tables for our all-you-can-eat Dungeness crabfest. The staff instructed all as to how to most efficiently crack the crabs open and eat the meat.

It was absolutely all-you-can-eat and delicious, warm fresh boiled crab meat dipped in butter — amazing. After lunch, we had a bit of time to wander around the dock and shop at the small gift shop before we loaded back on the buses and back to the dock in Ketchikan.

We still had a few hours left before we had to be back on the ship, so we elected to wander around Ketchikan a bit. There were, as in all cruise ports I’ve ever been to, a zillion tourist gift shops, including the typical 8,000 or so jewelry stores.

I do not understand why there are so many jewelry stores in cruise ports. I know there are maybe some good deals to be had, but I’ve never booked a cruise thinking, “oh boy; now I can buy jewelry.” Let me know if you will, what I am missing here.

Anyhow, we did see a few seals swimming around, wandered through shops and yes, found ONE geocache. We had to walk around a building about seven times before we figured out where the geocache was, but we did find it, and this time, we had a pen to sign the log, which is the whole point.

It was a large travel bug hotel cache. We had nothing to leave so simply signed the logbook. A pleasant leisurely stroll took us back to the ship, and the end of our visit to Ketchikan. This was my favorite port; very picturesque and the town felt comfortable to me.

One more sea day on our Alaskan cruise, and it would all over. It was a beautiful, inexpensive, once-in-a-lifetime trip.

Cruising in Alaska finally!

2 thoughts on “Cruising in Alaska finally!

  1. Debbie, it was nice to be your “fellow travelers”! Good luck with the blog!

    1. Thank you Gail; we enjoyed meeting y’all at the airport in Vancouver before the cruise even, and then hanging out on the cruise. Remember standing out in the drizzling rain waiting for the hotel shuttle bus?

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