We docked at Victoria, BC around 6pm. We had decided on the spur of the moment to book an excursion through the cruise line. This time we want to see orcas.
We had filled out Canadian customs forms, and we were met by our tour excursion representative. Our boat had the capacity for 50, but we had about 30 or so folks.
Our vendor was "Orca Spirit Adventures." We boarded and soon we were off.
It was absolutely perfect on the ocean.
The lighthouse was particularly photogenic.
With seals basking in the foreground.
But not too long we headed out in search of Victoria's resident orcas. Apparently the resident pods do not eat these fat seals, but confine their diet to salmon. These fatties apparently know which orca is which - when a transient comes in from the wild, they know they are in danger.
And then we saw our first fin... beautiful and mysterious.
We even saw mating orcas.
We had a wonderful time. And soon it was time to return to our ship.
We returned to our ship. Our ship departed Victoria around midnight. Our trip was almost at an end. I couldn't believe how fast such a wonderful week had simply flown by. We arrived Seattle early in the morning.
We had a leisurely breakfast, and then decided to disembark and catch our transfer to the airport. Our plan? We left all our baggage at Ken's - the baggage storage facility at the airport. We then caught the train back to downtown, and the monorail to the Space Needle. We had no intention of going into the Space Needle, but we thought we would use the park as a nice place to hang out for the day. We also were interested in the Chihuly Gardens.
The Chihuly Museum is well worth the entrance fee.
Crystal and the Space Needle...
After spending a wonderful day at the Space Needle park and viewing the amazing Chihuly art, it was soon time to catch our train back to the airport. We flew back to Denver on Air Alaska. Our flight arrived late - around midnight. We caught our shuttle back home. By the time we got home it was around 3am.
All in all we had a fantastic trip.
I can see why people love cruising. The facilities are luxurious and comfortable. There is more than enough food. There are so many activities for different tastes. The cruise lines are also very clever at devising ways to part people with their money. I don't mean that they are predatory - just that they have figured out a way to make it very easy to pay for all those extras - all it takes is a swipe of one's room key.
I do believe that a first trip to Alaska on a cruise is a good way to see Alaska for the first time.
I loved our trip, and we loved our first cruise.
It pays to research. I highly recommend Skyscanner, Tripadvisor and Cruisecritic.
For shore excursions - I don't believe it makes one jot of difference to book the shore excursions through the cruise line, or independently. If you decide to book independently research the vendor and the vendor reviews online. And no, I don't believe for a minute that to book the shore excursions through the cruise line automatically guarantees that you won't miss your ship. Read the fine print. That's right. Read your cruise line contract - nowhere does the cruise line guarantee any such thing.
Packing list - There are a number of packing lists for cruising in Alaska available online. I found them very useful. Both Kevin and I are quite light packers. The advice to bring lots of layers for all climates is spot on. And I found my waterproof layers, as well as a polypro base shirt very useful. I found that some of the onshore weather can actually be surprisingly warm, so don't forget the short sleeve t-shirts.
There are a number of discussions of the forums on all the extra things you should bring to make your cruise more enjoyable. I found that one can go quite crazy trying to follow all the advice out there.
A number of things I did find useful - binoculars. Do not leave your binoculars behind. And try to be on deck gazing at the ocean as much as possible. We did, and were glad as we didn't miss out on humpback whales, dolphins, and manta rays. We even spotted a bright orange life raft bobbing in the ocean. Our ship circled back to check it, and we were relieved to find out that the raft was unoccupied.
Also - the stateroom walls are metal so they respond well to fridge magnets. This is great to use to stick up newsletters, and other important documents. A cheap night light was also useful, as it can be quite dark in one's stateroom.
I also want to give a shout out to Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL.) Through the Cruise critic roll call, we had a meet and greet arranged where we got to meet the NCL staff. The Captain also graciously allowed us to have a bridge tour. We were also invited to a recap meeting at the end of the cruise. Kevin and I went to that because we wanted to thank the Norwegian Pearl crew for the wonderful time we had. Apart from us there was one other person from the forum who attended. I thought it was a shame that so few folks from the initial roll call attended the recap meeting.
The crew on Norwegian Pearl were fantastic. They were friendly and professional. Our steward Jahvi, was attentive and unobtrusive. We even enjoyed the entertainment - "Swing" and "Legends" and the various live music acts.
All in all this was a great trip. I highly recommend NCL, and Alaska. I can't wait to return.