I had the opportunity to take a last minute cruise to Alaska with NCL because of some Future Cruise Credits from previous cancellations and I was also looking to get to the next level of their Latitudes Rewards program. I found decent Airfare via Aeromexico and their partner Delta Airlines in Business Class to Seattle for my departure. I now always plan to arrive a day early because you never know what could happen with a cancelled flight and you missing your cruise! I stayed overnight downtown at the Best Western Plus Pioneer Square hotel near the cruise port which I received free by using American Airlines miles! I scheduled a Covid booster shot with a local pharmacy because Europe rules are changing and now say you have to have you last booster no more than 270 days from entry into Europe. Since my last one was in October 2021, it was better safe than sorry!
The next morning a quick Uber drive to the Pier 66 where the ship was already there for boarding. The arrival area with baggage drop off and then feeding through the various check points moved along smoothly. Since I had all my paperwork in order including the ArriveCan requirement for the stop in Victoria, I was ready to board in just about 30 minutes. There was a short wait in the waiting area for the ship to be ready to recieve passengers and then we were allowed onboard. I always search for my cabin first and drop off my hand baggage, eventhough cabins are not technically ready, and go find a place to have a drink and eat lunch.
This ship is very similar to the others in this NCL class as far as restaurants and bars, however the deck layouts and locations are slightly different. Since I had been on the Jade, Star, and Spirit already, I was familiar with the design. We left as scheduled from Seattle at about 5pm with great views from the upper deck and since it was a beautiful clear day, a rare sight of Mt. Rainier in the distance!
Our first day at sea is nice to relax as we headed to the Port of Sitka, Alaska arriving there about midday. I had prebooked a tour in the afternoon called Sea Otter & Wildlife Quest and it was a good insightful tour. We ended up seeing a deer, eagles, sea otters, whales, and sea lions; so it was as promised. No wildlife and we would have each recieved $100 USD each! I included the menu from a dockside restaurant and was shocked to see the prices of crab dishes in Alaska. Later in Seattle at the Seattle Fish Market I understood what happened to cause these crazy prices (Covid, Covid, Covid!).
The next day was our planned stop at Ice Straight Point, a newly created port in conjunction with the cruise ship industry and the Native American small town known as Hoonah. They basically built docks that could handle large cruise ships and then created a way to get people excited about activities in the area by building 2 large gondolas and a high speed zip line (apparently the world’s fastest). The gondolas went in 2 different directions one to the top of the mountain for views at $59.00 USD and then the other took you over the hill to the village of Hoonah. Hoonah used to be one of the largest canneries in Alaska that closed in the 1950s but since the creation of this cruise ship port, the village businesses are thriving quite well.
There were many tours offered at this stop and I decided to attend a cooking one called Alaska’s Kitchen. This featured a Native American woman who has lived her whole life in Hoonah and shares with participants her recipes and methods for cooking salmon and halibut. We ended the class with grilling our own fish on a wood fire pit outside to enjoy the fresh flavors of Alaska fish.
Our next day starts early as we enter the Disenchantment Bay for Hubbard Glacier, which was I looking forward too! I had been to Glacier Bay before, so this was nice alternative to see one of the world’s largest glaciers with it spanning about 75 miles long. As it combines with the Valerie Glacier to create quite a spectical as in certain years they block the flow of water from Russell Fjord. There have been several of these, once in 1986 and again in 2002 and when it broke free it became the largest glacier outburst flood in history.
As we enter the Bay it is very foggy and I was out on my balcony watching the scenery and rather small pieces of glacier ice floating by in the water as we push forward. Suddenly there was a “shudder” of the ship and I thought what was that? It felt like we had run aground, but that was not possible! The ship stopped immediately and I waited, expecting some kind of an emergency call situation to occur. But nothing happened and it was very quiet as we proceeded slowly forward. In the next few minutes I saw a larger piece of ice floating by my balcony and immediately realized that we probably had hit some larger piece of ice.
Then about an hour later we had an annoucement from the Captain Johan Stofling assuring us that all was okay and were proceeding cautiously as close to the Hubbard Glacier as possible. The weather fog cleared up nicely and we could clearly see the pieces of ice floating by and it was actually not that much there. But within a quarter mile of the Hubbard Glacier things really got thicker and the Captain decided he had gone as far as was safely possible. So he did a 360 degree turn and we headed back out of the Bay to our next port stop the next day in Skagway.
A few hours later we were informed that due to concerns about potential damage to the ship, we would no longer make Skagway tomorrow, however go directly to Juneau for inspection by the Coast Guard. I am sure everyone was on edge, but it seemed to make the most sense to do this inspection by divers. The Captain had determined that we did hit a “growler” iceberg and therefore the extra caution.
We arrive the next same evening in Juneau, Alaska and passengers were allow to go on shore for a few hours while the inspection was being completed. I had planned one of my dinners in the specialy restaurant and did not proceed off shore and since I had a tour the next morning, I thought that I would be able to leave then.
The next morning 7am departure tours were not allowed of the ship and since mine was at 1000am, I went to the meet location. After getting down to the gangway exit on Deck 5, I see that nobody has been allowed off the ship yet. Around that time the Captain annouces that he is still awaiting the report from the Coast Guard and until he gets it, nobody could disembark. Needless to say, all morning tours were cancelled! Finally about midday we receive that official word that the rest of the cruise was cancelled and we were allowed to proceed back to Seattle a low speeds. Therefore no time to stop at the remaining ports to allow us to make the Seattle port on June 30th as scheduled. We would be stopping the evening before in Victoria, Canada but only for an hour to clear Canada port authorities. He also announced that we would be getting not only a full refund of our voyage fare, but also a 100% Future Cruise Credit for our troubles! It was a very nice gesture by NCL and letters were delivered to every cabing confirming these credits.
Without further incident we arrive very early on Saturday, June 30th at the same pier as we left from. Disembarkation was handled as normal and I elected to take a city tour that left me at the airport for me to transfer to my airport hotel. My planned flight back to PVR left daily at 830am, so that was impossible to meet on the 30th.
I left SEATAC airport the next morning as scheduled for my flight back home to PVR with a new adventure story to tell!
But isn’t that a part of traveling the World!?