North to Alaska

David Stanley in Alaska

David Stanley in Alaska

Last week Ria and I sailed north from Vancouver to Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway on the cruise ship Norwegian Sun. We’d previously cruised the South Pacific on Cruise West’s Spirit of Oceanus, and I’d sailed to the Marquesas Islands on the Aranui, but neither of those ships was anything like the huge Norwegian Sun.

Cruising today seems to be mostly about eating, and the average weight of our fellow passengers was high. I’m not slim myself but watching those oversized individuals piling fatty, sweet food high onto their plates at the buffet was almost painful. We soon learned not to use the Garden Café with its pushy lines and limited seating and instead took most of our meals in the Seven Seas and Four Seasons restaurants which offered fine dining in elegant surroundings at no additional cost.

We kept our shipboard bills down by not ordering wine with our meals or drinks at the bar. Of course, the smoky casino, bingo games, jewelry shop, and spa held no appeal for us, the art auctioned aboard was generic, and we organized our own shore excursions. The evening entertainment in the Stardust Lounge was free. So all we ended up paying was the basic cruise price, plus a US$12 per person per day compulsory service charge which covered tipping. We considered it good value but are not lining up to go again.

I hadn’t visited the Alaskan Panhandle since 1982 when I researched the first edition of Alaska-Yukon Handbook for Moon Publications of Chico, California. Moon is now Avalon Travel Publishing, based in Berkeley, California, and I still do Moon Fiji and Moon Tahiti for them. Actually, much of the information in my old guidebook is still pretty accurate and we didn’t bother taking along a more recent guide. If you’d like to order a vintage copy of the 1983 edition of Alaska-Yukon Handbook you can get it for one cent from Amazon.com.  Bon voyage.

Kelly says: May 23, 2009 at 3:04 pm

Hi David. My husband and I took the same cruise on the same ship a few years ago. Agree with you about the buffets. It is sad that so many people consider all-you-can-eat food to be the highlight of their travels. We also enjoyed the free writing and martini classes, as well as the evening shows – things a smaller ship can’t provide. Did you happen to spot any whales? We kept our eyes peeled but only saw dolphins (which was also cool). Getting to see the glaciers felt like a once-in-a-lifetime experience!