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7 Days Exploring Alaska By Cruise Ship – I Was Shocked

I’ve just disembarked a cruise on one of the biggest and most exciting cruise ships in the world, where I spent 7 days exploring Alaska.

I saw and did things that if I hadn’t seen them with my own eyes, I would not have believed that they were real. From music to shows from food to Icebergs and Go-Karts – our cruise had it all. 

I have wanted to return to Alaska ever since I took my first cruise when I was 11 years old, that cruise was onboard the Norwegian Spirit and I wanted to recreate that cruise as much as possible. This time I was on the much newer and bigger Norwegian Encore

I loved the trip so much back then but I didn’t know if it could possibly live up to my expectations as an adult.

I wasn’t sure that we would have enough time to explore both the ports and the ship and as I was over 4700 miles take this cruise, it definitely felt like a gamble – one that I hoped would pay off! 

We boarded the ship in Seattle and I was very happy to be given an embarkation time of 11.30 am. I love being onboard a cruise ship for lunch. For me is always a great way to start a cruise.

I have boarded cruises in the past at 8 pm or even at midnight so 11.30 am in the morning was fantastic. 

In total embarkation took us around half an hour and because we’d already watched the safety video on our phone we just had to check into our muster station on the ship. After that, we were free to explore and to eat. 

Being onboard the ship was so exciting, I could see so many different bars and venues all with different themes and colours, it felt very modern and I wanted to explore everything.

Norwegian Encore was launched in 2019 so she’s relatively new by cruise ship standards. She holds almost 4000 guests across her 20 decks. Plus crew! 

As we were already in the middle of the ship we decided to head towards the Atrium. There are two atrium-like areas onboard Norwegian Encore, one has this massive light that makes me think of bubble wrap, which would change colours and then there is a second atrium is a little further along, where I found “The Local.”

The local is a bar and restaurant where food is served from 6.30 am until 3 am. All of the food here is included in the cruise fare and this available easy dining has always been one of my favourite things about Norwegian cruises.

At this point, I didn’t realise just how much I’d end up eating on the cruise but I wanted to try as many restaurants as possible.

We were seated for lunch straight away and I decided to order a burger. As a child, I always went to The Local to order buffalo wings, so I knew I’d have to come back for some of those later, which I did.

I’ve always loved Norwegian’s buffalo wings

We also came back a couple of times for breakfast which was always good.

Take a look at these pancakes! I was interested to see creamer here, we don’t have creamer like this in the UK unless you order it from an American-themed shop. 

This whole area is the local, sometimes we would often sit up here to watch whatever entertainment was going on on the deck below and other times we would just pick up a drink as went by. 

Fueled up by my lunch, we decided to head up to the top deck to explore. This is one of my favourite parts of cruising, it’s just so exciting to explore a new ship on embarkation day when everybody is taking photos and happy and excited.

Norwegian Encore is the biggest cruise ship in the Norwegian fleet and she has a go-kart track and laser tag arena on the top deck.

This is the kind of cruise ship where I’d love to go back 100 years and try to explain this to people, it would blow their minds. For a bit of context, Norwegian Encore is almost 4 times the size of the Titanic. 

I did go on the go-karts when I cruised on Norwegian Prima last year and it felt so fast, when I look at the footage it doesn’t look that impressive, but to me I felt like I was going at 100 miles an hour!

There is an extra charge for the go-karts but really there has to be, otherwise the lines would be so long nobody would ever get a go. It’s well worth trying at least once, though, if I can do it anybody can. 

Watch me try out the Go Karts on Norwegian Prima here:

Also up on the top deck are two waterslides, one of which looked particularly terrifying because after the floor drops under you, you go upwards – or that is the theory anyway. Some people slide back down and have to get out of the door at the bottom.

It certainly wasn’t waterslide weather when we embarked but I was hopeful that the sun would come out during our cruise. 

In the middle area, there are a couple of pools and at the other end is the Haven. The Haven is a private area of suites and I’ve wanted to go through that door since my first cruise, I did manage on this cruise and it was worth the 20-year wait – but more about that later.

Our cruise had a sea day and three port days, we would also spend one day cruising in what is called Glacier Bay which really did take me by surprise.

It was technically a sea day but not like any sea day I’ve ever had before. I did a lot of research before this cruise but most of it was irrelevant because our cruise wasn’t the standard Alaska cruise, in terms of weather. 

Heading into the ship we found what would become one of my favourite parts, the observation lounge.

This is a massive lounge that goes around three sides of the ship and there are so many comfortable seats here. I definitely did fall asleep in one of these chairs at one point – but honestly, who can blame me?

Watching the view go by from here was always very relaxing and I was trying to adjust to the new time zone.

I did wonder if this area might become very busy as it was so lovely, but I was always able to get a seat in here when I wanted to. They did serve some food in here too and when the buffet was busy upstairs for breakfast we would sometimes bring our food down here.

We went out on the top deck to watch the sail away from Seattle and the weather was very much what I expected. I was told to prepare for rain and drizzle when visiting but to be honest, the weather was just what I’m used to in the UK. I think grey and drizzly is my natural habitat so it didn’t matter at all. 

Checking the Norwegian App I could see that my dinner booking at the Texas Smokehouse was coming up, I’d also booked the theatre show “Choir of Man” which I was really looking forward to seeing – and a few more speciality meals for later in the cruise.

Speciality restaurants are those that cost extra, you can pay as you go or you can get meals there as part of a booking promotion like I did. 

I had the “free at sea” promotion which meant that I had two speciality meals included. From looking at everybody’s cruise cards, I’m pretty sure the majority of people on board had this promotion added. It’s not normally very expensive so it’s usually what I do. 

I normally eat early but being 8 hours behind my normal time zone meant I was even hungrier than usual when we arrived at 5.30 pm. We were the first people in the restaurant so had the pick of all the seats and got the chance to look around. 

Everything we had to eat was fantastic and the staff were brilliant. The portion sizes were absolutely massive, I did my best but we definitely could have shared one of these plates and we would have still been full.

I had to find some room for this chocolate brownie though, I managed it but that must be because dessert goes into a separate stomach. 

They do have live music in here later in the evenings but went to another venue for that, there are 20 bars and lounges onboard so no shortage of places to go. 

I couldn’t stumble very far with all of this food in my stomach, so we ended up going to the district brew house, it’s a bar that is biker-themed and they’d have live music in there most nights.

I decided to get one of the cocktails which was on tap, and we relaxed listening to the music.

Listening to the people around me I noticed that the majority were from the U.S. and Canada which I expected but I did also hear people speaking German and a couple of other languages – which was a nice surprise.

I always enjoy cruises where there is a mix of passengers, I just think it makes a cruise more interesting. 

Heading in the opposite direction from the fish on the carpet led us back to our cabin.

We knew that we hadn’t explored hardly any of the ship yet but as we had a sea day the next day and there would be plenty of time to do that. We decided to call it a night and I slept so well. I was tired and full and jet-lagged. 

The fish always swim towards the front of the ship on NCL cruise ship carpets

The next day, I decided to head up to the buffet. I’m not a big breakfast person normally but I did go to pick up a few things. The buffet is absolutely massive and stretches around the back of the ship and down both sides.

There are actually toilets at the back of the buffet, which is good because it would be quite a walk if you needed to go and were mid-meal, by the time you’d walked out and come back you’d probably have forgotten where you were sat.

In the buffet, there was a great selection of food and water, tea and coffee which is all included in the cruise fare. During the day, they’d also have flavoured waters which I liked. 

The food was good and overall, I really liked this buffet. I would have been happy with this cruise even if I just ate all my meals here and some people do do that. That’s the good thing about cruising you can do whatever you want to do. 

As long as you sanitise your hands on the way in, of course, Norwegian were very good at making sure that everybody who came in the buffet had sanitised hands. 

The buffet could have been improved with more cookies but I would find some later in the cruise. 

Wandering around the ship we would often find things happening like trivia or a gameshow in the atrium. Sometimes it would a teppanyaki demonstration and other days live music. 

One morning we found penguin origami which was cute. We didn’t have time to make a penguin though because we were heading to the theatre to learn about Alaska, this got me excited not just for where we were going but also for Choir of Man, the theatre show that I had booked for this evening. 

The theatre was big and spacious, there wasn’t a pillar or post in sight and every seat has a cup holder too. I learnt about Alaskan wildlife and hoped that I would see some.

I did book cruise line excursions every day of this cruise so I was looking forward to that, it isn’t something I normally do but as I was so far from home I wanted to see as much as I could. 

We did get very lucky on this first sea day and we saw some whales, I’m pretty sure they’re Orcas or killer whales. Apparently, a female Orka’s life expectancy is 50 and they have been known to live to 90.

That’s pretty cool, that means we all might have an Orka version of us born on the same day we were. I hope Emma the Orka is doing good. 

Norwegian Encore has three main dining rooms onboard, two called “Taste” and “Savor” which are at the sides of the ship and the Manhattan Room at the back.

I’d heard a lot about the Manhattan room with it’s big windows but for lunch we decided to eat in Savor. I’ve been on a lot of cruise lines recently where the main dining rooms didn’t open for lunch so it was nice that Norwegians do. 

There are no fixed dining times at all on Norwegian cruises so we just went to the restaurant when we were feeling peckish and we were shown to a seat. The service was good and again the portions were big. 

Your Britishism of the week is the word peckish, meaning a little bit hungry. I guess it means you couldn’t eat a lot but you could peck at some food. I often say I’m getting peckish and when gets towards dinner time. 

There were probably a lot of people also having their lunch in this restaurant when we were but because of the walls it felt as though we were in a restaurant with maybe 20 or so other people. More intimate restaurants do seem to be popular on cruise ships at the moment and I did really like how this one felt. 

After lunch we went to explore more of the ship as there was still so much that we hadn’t seen. We spent a little bit of time looking around the shops and bought a few souvenirs before we headed out and onto the promenade deck which is almost a full lap of the ship.

A lot of cruise lines have got rid of the promenade deck completely which I think is a real shame, it’s such a lovely place to get in a few steps while looking at the views.

Find out more about ship’s promenade decks here:

Cruise Ship Promenade Decks – Photos, Uses, and History

Traditionally the promenades were just wooden decks with chairs and perhaps a shuffleboard painted on the floor, but Norwegian have taken this idea even further, lots of the speciality restaurants and bars have an outside area so it was a popular part of the ship. 

Norwegian Encore Promenade deck

When we sailed away from Juneau, I couldn’t believe how beautiful it looked from up here. We got a drink from one of the outside bars and wandered around people watching, looking at the people on the ground below. We were only on deck 8 so it felt much closer here to the ground than up on the top decks. 

I was told that an Eagles eyesight is so good that if it was up here it would be able to read the text messages of people on their phones on the ground. That is very impressive and I would totally do that if I could. 

I was lucky enough to see Eagles in Alaska

The promenade deck always looked lovely with the comfy chairs – but with the amazing Alaskan backdrop, it looked even better. 

I got to the theatre early for Choir of Man and I’m glad that I did, before the show started, they were inviting people up onto the stage and handing out beers.

That definitely isn’t something I’ve seen on a cruise before, or in any theatre for that matter. This set the casual, fun tone of the show.

Handing out beer before the show – Choir of Man

Norwegian are a very relaxed cruise line with really no dress codes and so this fit in perfectly, everything was all very chilled out. This was great for me because it meant I didn’t have to worry about packing more formal clothes for dinner.

On a lot of cruises I take I’ll bring one outfit for the day and another for the evening but I didn’t have to do that. 

Shorts are totally fine in all the main dining rooms for dinner on Norwegian cruises which I think is great. I know some people really don’t like this, but what somebody is wearing under their table has no impact on my dinner at all, I’d prefer people to be comfortable. 

You do have to wear trousers if you’re going to a couple of the more formal speciality restaurants, but really, as long as you are clean and wearing clothes, you’re good to go on a Norwegian cruise.

Choir of Man was fantastic, for years I’ve walked by the theatre in London and always assumed I’d see it on the West End one day.

Seeing it on a cruise ship was the best mix of both, we got to see the same show, which ran for almost an hour and a half but then I could just walk back to my cabin, I didn’t have to worry about finding a hotel or a train or crossing London or anything, it was brilliant. The show was high energy and positive and I’m sure we all came out feeling good.

We did see a couple of other shows in the theatre during the cruise, one was a Beatles tribute and the other was a Mentalist.

The mentalist show was described as being ‘very interactive’ so I sat in the back row. I am not a fan of audience participation but the other guests were more than happy to take part, so I was left alone – to my relief. 

The Beatles tribute that we watched was normally performed in a bar called The Cavern, based of course on the Cavern Club in Liverpool, where the Beatles played. 

The venue is pretty small for obvious reasons, and because of that, it does get full when the Beatles tribute plays.

My top tip though would be to watch the tribute in the theatre and to listen to some other live music in The Cavern Club.

We watched a rock show in here and didn’t have to wait at all. I had a Peach Bellini and it was a really nice place to hang out. 

I had a drinks package included in this cruise because of the “free at sea” promotion, I normally don’t drink a lot when I cruise but having the package meant that I felt free to try all kinds of random drinks. If I didn’t like it, it wouldn’t be the end of the world, and I wouldn’t feel like I had wasted my money. 

My favourite drink onboard is still a Raspberry Mojito from the Mojito bar. I first had one on the Norwegian Getaway way back in 2016.

That was the first cruise that I took alone as an adult, and it was so much fun. I had the cheapest cabin on the ship and didn’t really do much in the ports but that wasn’t the point, I was just excited to be on a cruise by myself. 

Enjoying a Raspberry Mojito

Our first port stop was in Juneau and we arrived at 2.30 pm. We were docked until 10 pm which was great and the late arrival meant that we were able to sit and watch the scenery for hours from our balcony.

That’s a lot of what Alaskan cruises are about in my opinion and I’m glad we had a balcony cabin so that we could catch views like this, it’s unlike anywhere I’ve ever been before.

In Juneau we went dog sledding and in Skagway we went on the White Pass railway, both of these were phenomenal, that’s the only word for it. It’s hard to believe that this is a real place at all, but it is and we were so lucky with the weather.

I took a trip on the White Pass Railway from Skagway

Watch my full video about the amazing excursions I took here:

It was when we were sailing away from Skagway that I decided to put on a dress for dinner. Don’t be fooled by me here, it wasn’t warm but I was planning on being mostly inside the ship and the inside of the ship wasn’t cold.

I wore a dress for my sailaway from Skagway – but it wasn’t warm!

The second speciality restaurant I went to as part of my “free at sea” promotion was Cagneys, this is a steak restaurant and the onion rings are the best.

From Cagney’s, we could look down on the main dining room the Manhattan and that reminded me that I wanted to go there at some point, I also wanted to eat in the American diner and because of my loyalty status with Norwegian, I had a bonus two speciality restaurants to use. 

One of which I would use on my all-time favourite cruise ship restaurant. There was no shortage of food on this cruise, I think I ate more on this cruise than I have in years. 

I’m not a big gambler but I did decide to go to the casino to spend my usual $10. I do it every time and sometimes I do come out up. I never know what I’m doing on the machines but all I know is each time I pressed the button I spent $1 and it didn’t take me long to lose all $10!

My brother likes to time how fast I can spend $10 in the casino and I’m glad he wasn’t here this time because this would have been an all-time record. Still, I had fun and that is the whole point. 

The majority of the casino is non-smoking but there is an area where you can smoke elsewhere behind some doors. There are also other smoking areas around the ship and no guest is allowed to smoke on their balconies or in their cabins. 

They did have other things like “Deal or No Deal” onboard where people can win real money, they also have Bingo and Scratchcards. 

Because I started cruising with Norwegian and my first 5 cruises were with them, this is what I always thought all cruise ships are like. I thought the schedule would always be full of things to do but that isn’t how it always is. 

On some cruise lines, there’ll be a gap of 3 or so hours between events on the schedule, but never on Norwegian. I think it would be impossible to be bored on this ship

Sailing through Glacier Bay was one of the coolest things I have ever experienced. They opened up the bow of the ship and we started the scenic part of the sail in around 8 am. Normally I’d be asleep but the time difference was working in my favour and I was up and ready.

I packed lots of jumpers – and I needed them.

I was expecting it to be cold and in the shade it definitely was, but in the sunshine, it was really warm. Most of the time, I just had a jumper/sweater on, and we were outside for hours.

There was plenty of space outside on the top decks and the promenade, when we reached glaciers the ship would slowly spin around 360 degrees.

Even though I was here, and I filmed this and I saw it with my own eyes, it still doesn’t look real. It was so unbelievably calm and quiet, we saw some seals too which were adorable and lots and lots of big chunks of ice in the water. 

The promenade deck was my favourite place to watch the scenery from, that and from my balcony of course. I was expecting the top decks to be lined with people but they really weren’t.

There were a lot of people on the bow when I first went out there but I went out as soon as it opened and everybody was excited together so it wasn’t a problem. They were handing out drinks and hot chocolate here too and they did that a few times during the cruise. 

Another area of the ship that had amazing views but where most people can’t go is “The Haven.”

In the Haven, the guests have their own sun deck and this incredible inside pool. We were invited to tour the Haven and to have lunch which really was a dream come true, for younger me who just couldn’t ever get through the door but always looked longingly.

I remember seeing the button in the lift and not being able to press it without having a Haven keycard. 

Inside the exclusive Haven area of the ship

I did sneak into the Haven once with a friend who was staying in there when I was 13 but I don’t think that counts, I remember my friend showed me the jars of sweets on the side and I took some, and I’ve felt guilty ever since, sorry Norwegian.

Thinking about it, I’m pretty sure guests of the Haven are allowed to bring friends to their cabin anyway, so perhaps I’ve carried that guilt around all these years for no reason. 

After my lunch which was of course amazing, I bumped into a lovely new friend called Lin who showed me around her aft suite, it was great to get to meet her and her family and this cabin is the dream.

If I had the money this is exactly what I’d book. I didn’t realise that some of the Haven cabins weren’t actually in the Haven but they still are Haven cabins, totally worth the walk for this aft view though. The balcony was huge, there was a lounge and most importantly for me, a bath. I love a bath. 

An Aft suite onboard Norwegian Encore

My balcony cabin was towards the aft but on the side of the ship. When we were sailing from Ketchikan after our boat tour, we had the most glorious sunshine, my laptop actually overheated, and you’d never expect that when talking about Alaska. 

We ordered room service one afternoon and my meal came with 4 cookies, yep 4, 4 as standard I didn’t ask for 4. I hadn’t seen any cookies up to this point so that was nice. If you’ve watched my videos for a while you’ll know how much I love cookies. 

It wasn’t all sunshine on our cruise, we were very lucky with the weather but did have times when it was very chilly and windy.

For some reason we chose one of those times to go to the American Diner on the top deck. The American diner is somewhat protected but it is still outside, luckily for us the food came very quickly so we weren’t too cold and I’m sure there was a heater up there in the ceiling somewhere.

I couldn’t see a heater but I was convinced I could feel heat coming from somewhere. We were up near the Go-Karts and the laser tag, but couldn’t ever hear the Go-Karts as they’re electric. The VR games were up here too. 

The American diner did used to cost extra actually but it is included now which is nice. 

My favourite included restaurant onboard though was the Manhattan room. I love the big windows and we could watch people walk around the deck at the top.

It reminded me a lot of the main dining room on Norwegian Spirit – which is the ship I took my first Norwegian cruise to Alaska on.

We had a great meal in here, we were in and out within an hour and a half which is what I like, we didn’t have any wait for a table either. Outside the restaurant it does show you how busy each restaurant is which is very helpful. Eating early is usually the best way to not have to wait for anything – which suits me perfectly. 

By far my favourite speciality restaurant on the ship was Los Lobos. I first tried this restaurant onboard the Norwegian Prima and we sat outside on the promenade deck in Bermuda. It’s a Mexican restaurant and this time I decided to go for Tacos.

Taco’s and Cocktails in Los Lobos Mexican Restaurant

Last time we had the tableside guacamole to start, which was good fun but I just didn’t have the space for them this time, I wasn’t peckish enough! 

I have a platinum loyalty status with Norwegian because this is my 14th cruise with them  so I used one of my platinum perks for this meal. I used my second loyalty perk meal in “Onda by Scarpetta” and that one came with a bottle of wine.

I don’t really like wine much so I bought it home and gave it to my friend who was house-sitting and looking after my cat Hudson. I know nothing about wine so I just picked the one that looked coolest. 

It was after this meal that we docked in Victoria, Canada. I’ve never had an evening stop in a port before but this was just what is called a “technical stop.”

Because of an old law called the Jones Act, cruise ships that are flagged in foreign countries can’t take a cruise that starts and ends in the US without visiting a foreign port. That means that most Alaskan cruises stop briefly in Canada. 

We stopped in the evening at Victoria, Canada

We had a lovely walk around the town and it seemed like a great port. I wish we had had more than one evening here, but that’s another reason to come back. 

I did meet quite a few Canadians on this cruise, I wonder if any lived around here but cruised from Seattle and then went back home afterwards. The nationalities of the guests were what I was expecting but the age range did surprise me slightly.

There was a good mix of ages onboard and not too many young kids, we were cruising outside of the school holidays so it may have been that there weren’t many – or that they were just in places that I wasn’t. I didn’t fancy the splash park or the arcade much during the cruise. 

It was around now that a very exciting invitation arrived in my cabin. I was invited to go to the Bridge of the ship along with some other people who were staying in suites, and a few travel agents.

With my loyalty status I do get a behind-the-scenes tour too so in the past I’ve been able to see places like the laundry and behind the stage of the theatre – which is very interesting. Seeing the piles of sheets in the laundry really brought home just how much washing the crew have to do on a cruise. 

I of course took our mascot Captain Hudson to the bridge so that he could do a bit of work. These cat toys have been all over the world, but I very rarely see him doing any work! He’s normally eating or relaxing on a balcony.

We had a chance to ask the real Captain any questions and he chatted a bit about the ship and what it was like working onboard.

He explained that he worked a 4 months on, 4 off schedule and he did say that Encore that his favourite ship but I’m not sure if saying that is part of the job, he’d been on a lot of other Norwegian ships too, and told us about the new ship Aqua that’s coming out next.

Chatting to the other guests on the tour I got to hear about the other excursions that they had taken. Some had been on sea planes to visit glaciers and one had found some secret caves that I’d never heard about.

I was very happy with our choice of excursions, in particularly the White Pass railway. To find out what it was like inside those train carriages, and how the dogs on our dog sled excursion smelt, watch this video next:

The video is actually on the Norwegian Cruise Line YouTube channel and is the reason I was able to take this trip which is very exciting, please let them know over there that I sent you. It was entirely because of your support that I was able to take this trip and I can’t thank you enough.

Find out more about the whole trip – the ship, the entertainment, the food here:

Before You Go

If you are taking a trip to Alaska, you might be wondering what to pack. Take a look at my light packing list below:

A Light Packers Guide to Alaska – (What I Brought – and 17 “Essentials” I Didn’t Bring) + Printable Checklist

Find out what cruisers wish they had known before their first cruise here:

15 Common Mistakes – Things Cruisers Wish They Knew About Before Their First Cruise

Free Insiders Cruise Line Guide

Ever wondered how the mainstream cruise lines compare? Cruise lines won’t tell you this, but I will.

This FREE guide shows you everything you need to know to find your perfect cruise line.