I thought long and hard before deciding how to share my experience as a first-time cruiser. Now that I have cruise experience, I realize that there was so much I didn't know before I left, I didn't even know the questions to ask. So I've decided to draw directly from my travel journal, allowing you to learn about the cruise experience as I did. I hope you find this "Diary of a First-time Cruiser" to be useful as you plan your own trip.
Day Before Leaving
Tomorrow I leave on my very first cruise. I'll be cruising through Alaska's Inside Passage on Norwegian Cruise Line's new Norwegian Pearl. I'm a little excited, a little anxious. I'm wondering how everything I want to bring is going to fit in my suitcase. I imagine I'm not much different from most first-time cruisers.
Why I chose this cruise
My choice of destination came first. Alaska was at the top of my list of travel goals for 2007. A cruise seemed like a great way to see several Alaska destinations without having to haul luggage around to a new hotel every night. However, I'm a casual sort of person. I hate to be fussed over, dressing up, and set schedules. Norwegian Cruise Line's Freestyle Cruising®, with its many dining and entertainment options, seemed like the perfect choice for my first cruise adventure. The fact that I could depart from and return to Seattle, my home city, was another reason to choose NCL. Finally, the Norwegian Pearl is a brand-new ship, specifically designed for Freestyle Cruising.
What I'm anxious about
- Will I feel trapped?
- Will my cabin be too small and confining?
- Will I be bored?
- Will I be the only person under 50? Under 60?
- Will I get motion sickness?
What I'm excited about
- Gorgeous Alaska scenery.
- Meeting interesting people.
- Learning about Alaska history and culture.
- Trying new things.
- Escape from everyday concerns.
- Gorgeous Alaska scenery.
Day 1 - Boarding the Norwegian Pearl
I've been so nervous all morning, I'm not sure why. Guess it's because I'm doing something totally new and unfamiliar?
My friend dropped me off at Seattle's Pier 66 about 1:30 pm; the Norwegian Pearl was scheduled to depart at 4:00 pm. Boarding had started at 1:00. There were lots of people milling about and buses and taxis coming and going. A sign directed me to the baggage drop area, where I stood in a short line before showing my ticket and ID and dropping my luggage off at security. The luggage tags I had received with my cruise confirmation packet were already attached to my bag.
After dropping off my large bags, I again followed the signs, which led me out of the building and then back into another entrance and up an escalator to the ticket "windows". There were so many crammed in there it was amazing! The line moved quickly and I soon presented my ticket, ID, and credit card to the ticket agent and received my stateroom key card. From there I walked across a couple ramps to the ship.
Boarding the Ship
As I walked onto the ship I passed by a station where I was shown how to use the hand sanitizer. It turns out that these sanitizer stations are all over the ship, at entrances to every restaurant, restroom, and elevator. You simply put your hand under it and some quick-drying sanitizer squirts into it and you rub your hands together. Everyone is urged to use them before entering a restaurant or returning to ship. They also advise everyone not to shake hands. By the end of the cruise, everyone was making jokes that their hands had never been so clean in their life.
After the hand sanitizing, I passed a photographer on the promenade, who snapped my picture in front of a green backdrop. Background Seattle scenery was added digitally.
I quickly found my outside balcony stateroom and was taken aback at first by how compact it is. No spare room at all, and there's hardly room enough to turn around in the toilet compartment.
Familiarizing Myself with the Ship
After dropping off my carry-on bags, I left my cabin to check out the ship. The common areas around the reception desk and shore excursion desk were quite crowded. My first impression was that the ambiance was like a casino, in terms of both decor and noise level. I then headed up to the spa, got a quick tour of the facilities, and made some spa appointments - a high priority on my list!
As the Norwegian Pearl pulled away from Pier 66, we were called to our lifeboat drill. The cruise director gave plenty of warning about what to do and what to expect, so it was really no big deal. When they gave the signal, everyone is to go to their room, grab one of the life vests located in their closet, put it on, and proceed to the designated mustering area via the stairs. Our area was inside the Summer Palace dining room, which seemed a little odd to me. Odd, but comfortable. The crew member assigned to oversee our mustering area checked each person off from their list of names, and then we all sat there for about 10 minutes before being excused to return to our rooms. Quick and easy!
I returned to my room and unpacked my suitcases completely. By the time everything was out, hung in the closet, or stowed in drawers or shelves, I realized that the cabin might not be too big, but it was big enough. Room for everything and every activity, but no more!
Dinner at The Lotus Garden
After unpacking, I headed out again. The common areas were a lot less crowded now - guess everyone was settling in. I stopped by the Shore Excursions desk to get reservations for a Butchart Gardens tour in Victoria. Then I wandered around and decided to have dinner at the Lotus Garden, the Asian Fusion restaurant. I enjoyed a delicious meal of spring rolls, crab and corn soup, and a BBQ pork and veggie noodle dish. I finished up with a warm banana pancake with coconut ice cream. By the time I returned to my room and went through all the reading material and special notices that had been left for me in the room it was 9:30, so I decided to call it a night.