Our Alaskan Cruise

Cruises are a great way to travel, especially if you don’t want to worry about food, entertainment, and lodging.  They have all that and much more on every cruise we’ve taken.  We have always wanted to go see the beauty of Alaska.  Now that we live on the West Coast we are so close to a port that goes straight there.  We hopped on the CalTrain and took it all the way to the cruise terminal. Our cruise left from the Port of San Francisco.  From there we got on board the Norwegian Sun.  If you want to go to Alaska you can only go in the summer months.We went in May at the very beginning of the season.  It was actually our boats first trip of the year up to the Icy Straights. Our trip turned out to be surprisingly warm compared to what I was planning for.  We did pack all the coats and jackets and winter gear but didn’t end up using them much.  Below is our cruise broken down day by day.
Day #1 Left from the Port of San Francisco, California
Most times when you go on a cruise it’s a good idea to get there a day before just to make sure you don’t miss the ship.  They will leave without you.  That way you can explore the city you leave from, making it a port of it’s own.  Since we are from San Francisco we just went straight on the boat but if you are in the area and looking for adventures check out my list The Ultimate List of Things to do in San Francisco.
We arrived at the port as early as possible.  It takes a while to get through security and get all your bags checked.  They usually let you on the ship several hours before they leave and the buffets and entertainment have already started.  Believe me you don’t want to miss a meal opportunity on a cruise ship.

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Day #2 Day at Sea
We had several days at sea on this cruise.  Days at sea can be just as much fun as days you are in port.  It’s a great time to relax, check out all the lounges, cafe’s, ice cream bars, outdoor grills, etc.  Each ship will have it’s own fun and entertainment.  The Norwegian Sun had a golf driving netted area, shuffle board, basketball, volleyball, soccer courts, kids pool, hot tubs, large pools, fitness center, spa, salon, video game zones, kids clubs, teenage clubs, lounges, bars, chapels, shopping malls, photo gallery, gift shops, clubs, casino’s, and of course the observation deck.
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There are lots’ of food options on board as well.  There were two formal dining rooms on this ship, then they had 6 specialty restaurants including a French cuisine, Italian Bistro, Japanese Grill, Steakhouse, and more. They also have a more casual buffet open 24 hours a day with ice cream bars, pizza buffets, outdoor grills for hamburgers and hot dogs, and more.  If you are ever hungry on a cruise it’s your own fault.

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Walking around outside on the different decks while sailing along the coast was one of my favorite things to do.  You get fantastic view of those gorgeous sunsets and sunrises on an endless horizon.
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Day #3 Astoria, Oregon
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We pulled into port early in the morning.  Astoria is a quaint small town.  There were many excursions for city tours but we decided to just walk around ourselves.  The whole town was only a few miles around so we managed to walk it even with our two toddlers without a problem.  The first place we went was the Columbia River Maritime Museum. This place was a coastguard station turned museum.  It was only $12 for adults and kids were free.  They had great exhibits talking about the history of the area and the importance of the coastguard.  They had a great presentation showing the life of a member of the coastguard and some of the spectacular feats they perform saving lives.  Outside of the museum is a ship to walk through as well.  Our kids loved this place and we spent a little over two hours here.  They also had a 3D penguin presentation showing in their theater that we watched.
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After the museum we hopped on the River Front Trolley.  It’s $2 to ride all day and it took us around the entire town.  The driver was also so sweet to let the kids ring the bell. They were also great at talking about the history of the town and all the buildings.
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After our trolley ride around the town we stopped off at a free shuttle station that took you all the way to the Astoria Column.  It was a large tower with an elevator ride to the top for a spectacular view.  You could see the ocean and all the way over to Washington State as well as Mount St. Helens off in the distance.

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That about sums up our day in Astoria.  Great place with the friendliest people and super helpful service for tourists.  I don’t feel like we missed out on anything not paying for a tour.
Day #4 Day At Sea
Another great day of ocean views, great food and fun entertainment.  Make sure to not miss out on all the shows on board a cruise.  We went to a magician show, comedian act, juggling act, broadway musical, and more while at sea.
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Day #5 Sitka, Alaska
We woke up as we were starting to spot land and heading straight into Alaska territory.  It was beautiful.  I cannot describe the breathtaking pine trees that went straight down into the ocean water.  The water was so calm and serene.  It was the most peaceful place I have ever been.
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Sitka was our first stop in Alaska.  Again this town was only about 2 miles wide so we saved our money by not taking a tour and walked everywhere.  The only thing that was semi far away from town offered a $5 shuttle there and $5 back.  It was with Sitka Tours 907-747-5800.  Really easy to spot next to where all the tour guides are picking people up.  The shuttle bus took us to The Fortress of the Bear.  It was $10 for adults and free for kids.  This was a sanctuary for several rescued bears and their cubs.  They couldn’t let the bears back into the wild due to certain circumstances.  They were amazing to see up close and personal.  While we were there the workers talked about how each of the bears were found and rescued.  They also fed them over the wall oranges and hard boiled eggs.  We got to watch the bears peel them with their claws and pop them straight into their mouth.  While we were standing there all of the sudden 4 bald eagles swooped over our heads and started circling the bears.  It was amazing!  The workers said bald eagles are all over the place and we soon found that to be true.  Everywhere we went we would spot them in the trees or on the beach.  It was spectacular.
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After the Fortress of the Bear we headed to Sitka National Historic Park and Totem Park.  It is only about a mile walk down Lincoln Street which is the main road you get off the boat at.  This state park was a free to walk through and didn’t’ take more than 30 minutes.  You can see towering totems every few yards and feel lost in an Alaskan forrest.
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Alaska Raptor Center was only a 1/4 mile walk from the totems and we walked there next.  It was $12 to get in the visitors center.  We decided to skip this because all the birds can be seen from outside and it was free to walk around the trails outside. They had bald eagles and owls and raptors and falcons.  Their cages were up close and so even our little boys could spot the magnificent birds.
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We spent the rest of our day in Sitka walking down Lincoln Street.  It in only about a mile and there are lots of fun tourist shops and restaurants to explore and find treasures.
Day #6 Hoonah (Icy Strait), Alaska
Today we decided to spend the couple hundred dollars and go on a whale watching tour adventure.  There are so many different boats and a tours to take.  Do your homework.  It was very hard to differentiate all the different tours and we ended up waiting to get on the wrong boat.  Our boat left without us.  Luckily we called and were able to fit on the next tour.  It still made us a little upset because we had booked the early morning tour on purpose.  We heard the whales are feeding and most active in the morning.  We were there a half our yearly but due to poor signage and so many different tour groups we had to wait to go in the afternoon.  The whales were still spectacular.  We saw one breach out of the water and lots of tails and water spouts.  We also saw sea lions and birds.  We tried to catch up to some orca’s but they were moving too fast.  This was definitely a memorable thing to do in Alaska I highly recommend doing it at some point on your vacation if you choose to go here.

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Day #7 Ketchikan, Alaska
Our last stop in Alaska was Ketchikan.  Another beautiful ocean front town with evergreen forests everywhere you looked. We didn’t book any tours for this stop.  We just paid a few dollars to take public transportation to Saxman Village home to Totem Bight State Park.  We walked up a giant hill looking at all the totems.  You can buy a brochure with history of them that was really neat to read as you looked at each one it told it’s own story.  The Clan House was at the very top of the hill.  Free to go inside.  The do shows and dinners in there that special events.  We just had other plans and couldn’t fit it all in.
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After the totems we headed back to the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show.  This show we had heard so many great reviews about and it did not disappoint.  The seats are first come first serve so we got there early to wait in line and ate Salmon Fish and Chips from a delicious food truck  There aren’t bad seats in the house but we knew our little boys would do a lot better sitting on the front row.  We were right.  They were so engaged and even got called from the audience to participate in an event.  We got to take home the log chair made during the show.

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 The rest of our day we wandered around Creek Street.  It is Ketchikan’s quaint downtown.  Lots of souvenir shops all around a creek so there are lots of bridges going over and around the water.

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Day # 8 Day at Sea
Our last day at sea we took full advantage of the entertainment and food.  It was going to be sad not being waited on all the time when we went home.

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Day # 9 Vancouver, Canada
This was our last day on the boat.  We had our last breakfast and exited the ship and went through customs to get into Canada.  Here we found a taxi to take us and all our bags to our hotel.  Then without skipping a beat we grabbed lunch and went on the Vancouver City Sightseeing Tour.  Here we saw lots of sights of the city.  It was super nice having someone just take us to all the point of interest since we were at the end of a long 10 day trip where we had done lots of walking.  You can click here for my detailed post of Vancouver in a Day with Kids.  In short we went to Stanley Park, Prospect Point, Gastown, Granville Island, Lions Gate Bridge, and a few more.  It was such a fun place we wish we could have stayed longer.
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So that’s all for our Alaskan Cruise.  It was a blast so much more than I expected.  Alaska is not just for retired persons.  Our family enjoyed every minute of it.  There are so many beautiful sights and family friendly activities.

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