In September, in Vancouver, we board the Norwegian Sun on a 14-day Alaska cruise. Precisely speaking, it is two one-week tours. In part one, our route is as follows: Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, Hubbard Glacier and Whittier.
After a boarding marathon, we finally board the ship after 3 hours of queuing. The reason for the long duration was the Labor Day holiday and the associated personnel shortage. There were only two security controls, which 5,000 passengers needed to pass through as on that day, two cruise ships were docked at Canada Place. Then we also had to go to Homeland Security Passport Control since we are travelling to America. There, only 5 of the 14 counters, were occupied. The actual check-in at NCL went, as usual, super-fast. Present passport, swipe credit card, smile for the photo, and then ceremonially set your first foot on board.
Our balcony cabin is located at the back, on the 10th deck and is slightly larger than the balcony cabins, which we know from NCL till now. Since the Sun is an older ship, there are also a few other small differences. The balcony door is not a sliding door, but is opened to the outside. Also, in the bathroom the toilet is not separated. Other than this, there is also a shower curtain, no shower wall. For the fact that the ship already has a few nautical miles behind it, the cabin is in good condition. We feel comfortable right away!
Then, with bit of a delay, we are off, leaving Vancouver behind us.
We stroll around the ship a bit and go to the welcome show, which leaves you wanting more. There is a 16-man team of singers and dancers and a show band (!), no taped music like on some other cruise ships!
The next day is a sea day, where we will pass through Inside Passage. We explore the ship and are really surprised how much we also like the “old boat” from the NCL fleet. Everything is well maintained; no worn chair upholstery or carpets. But above all, we like the atmosphere on board: Everything runs smoothly and civilized; there is no jostling, no restlessness. This may also be due to the destination, of course an Alaska cruise is not a party cruise. The staff are super friendly, helpful and always greets courteously.
In the evening we enjoy the sunset, good food and the first show. The singers have great voices, the choreography is ingenious and the sound engineer masters his system. This perhaps sounds like a natural course of things, but during our transatlantic tour with Costa in December last year, we were tormented. In addition to this, the artists return to the stage after their performance for photographs. They are generally very close to the audience. I like it!
On day 3 of our cruise, we come to our first land stop in Alaska. We disembark in Ketchikan and explore the 5th biggest city of Alaska by foot.
First we walk along the harbor to the city center. There, mainly souvenir stores are to be found.
Then we go to Creek Street, the main attraction of Ketchikan. The wooden bridge, built on stilts, runs along Ketchikan Creek. In summer you can watch salmon jumping upstream. Unfortunately, in early September we are too late for this. At first we are a little appalled at the dead salmon lying at the bottom of the creek, but learn that it is the course of nature. After the salmon have spawned, they die for their young to create a biotope for their survival. Travelling educates! 😉 Further on our walk, we also see countless living salmon. 🙂
We walk uphill to the City Park and the Totem Heritage Center. The small museum houses totem poles from abandoned aboriginal settlements that are more than 100 years old. Entrance costs $5 and you get a detailed description of the individual totems, also available in German.
On the way to Fish Bridge, we marvel at the masses of Salmon that swim in Ketchikan Creek.
Back downtown we stroll through the many shops where souvenirs, salmon, popcorn and jewelry are sold. The Norwegian Sun docked somewhat on the skirts of Newtown. On our way back we climb a few steps up to Nob Hill (Front Street corner Cedar Street). The short detour is worthwhile, we have a great view of the harbor and the Norwegian Sun.
Then it’s back to the Sun and on to Juneau.
In the evening we have a program highlight which we do not know about from the other NCL ships: singing with the officers. In the Atrium, song lyrics are distributed and passengers and officers gather and sing with piano accompaniment. On the last song, balloons also fall. And what now perhaps sounds a bit cheesy, really created a very special atmosphere.
We reach Juneau, the third largest city in Alaska. The Sun once again docks on the outskirts, which is why a free shuttle is offered. We look forward to a bit of movement and walk a good kilometer into the city.
On the way we see a bald eagle and pass the Mount Roberts Tramway. Since it is very foggy and overcast, the drive up is not really worth it, so we continue in the direction of downtown. On our return to Vancouver we have a stop here again. Perhaps the weather will then be better for us. In the Alaska Shirt Company is “End of Season Sale”; taking the last cruise of the year also has its advantages. 😉 We also still have a look at the Red Dog Saloon and walk a bit through town.
Then it’s back to the ship, because for the afternoon, Whale Watching is on the agenda. For this I have written a separate blog entry, that can be found here.
After our Whale Watching Tour we also still make a short stop at Mendenhall Glacier.
When I then, completely frozen through, after a three-hour boat tour, board the ship and the cruise director stands there handing out hot chocolate, he wins my heart! 🙂
The next day we stop at Skagway. Here we decide to take a ride with the White Pass Scenic Railway. The trail runs 20 miles to a pass at the Canadian border, showing the path that gold-seekers had to take by foot and horse. We booked the trip in advance via NCL. For a few dollars more there is also the option to buy tickets directly there. This may also make sense, as then you can assess whether the weather is playing along. For us, it was quite cloudy, but the ride through the rugged landscape was still worth it and is an absolute must in Skagway.
The next day is a sea day in which we enter Glacier Bay – a spectacular glacier area. Two rangers from Glacier Bay National Park specially come on board, they make announcements from the bridge as we pass through the bay. The spectacle takes place from 8 to 12 o’clock and at the beginning it is so foggy, that we fear we will see nothing at all. Nevertheless, we sit down, wrapped up tight, on our balcony. For this event, there was the option to order thermos cups with coffee in the room. A nice and really useful idea!
In Glacier Bay there are two branches: The Tart Inlet and the Johns Hopkins Inlet. We drive first into the Tart Inlet with the Margerie Glacier and the Grand Pacific Glacier. The view of the Margerie Glacier is fairly clear. When you pass by so close to such an enormous ice mass, you quickly forget the early hour and the icy cold.
The Grand Pacific Glacier is unfortunately hard to see, as it is really dark. Also the view was unfortunately missing to see the enormous length of the glacier. 🙁
At the entrance of John Hopkins Inlet, the Lamplugh Glacier awaits us.
At the end of the bay we then reach the one-mile-wide, Johns Hopkins Glacier.
In Johns Hopkins Inlet, are also the Gilman Glacier, Hoonah Glacier and the Topeka Glacier to be found.
On the drive out, we also pass by the Ried Glacier.
Unfortunately, the low-lying mist does not free the view of the surrounding mighty mountains.
Afterwards, the rangers hold an interesting lecture in the theater and then leave the ship in the afternoon with applause!
Good morning, Hubbard Glacier! We cruise into to Yakutat Bay at around 7am, where the largest glacier in North America awaits us. This time we are more fortunate, the sky is blue and the morning sun laughs at us.
It’s really incredible how much you can achieve in one day when you get up so early. 🙂 Walkng on deck 6, we enjoy the view of the mountains, especially the almost 6000-meter-high Mount Logan.
We go to a questions and answers hour with the officers, watch a movie about the bears of Alaska, go to another questions hour with the artists, read on our balcony and also lose some money in the casino. After – as always – a good meal and another great show, our first week on board comes to an end.
Tomorrow we will arrive in Whittier. What we do there and an account of our second week aboard the Norwegian Sun is in Part 2.
Here are a few more images from on board:
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