Alaska is two times the size of Texas, making it the largest state in the U.S., and with more coastline than any other state, the best way to view America's frontier is by ship. And what better ship than Norwegian Cruise Line's "Pearl"? Here are the top 10 reasons to view the treasures of Alaska from the decks of the "Pearl."
The vacation vibe is tangible onboard the "Pearl." It has flexible schedules, activities, dress codes, dining, accommodations and entertainment. It's a philosophy they call "freestyling," where guests are encouraged to create their own cruise experience. There are no dictations on the "Pearl," so your vacation is what you make it.
Ports of Call
One of the best parts of cruising is going ashore. Take in the sights of several Alaskan cities, including Juneau, Ketchikan and Skagway and some beautiful ports in British Columbia like Vancouver and Prince Rupert. Enjoy local shopping and dining as well as taking in the history of the 49th state.
Part of the freestyle philosophy is an assortment of accommodations that meet anyone's budget. There are regular cabins, staterooms, suites and luxurious villas. All provide the comforts of home, from the inside staterooms to the 5,000-square-foot Garden Villa, complete with a garden terrace, hot tub and full butler service.
With 13 different bars and lounges, the nightlife on the "Pearl" is always hopping. Piano bars, cigar bars, espresso bars, wine bars, dance clubs -- even private karaoke rooms where you can unleash your inner rock star without getting stage fright. Or laugh it up at a performance by the famed Second City Comedy Troupe, whose alumni include the likes of Tina Fey and Steve Carrell.
Casinos are a cruising staple, and the "Pearl" has an amazing circus-themed casino. Join the NCL Casinos at Sea Players Club and earn reward points good for anything from spa treatments to dinners to your final bill -- or even a future NCL cruise.
Alaska's Inside Passage is one of the most beautiful places in the country, and there's just no better way to experience it than from the deck of a ship. The "Pearl" staffs a knowledgeable park ranger to guide you through the unreal beauty of Glacier State National Park.
The park is 2.7 million acres of protected land and ice -- a living laboratory of how glaciers form and move. It's a great activity for the kids -- we promise, learning never looked so cool. And be sure to have your camera ready as you explore the fjords of these geological wonders.
On the "Pearl," the dining is quite casual compared to other ships. With your cruising package, dinner at the buffet or in the regular restaurant is available at no extra charge. For a small additional charge, you can enjoy a number of the great restaurants onboard. There are 13 different restaurants and dining rooms on the "Pearl," so you can experience French cuisine at Le Bistro, a delicious steak at Cagney's or Spanish tapas at Mambo's.
There's no shortage of fun onboard this ship; cruise standards include swimming pools, gyms and hot tubs. However, Norwegian steps it up a notch with several unique cruise experiences. Once you've got your sea legs, hit the outdoor basketball court -- with some of the best views and fresh air on the planet. There's also a rock wall on the top of the ship and an indoor bowling alley -- a cruise-ship first. For the kid in all of us, there's even a two-story video screen used for playing Nintendo Wii.
In the waters around Juneau, Alaska, there are many different species of wildlife. Watch sea lions, orca and humpback whales in their natural habitats. Vacationers can also witness the majestic beauty of our national bird, the bald eagle. Recently removed from the endangered species list, the bald eagle dines mainly on salmon. Spotting them is a breeze in the port of Ketchikan, a city known as the salmon capital of the world.
Just as important as having fun is enjoying some serious relaxation and pampering. The spa onboard the "Pearl" offers treatments like massages, facials and body wraps. Additional amenities include a heated saltwater therapy pool, heated thermal benches and 17 treatment rooms.
A full salon will have you looking your best with services that include cuts, styling, coloring, manicures and pedicures.
That's right, we said fishing. Going on the crab fisherman's tour is an eye-opening adventure. Crab fishing is 90 percent more dangerous than any other job, and it's a unique Alaskan experience that's not to be missed.
Alaskan King Crabs, which can weigh up to 6 1/2 pounds, are found in the Bering Sea, where warm nutrient-rich water provides an environment perfect for fish, plankton and crabs. Even if you are not a fisherman, or have never gone fishing, it's a thrilling activity that you won't experience on any other vacation.