Number of Cruises: Most were seasoned cruisers
Cruise Line: Norwegian
Ship: Norwegian Wind
Sailing Date: May 20th, 2002
Itinerary: Alaska's Inside Passage
I found a good airfare on America West (several hundred dollars less than Alaska Airlines) but had to leave San Diego early and connect through Phoenix on my way to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada to meet the ship. I left my home at 4:30 and arrived at the San Diego airport at about 5:30 and there was a line out the door waiting to check in at America West. I was glad I had allowed enough time as I was checked at every single point making my way to the gate. First my bag was checked checking in, then my carry on and I were searched going through security, finally, when I tried to board the aircraft my carry on and I were searched once more. I don’t know but I had grown a beard as a result of some surgery I had on the side of my face and I suspect I must have had that look.
After boarding the flight it was a quick hour to Phoenix and then a couple of hours before leaving on the flight to Vancouver. It was an uneventful flight arriving at the gate just on time. I cleared immigration and then gathered my bags to go through customs and then grabbed a taxi to make my way into downtown Vancouver and my hotel. I always love the taxi ride downtown as it takes you through some of Vancouver’s nicest sections. The quaint Victorian homes, tall trees and abundant flowers are always a visual treat. I was staying at the Crowne Plaza downtown close to the hotel Vancouver. After checking in I was anxious to revisit one of my favorite cities. It was misting but I spent the entire afternoon walking around the city enjoying its fabulous surroundings. I was pleased to see that Gas Town has evolved into a wonderful shopping area of little eclectic boutiques with some international shops thrown in. This once seedy area has taken on a whole new appearance as another fine shopping area in Vancouver. I returned to the hotel in time for a late salad and glass of wine before turning in for the night.
I was up early in the morning and decided to walk to Stanley Park, a wonderful nature preserve that adjoins downtown Vancouver. It is hard to believe that one can be in high rise buildings everywhere surrounded by the world’s finest stores and then within minutes be in a pristine natural environment of ponds, lakes, trees and gardens. Stanley Park is one of the best examples of nature existing next to an urban environment that I can think of. I especially like the beaver pond area as it is loaded with indigenous water lilies, however they had not yet started to come out at this time. I would strongly urge everyone taking this cruise to arrive in Vancouver at least one day early to explore the city and its surroundings.
It was lightly misting when I left early in the morning and as I arrived deep into Stanley Park the mist gave way to a light rain and then to a heavier rain as I made my way back to downtown Vancouver. By the time I got back to the hotel it was pouring rain and I was soaked to the bone. I spent the next two hours drying my clothes and managed to check out in time to get to the ship in dry clothes. The Norwegian Wind left from Ballantyne Pier (rather than Canada Place) so it was about a $15 cab ride to the pier from the hotel.
NOTE: At the time of this writing (May 27th, 2002) U.S. Immigration is doing a thorough check of everyone boarding an Alaska bound cruise as a security measure. I was fortunate to have gotten to the pier early enough to be at the front of the line however, many in our group stood in line for 2 to 3 hours to clear immigration (not NCL’s fault as it was imposed by the U.S. government as a security measure) They only had 3 immigration officers checking about 1,800 people and they were being very diligent. I would strongly urge you to arrive a day early and get to the pier quite early to avoid the hassle. One gentleman in our group had advancing M.S. and was terribly inconvenienced. Don’t get stuck arriving later and standing in line to clear immigration. I assume it was the same for all ships leaving Vancouver and when you think about it, it probably would be a great way to gain entrance to the U.S. without detection so the extra security is appreciated.
The Ship ("Adapted from Freestyling Downunder")
Right off I have to tell you that I like everything about the Norwegian Wind. I have sailed her at least ten times over the years (most recently in February of 2002) Joanie and I even attended the Wind’s inaugural back in 1993 when then First Lady Barbara Bush christened her. When she was launched she was quite something as her terraced decks were an engineering marvel and she featured many innovations.. The Wind was “stretched” in 1998 by the addition of a mid section some 130 feet in length. The Wind was actually cut into two and the mid section floated in and then welded together. This added to her capacity and also added more public rooms but even with the addition the Wind is still a smaller ship at only 50,760 gross tons.
Even after she was stretched, the Norwegian Wind (formerly known as the Windward) gives one a feeling of spaciousness and comfort. The Norwegian Wind has been subject to many critical reviews indicating that her dining service is not up to par and that the dining room staff was unfriendly, even rude at times. A couple of years ago I wrote a review of the Wind trying to define the situation and help folks find their way to a more satisfactory experience. I am happy to report that the dining experience on the Norwegian Wind was absolutely wonderful once again!
The Norwegian Wind has converted to Freestyle Dining and staffed the dining rooms with a blend of women and men, primarily from the Philippines. This is a dramatic change from the primarily all Eastern European male staff that manned the restaurants prior to the change to Freestyle Dining. Everyone from the Maitre D' to the lowest busboy had smiling faces and wonderful, helpful attitudes and the service was excellent. Everyone should find his or her dining experiences on the Wind enjoyable, if not downright excellent.
Freestyle cruising is NCL’s signature term for a new way of approaching cruising. Freestyle allows the passengers to make their own decisions about where and when they will dine and what entertainment venues they will attend and when. Rather than have a structured dining time, show time and entertainment, freestyle is more like going to a resort with several different dining and show venues to select from. I personally loved freestyle cruising as it allow one a maximum of latitude in the way they vacation. However, if one likes the more established practice of having a fixed dining time and table assignment, they can see the Maitre Di' upon boarding and request to have an assigned dining table and time. NCL’s newest ships all offer numerous dining selections and are specifically designed for freestyle cruising. The Norwegian Wind was converted from conventional cruising to freestyle and has done a good job in the process. On a 7-day cruise there is enough of a variety to fully experience the benefits of freestyle cruising.
Since the dining is one of the main benefits of Freestyle Cruising I will start with the restaurants. The Wind offers several different dining experiences and I am going to present them in the order that I preferred them.
Le Bistro, deck 9, mid ship
This is NCL’s signature alternative dining restaurant that has been featured for years on all of NCL’s ships. Le Bistro on the Norwegian Wind offers an intimate and elegant environment with exceptional service and food. Le Bistro’s menu always includes select meats and fish prepared and served in a gourmet surrounding. There is a $10 gratuity required to dine in Le Bistro but I always left more as the experience was well worth it to me. We ate in Le Bistro several nights and had an anniversary party for a couple in our group there as well. I would highly recommend Le Bistro to every one that wants to have a wonderful dining experience on the Wind. Le Bistro requires advance reservations but we never found it difficult to be accommodated. Le Bistro is open for dinner only.
The Terraces Restaurant, deck 9, aft
The Terraces Restaurant is a beautiful restaurant that features several terraced levels falling away to the windows facing aft on the Wind. The first time you see the restaurant it is breathtaking and unique. The Terraces is open for all meals and was our favorite (other than Le Bistro) on the ship. Dinner in the Terraces is elegant and sophisticated and features an extensive menu consistent with cruise ship dining. Breakfast and lunch is a more formal affair in the Terraces Restaurant that everyone enjoyed. Seating in the Terraces is open and you can simply show up any time between 6 pm and 10 pm to be seated at the table configuration of your choice.
The Sports Bar and Grill, deck 12, aft
I really liked the Sports Bar and Grill. It was open for all meals but I found it unbeatable for breakfast and lunch (for me). First, for breakfast, there was always lots of fresh fruit, yogurt, juice and healthy choices. I liked that it opened early and that I could enjoy my breakfast in peace. There were also traditional breakfast choices as well such as eggs, sausage, bacon and so on. Lunchtime offered more traditional cuisine in a buffet environment and a curry station was offered each and every day. Vegetarian selections were also offered every day.
The Sports Bar and Grill was also the scene of the evening’s dinner buffet and while I never made it to the buffet I understand it was fantastic. The Wind put on a seafood buffet a couple of nights and those that went raved about the quality and quantity of seafood (including lobster, crab and shrimp).
Trattoria, deck 11, aft
This is the Italian restaurant open for dinner and offers a comprehensive menu. We had two excellent meals here and one not so excellent. Trattoria is terraced offering excellent surroundings and atmosphere. It is well laid out and a special treat if you enjoy Italian cuisine. No reservations or gratuity are required.
The Four Seasons Restaurant, deck 9, mid ship
The Four Seasons Restaurant is the other main dinning room on the Norwegian Wind that is open for breakfast (buffet style with specialty egg dishes and fresh fruit stations) lunch and dinner. I didn’t like the restaurant because it always seemed crowded to me and the colors seemed drab, The service and food during the dinners we experienced in the Four Seasons were excellent it was just that there were other better choices to make for dinner in my opinion. However, obviously many folks really liked the Four Seasons Restaurant as it was always crowded to filled capacity (especially earlier in the evening).
Poolside Bar B Que, Deck 11, aft
NCL hosts a poolside Bar B Que (especially on days at sea) that offers freshly cooked fish, steak, ribs, hamburgers and hot dogs along with vegetables and salad right by the pool. It is hard to resist as they slowly cook the food over hickory coals and the smell of it cooking permeates the ship. People obviously loved the Bar B Que as their plates exposed. The best day for the pool Bar B Que was on the last day at sea where lobster tails and steak were offered along with salad and fresh vegetables. It was a real treat to have freshly cooked lobster tails to enjoy in the open air of the pool area.
The Observatory Lounge, Deck, 12 forward
This was another of my favorites. From 5:00 pm until 7:30 pm the Observatory Lounge offered a full sushi buffet as well as an Asian fusion buffet line offering such treats as Miso Soup, lobster claws, fresh fish, Thai chicken and beef skewers, egg roll and so on. It became very popular with the folks that discovered its unusual and delicious menu. We met one evening in the lounge for pre dinner cocktails and liked it so much we just ate sushi instead of going to dinner.
Pizzeria, deck 11, aft
The Pizzeria is located in a little cubby of the rear pool bar and serves freshly cooked pizza during most of the day. It also offers a luncheon option for those wanting to stay by the pool during days at sea. There is a small buffet station along with the pizza area and a drink station as well
The Ice Cream Parlor and Jacuzzis, deck 11, forward
The ice cream parlor opened every day at 3 pm and was greeted by lots of folks waiting for it to open. They served great ice cream that was enjoyed by many. There were always lines of people waiting for the parlor to open even on colder days at sea.
Our group was located on deck 4 both forward and aft. I was located in cabin number 4012 all the way forward and port. (HINT: Avoid being either all the way forward or aft on the Wind as there is a considerable amount of commotion created by both the engines and the winches/bow thrusters in the morning time while docking, especially on the lower decks. Cabin selection is very important on this ship (be sure that you are buying your cruise from a seasoned pro.) The Wind’s cabins are generous in the space they offer. They have 2 twin beds that are combined to make a large queen size bed and all the necessary lighting controls for comfort during the night. I found the quality of the bedding very much to my liking and I had no problem sleeping quite nicely.
The cabin also features a small sitting area with a couch (that folds out into a small bed) television set, desk and drawers with its own chair, mirrors and a small table for miscellaneous items. All in all, there is quite a bit of room in the cabin area. There are also three closets, 1 full length, one ½ length with several drawers (and a safe) and a third that offers little storage. The bathroom is standard sized and NCL has gone to the wall mounted shampoo and soap dispensers rather than the foil packages they used to offer. The cabin was very satisfactory for this length of cruise.
HINT: Take along biodegradable detergent to wash your own socks and such as there are no self-service laundry facilities on the ship and cleaning is expensive. Also, take along an extension cord with multiple outlets and a travel iron.
Internet Café, deck 9, aft
The Internet Café offers 6 fast pc online connections but at an expensive rate. The normal rate for access was .75 cents per minute. NCL offered bulk purchase rates of 250 minutes for $100.00, which is the plan that I opted for. On the 7-day cruise I went through the 250 minutes and ran out of time on the last day right as I was getting ready to log off which worked out quite well. I never had any problem getting a computer to use and the connection was always DSL quick.
Another aspect of Freestyle Cruising is the diversity of entertainment venues one has to select from. Want to go to a show? No problem. Listen to soft music or slow dance? What to gamble or go to a disco? No problem. How about going to a more upbeat dance venue or simply enjoy a cocktail in relaxation? How about watching a first run movie? All of these choices are available every night. Here are the main entertainment venues.
The Stardust Lounge, deck 10, forward
This is the main showroom on the Wind. The main entertainment troupe is from the Jean Ann Ryan Company and they do an incredible job with their stage productions. Everyone on this cruise made sure that they didn’t miss a one of them and several folks went to the same show twice a night they like the productions so well. While the productions are excellent, it is the energy of this particular group of performers that won everyone’s enjoyment and admiration.
The Observatory Lounge, deck 12, forward
This a the ship’s main observatory lounge and it is large and open. After the Asian Fusion buffet is broken down a duet played dance music for the crowds during the evening. Slow dance music was mixed in with some faster music for dancing. The duet did everything in their power to keep everyone up and dancing and were very entertaining. Early in the evening they would play ballroom dance music that many enjoyed as well.
Lucky’s Martini Bar, deck 9, mid ship
Here is another dance venue that features an entertainer singing and playing the piano. I have forgotten his name, but he was excellent and had a huge list of songs he could perform. He was expert at getting people on the dance floor and then keeping them there with his talents.
Lucky’s offers a large sitting area on both sides of the ship with several cubbies that are natural meeting places. I used Lucky’s for many of the meetings I had with members of our group and it proved to be a great place to sit and hold business conversation without interruptions.
Dazzles Disco, deck 9, mid ship
This is NCL's signature disco and the Dazzles on the Wind was quite small (however it was well attended by the younger set) Dazzles sits on the port side of the ship in an area tucked between Lucky's and the casino and experiences quite a bit of walk through traffic.
Coffee Bar Lounge, deck 9, aft
The Coffee Bar Lounge was very popular in the evening as there was a very talented group playing music every night. During the day quite a few folks would meet in the lounge for talking, playing cards and games and the like. The coffee bar serves trendy coffee drinks (for a price) and there is also bar service available during the evening hours. It is a great place to meet if you are dining in the Terraces Restaurant as the Lounge is right outside the entrance.
Rendezvous Martini Bar, deck 9, mid ship
Located across from Dazzles Disco the Rendezvous Martini Bar is an intimate spot to enjoy a cocktail and quiet discussion. There is no entertainment there per se but one can enjoy the sounds emerging from Lucky's Martini Bar while still having enough quiet to be able to carry on a conversation. Also, the bar area in the Rendezvous Martini Bar is a great place to meet people as it is open yet still intimate with a very friendly environment.
Other miscellaneous public areas
The Swimming Pools
The Norwegian Wind offers a number of pool areas. On the aft fantail there is a nice smaller pool that is protected from the wind and elements. Deck 10 offers a larger pool mid ship that was heated to about 80 degrees during the entire trip. This pool was the scene of the outdoor Bar B Que so one would need the constitution of a boulder to not nibble on the treats all afternoon if they sat at this pool. This is also the location of the main pool bar that offers a good number of stools. The Pizzeria is also located here.
Forward of the pool (up and down several terraces) is a small swim up bar pool. Unfortunately this bar was not open during this cruise because of the weather factor, but it looked like a great place to sit in the water and enjoy a beverage. Finally forward on deck 10 are the 2 Jacuzzis. These were right behind the other outdoor bar and proved to be an excellent location during inclement weather as they were protected from the wind and elements and their location made them easy to get to and from. We enjoyed the Jacuzzis on the Wind very much.
The Casino, deck 9, forward
The Wind offers a quite active casino and sports several table games and an extensive amount of slot machines. The usual slot tournaments and other competitions are offered during the cruise and everyone seemed happy and winning. While casinos are not my thing, I did enjoy the level of energy in this particular one.
The Spa, Health Club Facilities and Gym, deck 11, forward
The Norwegian Wind offers complete spa and health club facilities and a reasonable gym and aerobics area. I found just enough equipment in the gym to get a reasonable workout but it is crowded and with more than three or four people in the gym it became unpleasant to work out as it was just too confined.
The Reception and Tour Desks, deck 5, mid ship
The Wind's reception and tour desks are readily available and the reception desk is open 24 hours per day. I found the reception desk personnel friendly and efficient and always willing to try and help. The cashier's office is also located here and is open sporadically.
There was always some sort of sale going on the Wind. The shops had an incredible array of
merchandise that kept the shoppers coming back for more. Just about everything you could
imagine you might need on a cruise or as a souvenir is available in the shops. When the tables are
set up for the sales one gets the feeling of being at a tremendous department store sales event.
Day one, May 20th, 2002, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Once on board the Norwegian Wind I instantly felt at home. I had sailed her a good number of times (most recently in February down under) and knew where everything was. I reconfirmed our group’s cocktail party and seminar times and dates and then set our to deliver the “Welcome Aboard” flyers. It was raining pretty steadily so I immediately thought of the Jacuzzis, changed into my bathing suit and made my way to deck twelve to enjoy the warm water and comings and goings of embarkation day. It reminded me of the Jacuzzi party on the Wind crossing the Tasman Sea earlier in the year and it brought smiles to my face with a chuckle every now and then. After a while it was time to get ready for the evening’s cocktail party and dinner so I made my way to my cabin. We met at 7:30 pm for a cocktail party in Dazzle’s Disco and as usual, the ship had everything under control. After an hour of cocktails and wonderful appetizers we broke into groups and went our separate ways to enjoy a fabulous dinner. Our group chose the La Trattoria and definitely made a great choice. We enjoyed a wonderful dinner delivered with just the right amount of pomp and ceremony. After dinner, we made our way to the Stardust Lounge and the first show of the cruise, which was a compilation of the entertainers we could look forward to during the cruise. Since I had been in Canada for a day already and it was the same time zone most of the folks that had flown in from the east coast called it a night, however I stayed up wanting more entertainment and went to Lucky’s Lounge for a nightcap. The piano player was excellent but the bar was empty so I called it a night and went to bed to get ready for my first seminar in the morning.
Day two, May 21st, 2002, cruising the Inside Passage
I was up early and made my way to the gym to work out (the Norwegian Wind has an acceptable gym but needs a few pieces of equipment to bring it to a really acceptable levels) I then went to the Sports Bar/Grill for an early breakfast and returned to my cabin to get ready for the seminar. The Norwegian Wind has a wonderful conference center for smaller groups (say, up to 30 or so) and we were lucky to get Conference Room #1 for our seminar. Since we were deep into the Inside Passage, we elected our whale watch committee to keep an eye out for whales and we were not disappointed. It seemed like every ten minutes there was a whale spotted and the seminar would break to enjoy nature at its finest. The seminar went quite well and we ended on a high note for lunch. I took lunch in the Sports Café and enjoyed the salad bar and a piece of fresh fish (this became my daytime tradition as I found the salad very refreshing and that fish was offered every day) After lunch I met with some in our group to build some web sites in the Observatory Lounge and spent the afternoon there before taking a Jacuzzi at 5 pm. Totally relaxed I returned to my cabin to prepare for the evening’s formal Captain’s cocktail party. I met several from our group at the cocktail party that was held in the Stardust Theater and then left early to enjoy a wonderful dinner in the Terraces Restaurant where we enjoyed the ship’s formal dinner of lobster and filet mignon among other culinary treats. After dinner it was off to the Stardust Theater again to enjoy the first of three Jean Anne Ryan Company productions, which we all enjoyed. I decided to turn in for the evening and slept like a baby.
Day three, May 22nd, 2002, cruising Sawyer Glacier.
I was up early and visited the gym to work our and then took an early breakfast in the Sports Bar/Café before logging onto the Internet for a long session. We were still cruising the inside passage and the snow level was quite low for May. We had overcast skies and a light drizzle as we made our way into Tracy Arm and picked up the pilot who was to lead the ship to the face of Sawyer Glacier. The Norwegian Wind was the first visit of any ship to Sawyer Glacier for the year so it was interesting to see the conditions as we approached. There were ample signs of the mass calving that had taken place as the channel was almost plugged with icebergs in some parts where it narrowed in width.
After a small late lunch I went forward to experience the approach to Sawyer Glacier and it was a real treat. The glacier was calving profusely and while the ship could not get close enough to hear it one could witness the ice plunging into the finger of ocean leading to the face of the glacier. The channel was packed with ice and the ship launched a zodiac to send forward to get pictures of the face close up. Everyone watched as the zodiac inched its way through the ice towards the face itself. After an hour or so the zodiac returned and the Norwegian Wind began its turn in the center of the channel to make its way back own the fjord to return the pilot and make her way to the first port of call, Skagway. I had missed my evening Jacuzzi and hurried to get ready to make our group’s prearrange meeting time to form dinner groups. We had arranged to meet in the Observatory Lounge as on the last cruise I did with the Norwegian Wind a duet had played dinner music in the Observatory and it was a wonderful place to relax with a glass of wine before going to dinner. On this cruise NCL had set up an Asian Fusion Buffet in the Observatory Lounge that consisted of a sushi station, a Miso Soup station and a stir fry/bar-b-que station as well. Loving sushi, I have to admit to having several pieces as an appetizer as well as some freshly cook asparagus. A couple from the group also enjoyed the fresh Asian food to the extent that we decided that was all we needed for dinner. I spent the early evening in the Internet Café and then attended the evening’s show.
Day four, May 23rd, 2002, Skagway, Alaska
I love cruising into Skagway as the channel is narrow and the cliffs rise right out of the ocean floor and soar hundreds of feet straight up to their snow capped crowns. Waterfalls are everywhere. The scenery is just breathtaking and I was up early to enjoy the approach to Skagway. After we arrived I took a short breakfast in the Sports Bar/Café and spent an hour or so in the Internet Café catching up on my e-mail. After another couple of hours working in my cabin I decided to take a walk into town and see if I could run into anyone from our group. I normally take agents from our group on a hike up to Lower Dewey Lake but I didn’t have any takers from this group as I explained the initial portion of the hike is quite strenuous. I went into Starbucks and got a grande non-fat latte and then set off in my quest to get Joanie a gold nugget for her charm bracelet. I found several great stores and then located a great nugget, purchased it and made my way to the local watering hole known as The Red Onion. After entering the bar I found a couple from our group and joined them for local Alaskan Amber before making my way back to the ship. Skagway is a wonderful town to visit and there are a lot of things to do there. Having done most of them I was content just being in Alaska’s beautiful surroundings and unique environment.
The ship moved over to Haines where some additional shore excursions were offered. I elected to stay on board and simply have a relaxing evening. I enjoyed an extended Jacuzzi before going to my cabin to get ready to meet the group in the Observation Lounge that were also staying on board. We enjoyed a social period and then formed dinner group and revisited the Terraces Restaurant and enjoyed another wonderful dinner. We were actually the last ones to leave the restaurant as our conversation continued long past dessert and the late show we had intended to attend. It was personally a wonderful dinner for me as two of the members of the group had bonded sharing the same illness (one more progressed and the other still being diagnosed) It always amazes me how folks from different walks of life share the same feelings, fears, happiness and friendships. I was fortunate to have experienced this friendship being formed in the face of adversity and was/am proud to call these folks my friends. After a quick nightcap I was off to bed for another great night’s sleep.
Day five, May 24th, 2002, Juneau, Alaska
By now I had hit my routine…. up early, work out, breakfast in the Sports Bar/Café and then on to the Internet Café and my cabin for some work. I was feeling somewhat lethargic as I had enjoyed entirely too much food and not gotten enough exercise so I had decided to take a long hike today to burn off some calories and also do some exploration. I grabbed the shuttle to Mendenhall Glacier ($5.00 for the one way shuttle, the big blue bus that leaves every hour on the hour next to the tramway) and made my way out to the park. I first took the trail leading to the waterfall one sees by the foot of the glacier. It was an excellent hike of about a mile or so each way. I them hiked the Ecological trail (about another mile and a half round trip) and then just explored less defined trails as I could find them. When I was done exploring I decided to walk into town where the city bus terminate about a mile from the park headquarters. It is a flat walk and I was able to return to the ship for a measly dollar and a half. All in all, I had gotten a good amount of exercise and also seen some wonderful sights. I had the waterfall all to myself for about a half hour before I departed and it was wonderful feeling nature’s might with no one around.
When I got back into Juneau I was thirsty so I stopped at the famous Red Dog Saloon for a quick Alaskan Amber and ran into some of the folks from our group. I stayed for a couple of Ambers and to enjoy the talented piano player that has been playing at the Red Dog for as long as I can remember. This gentleman is one of the funniest entertainers I have ever seen and I wish we could have stayed into the evening to enjoy his antics and wit but the Wind sailed promptly at 4 pm and everyone needed to be on board by 3:30 pm. Back on board I spent some time in my cabin working before moving into the Jacuzzi for a late afternoon period of relaxation…. I have to say that my strenuous walking stressed my legs and the Jacuzzi felt especially soothing. I had just enough time to prepare to meet some in our group for another wonderful dinner in the La Trattoria where we enjoyed another excellent dining experience before watching another excellent production by the Jean Ann Ryan Company. I was bushed from the day’s events and turned in early enjoying a long night’s sleep.
Day six, May 25th, 2002, Ketchikan, Alaska
We arrived into Ketchikan right on schedule and were awarded the northernmost berth along Ketchikan’s waterfront. After clearing local authorities passengers from the Norwegian Wind were free to disembark and explore Ketchikan. It is amazing how Ketchikan has grown from its sleepy past into a shopper’s Mecca with representatives from all the world’s stores. Diamonds International, Little Switzerland and Tanzanite jewelry stores, just about everything you would expect to find in St. Thomas or some other major shopping port in the world. Ketchikan’s history still is evident in the older houses and areas around the downtown shopping area and it is still a quaint little village for the most part.
Wanting to get more exercise I took a long walk down through downtown Ketchikan, up Creek Street and followed the stream into the park that resides by the fish hatchery. I poked around the Heritage Center a bit and then made my way to the trail head for the Deer Mountain trail that leads to the upper reaches of Deer Mountain and a fabulous view of the entire island that Ketchikan resides upon. The snow level was quite low so I decided to find another walk/hike to take and returned to the downtown area. After visiting the Ketchikan Visitor's kiosk I located a map for the "West End Walking Tour" and took the walk through Ketchikan's west end that is rarely seen by tourists. It is full of old buildings and interesting boarded streets and walkways. If you have been to Ketchikan before and "been there, done that" I would highly recommend this walk as an interesting alternative.
After much exercise I decided to call it a day and went back to the ship, took a Jacuzzi and got ready for the evening's dinner. I had arranged to meet some of the group for dinner in Le Bistro and first met in the Martini Bar for a pre dinner cocktail. We had another lingering and wonderful dinner in Le Bistro after which, I went to my cabin for the evening.
Day seven, May 26th, 2002, Cruising the Inside Passage
Up early after a great night's sleep, I took an early breakfast in the Sport's Bar and Grill and continued on to the Conference Room for the second of two seminars on the cruise. The seminar went great and some whales and dolphin were spotted during the 3-hour meeting. All in all, it was a great group and the participation of the agents was excellent. It is easy to forget to absorb the beauty of cruising the Inside Passage as every minute the views are breath taking. The mountains, trees, ocean all offer unique vistas upon every turn and angle. After a while you simply look at what could be a fantastic painting or photograph and just take it for granted like scenery such as this is always available out your window.
While it was a bit windy on deck the chefs on the Norwegian Wind broke out the huge BBQs and start cooking lunch that consisted of steaks, hamburgers, hot dogs and LOBSTER! I have to admit to eating far more than I should have but the hot fresh BBQed lobster was absolutely delicious and a real treat for everyone....plus they were serving as much as one wanted. After over-eating at lunch I decided I may as well over indulge for the balance of the day and logged a few hours in the Jacuzzi before returning to my cabin to begin the task of packing for my return to San Diego. I worked a bit enjoying the cabin layout and size as being just about perfect for my needs. The desk was just big enough, the sitting area comfortable and the climate control worked just excellent for my tastes. I started packing and was ready to meet for dinner before I knew it. We had a wonderful dinner of sushi and Asian fusion dishes in the Observatory and stayed long after dinner talking and enjoying one another. I went to the Martini Bar for a nightcap before turning in for the evening.
Day eight, Vancouver, BC, Canada, May 27th, 2002
I was up early and watched the Wind come into port and then had my last breakfast for the cruise in the Sports Bar and Lounge before returning to my cabin to disembark. I finished packing and was done right when they cleared the ship for disembarkation. I was off the ship without delay and waiting in line for a taxi to take me to the Vancouver airport to catch my flight home. After an enjoyable ride to the airport I found that it was a tad confusing with the increased security since 911 but worth the hassle (I suppose). I caught my flight and returned home without incidence.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Should I pack For Alaska?
Alaska (especially the Inside Passage) is located within a rain forest zone. While we tend to think of tropical rain forests as being the only rain forests on the Earth, the temperate zone of the Inside Passage is indeed a rain forest and subject to an extreme amount of rain each day. Fortunately it doesn't come in huge amounts at a time but rather a general misting that can last for hours, even days. The best way to dress on this itinerary is to dress in layers. This would be best described for men as a tee shirt, a long sleeved shirt over that, a sweater over that, then a heavy vest over that and finally a full heavy coat or a water proof wind breaker over that. In this way, depending on the weather at the time one can moderate their body temperature by simply adding or removing their clothing. If you are in the Inside Passage during the rainy season I would strongly suggest a rain jacket (or even rain suit) if you are going to be exposed for any length of time. Ladies and children can dress accordingly. Many of the stores in each port sell rain gear should one not have it and them need it during a cruise. Of course, you will pay a premium for the gear if purchased in one of the main ports. Being from San Diego, rain is something we are unfamiliar with so I had to purchase a rain coat in Juneau during one trip. Unfortunately, the only one I could find had a little "Shamu whale" as a logo with the word "Alaska" under it. I always felt as if I would be targeted in a local bar wearing such an item in Alaska and wished I had purchased something more fashionable before the trip.
What Month Offers the Best Weather for This Cruise?
I have done a good number of Alaska cruises and my personal experience is that the last two weeks of May and the first two weeks of June are the best times to encounter great weather in Alaska. While the days are long you stand a better chance for sunny days and mild nights during this period than any other. Of course, this is based on my personal experience and does not come with a guarantee of any sort. You should always expect the worse and celebrate anything less in Alaska. If you are blessed with sunny weather enhance your enjoyment by bringing your bathing suit and lots of sunscreen.
What is the Best Ship and Cabin for an Inside Passage Cruise?
OK. I am going to go out on a limb here and give you my best answer at the risk of offending some. The best ship to choose depends on the cabin category you select. If you are buying a balcony cabin then select the ship that most meets your requirements overall. This might be one of the Mega ships that cruise Alaska. If you are choosing an ocean view or inside cabin then select a ship with ample deck space for public viewing. The Wind has several decks that are available for viewing while transiting the Inside Passage and viewing the glaciers while many of the larger ships may only offer one or two decks maximum for the hordes of people that do not inhabit balcony cabins. This can create crowds of people three to five deep along the available rails for public viewing. This is only complicated when viewing is taking place along one side of the ship as in the case of viewing glaciers.
Now I must say the most controversial statement you will read in this review. I prefer an inside cabin of this itinerary and would pay a premium to get one. The reason is that while all outside cabins offer block out drapery in the cabin it still doesn't fool the mind into thinking it is still dark outside. Inside cabins offer the opportunity to sleep as long as one wants without the influence of the local disposition of daylight. Living on a ranch, I am used to going to sleep when it gets dark and waking up at dawn. This works well in San Diego but in Alaska where it gets dark at 11:00 pm and then light at 3:00 am, it presents a major problem. My advice to you is that if you are sensitive to light when you sleep, get an inside cabin on a ship with lots of rail space for viewing.