Top tips from our 7 Day Alaskan Cruise on Norwegian Encore

I’m not sure when the idea of taking a cruise to Alaska first came up. But I do know that one of the first things John Michael said he wouldn’t ever do with me. It was a cruise. I got him to break that promise with me on an epic Mediterranean cruise in 2019. So I’d at least “broken the seal!”

I also knew that he wanted to go to Alaska, as it’s one of the last states on the list of 50 to visit (#48 is Hawaii, which we’re hoping to visit this December!!).

When we got married last year, I made him promise that he’d take me on an Alaskan Cruise for our honeymoon. It was a win-win-win for both of us–I love cruising, he loves nature, and we both love to travel!

At some point, I told my mom about our trip. She’d never been to Alaska either. It wasn’t long before my honeymoon turned into our family reunion! The invite & trip details were passed around. My brother came with his wife, and my parents invited two of their best friends as well.

We postponed the honeymoon to a secret destination next year, y’all – it’s all good. It’s gonna happen!

Cruise details

  • Boat: Norwegian Encore

  • Sail date: July 9

  • Embarkation: Seattle, Washington

  • Ports of Call: Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan, Glacier Bay National Park, Victoria

  • Stateroom: 9810


With the cruise departing from Seattle, we didn’t want to make the three thousand mile trek without spending a few (fine) days in the Emerald City (*cues Wicked in the background*). We flew out of a stormy JFK airport and landed in Seattle the same evening.

There’s one essential thing you need to understand about my family. When we travel, we typically have very few events to anchor the itinerary. But for those few things, our convictions are strong. Our Seattle “list” consisted of exactly 3 tasks:

  • Visit the original Starbucks and Pike Place Market

  • Pay homage to Bruce Lee at his grave

  • Climb the Space Needle

So when you ask me for tourism advice, my lists for places are either taken directly from a guidebook, or 100% eclectic–there’s like no middle ground. But let me tell you more about Seattle.


I broke out my camera for the first time in 5 years -all the photos you see came from my camera – so hype it up! It’s a funny irony that I bought this years ago because I wanted the “perfect Instagram photo.” Lol. Now I look at this camera through such a different lens (pun intended) – it was really cool to experiment with different landscapes and start to learn a new medium!

No matter if we do one thing in destination or ten, we always have max fun doing it! We spent our first full day in Seattle on our feet the whole day. We had to make a stop by the original Starbucks for a little morning caffeine. The wait to enter was 30 minutes already by 9:00am.

Starbucks is right across the street from Pike Place Market, which is bursting with people at all hours of the day who are stopping for flowers, fish, and to snap a few photos. We had my parents hold our place in line while JM and I grabbed some fresh cherries! If you’re traveling in cherry season, all summer, don’t miss the fresh cherries!

@planwithlaur 24hrs in Seattle : Laur’s Edition #24hoursinseattle #seattletouristguide ♬ original sound – Laur | Wedding Content Creator

My family are all collectors of the Starbucks “Been There” mugs. And well, you can’t make a trip to the mecca without getting the “Been There” mug from the original Starbucks! The 30 minute wait in line was worth it, we got coffee from the original location, bought the coveted mug, and all went across the road to visit Pike Place Market!

It’s a Seattle tourism staple to watch the fishmongers throw fish to (at?) customers, so we hung around for a bit to watch the show. I rate it a 0/10 because raw fish isn’t my thing, but everyone in our group seemed to love it!

Pike Place backs up to something called the gum wall where, as you might guess, thousands of people have ditched their gum over the years. I can’t say I understand it! JM rated the gum wall -10/10 and would not come back, he’d like you to know.

We had an afternoon planned at the aforementioned Space Needle and Chihuly Gardens – two of the top-visited attractions in Seattle (and for a reason). We learned about the 400-day construction of the Space Needle ahead of the 1962 World Fair. I filmed a few TikToks at the top of the Space Needle and I’m 100% confident you’ll see me on @influencersinthewild in the near future!


On Sunday morning we finally made our way to our floating home for the week, the Norwegian Encore. Christened for her maiden voyage in 2019, she’s a brand-new boat that houses a small city’s worth of 4,000 expectant travelers. We have been on cruises before, but never anything like this!

We walked all 19 decks of the ship and took off from Seattle right on time at 4:05pm.

It takes a day of sailing to get from Seattle up into Alaska. We both went for the spa package on the boat. To offer a specific cruise tip this was so worth it, especially for Alaska. If you’re traveling on a Norwegian boat, I couldn’t recommend this more highly. There’s a lot of free time on the boat. Especially on this itinerary. Having the spa as a quiet, relaxing place to spend time outside of the room was a godsend for us!

But back to the cruise: Our first stop was the capital city of Juneau.


Juneau is one of only two US capitals that is not reachable by road.

We were a little delayed arriving in Juneau because of the medical emergency, so unfortunately our scheduled tour was cancelled. Normally this sends up huge alarm / anxiety bells for me and my family. It’s rare for us to not have something planned. But life is about adapting, so we debarked in Juneau without a plan.

But if there is one thing about our group is that we don’t stay down for long. So we improvised. There were a few available spots on an evening whale watch!

After a quick shuttle to the whale watch, we boarded and within 15 minutes came across a group of whales doing an incredibly rare group feeding activity. It’s called bubble net feeding and it is…AWESOME. The process involves a group of humpback whales coordinating to confuse a school of fish in the water. It culminates with like a dozen whales breaching with mouths open to catch the fish.

This is why we came to Alaska!

Juxtaposing the expansive wilderness of Alaska against our normal home environment in New York, you’d think we had literally changed planets.

Given our chaotic (late) arrival into Juneau, we were expecting the whale watch to start and end our adventure in the capital. But when we boarded the bus back to town, they dropped us off at…a surprise salmon bake!?

We definitely didn’t pay for the salmon bake (shhh!). But never one to say no to free food, we spent the next 90 minutes laughing over dinner and reminiscing about bubble feeding whales. With twilight settling in around us and fairy lights twinkling just overhead, it was a perfect first excursion in Alaska.

Our Juneau Rating: 8/10


Our next stop was Skagway, which became a frontier boom-town in 1897 during the Klondike Gold Rush. JM was so fascinated by the gold rush that he bought himself a book (classic!) I’m sure he could tell you a lot more about the town and the railroad that transported millions of dollars of gold over the mountains from the gold fields.

But the railroad is truly the talk of the town. It’s definitely the most popular shore excursion for arriving cruise boats. We knew we had to see what the hype was all about! After a 7:00am arrival, we were some of the first two off the boat for the 10-minute walk into town to secure tickets for the first train at 8:00am.

As of 2023, a rockslide last summer actually closed the pier that you’d normally walk down – there’s a really quick shuttle to the end of the pier and it’s a quick walk into town from there!

If you’re worried about getting tickets for the train, you can get peace of mind and a chance to board the train from a depot next to the cruise ships!

We spent a few hours taking in more breathtaking scenery from our window seats aboard the White Pass and Yukon Railway. The train snakes and weaves its way through and over the mountains that tower over Skagway, providing breathtaking views and more than a few photo ops! Here JM photographs me deep in thought.

So about the train…The train ride was gorgeous, but tbh a little underwhelming to us. I can’t put my finger exactly on why. It may have been because we were tired from a few late nights – after all, we didn’t board the boat in Juneau until 11pm the night before. My advice would be to not buy the first train of the day! Our cruise itinerary had 12 hours on the ground in Skagway. A few extra hours of sleep would have perked us up!

After the train excursion, JM and I met our tour guide for a small group hike in the Tongass National Forest.

We got paired up with a family of amateur botanists, which was…interesting, to say the least. I used to call JM my nature guide, but this family identified every species of lichen and tree, often stopping to smell (yes, smell) each. Since it’s a rainforest, there were a lot of these pitstops – seemingly every few feet.

The company we hiked with was purely professional, and the hike is actually on private property where there’s a zipline and ropes course! There truly is an adventure for everyone in Skagway.

Fun memory:

I had fully expected to be able to work on this trip. Working in social media it’s hard to take a true break. Really hard actually. Poor internet on the boat prevented this – so I ended up getting a much-needed impromptu break! But I had a last-minute audition tape (if this comes to fruition y’all will be the first to know) for a project that I had to get done on the trip. So we spent about an hour in Skagway filming and editing – while crushing fried dough and cappuccinos. You can take us out of New York, but for this moment it felt like we were back! Remind me to share part of the audition tape sometime, there are some funny clips!

Our skagway Rating: 6.5/10

glacier bay

I think my favorite day on the cruise was Day 4, aka “glacier day in Glacier Bay.” The thought crossed my mind whether seeing glaciers would be on the itinerary on a future cruise in 20 years. As dark as it sounds, sailing in Glacier Bay National Park really hammers the point home: The glaciers have receded many miles since George Vancouver and later, John Muir visited and charted the contours of the park.

If I haven’t talked about the Observation Lounge yet, she was the ⭐️ star ⭐️ of the cruise on this day. And tbh a really wonderful break from the hustle and bustle of the cruise on any other day, too!

The Park Rangers boarded the boat around 7:30am to start their naturalist program in the Observation Lounge. But listen fam, my people were up at 4:30am! This is what happens when you have a Type A family doing Type A things. They had corralled a few chairs for us, secured coffee and a few blankets by the time I got up there at 7!

We were also up early because people claim spots in the observation lounge. Like camp out overnight in their pajamas type of early. As crazy as it seems, I guess the hype around Glacier Bay is enough to create a tragedy of the commons scenario with the lounge chairs! So listen – if everyone else is claiming chairs early, you know my family will be there before them.

At any rate, by about 8am we were cruising into the National Park and listening to the Rangers tell the story and history of the park. There’s a ton of wildlife in the park, especially our favorite animal of all: The Sea Otter!!

fun otter facts:

Sea otters have the densest fur in the animal kingdom. It helps them navigate the intensely cold sea temperatures of the Northern Pacific. They’re also heavy bois – typically 30 to 100lbs. And um, did I mention how stinking cute they are!?!

We saw so many otters, whales and eagles on our way into the park. It was yet another dose of nature in Alaska that just strikes awe in you, especially when you get your first glimpse of the glaciers.

On our specific cruise itinerary, we spent time viewing the Margerie and Johns Hopkins glaciers. As we approached Margerie in the morning, the captain actually opened the bow of the ship for closer viewing! I’d say about 150-200 people were out on the bow as we circled in front of Margerie. Everyone was super respectful of space and people shared binoculars with those who didn’t have them. There truly isn’t a bad seat on the boat! And plenty of places to view without stressing.

After about an hour at Margerie, we cruised leisurely over to the Johns Hopkins glacier.

I should pause here to give a recommendation: Definitely stop by the observation lounge and get some Glacier Bay merch! JM picked up a trucker hat that has quickly become his favorite. There’s also an opportunity to stamp your passport. The State Department and US Customs & Border Protection probably (definitely) doesn’t endorse stamping your passport with commemorative stamps. But unless you’re Carmen Sandiego, your passport probably has room for the Glacier Bay stamp, and I got it.

It seems a little weird to say, but my favorite part of Glacier Bay was when we returned to our stateroom. Don’t get me wrong, the observation lounge was awesome. But the view of Johns Hopkins glacier was just as good, if not better, from our stateroom balcony. The setting sun of the afternoon and evening was just stunning and romantic glimmering on the water.

We dropped off the park rangers and slowly cruised back south for the last two stops on our cruise!

This evening snap was taken at about 9:45pm. So dreamy and romantic! I’m on a huge Outlander kick right now.

Our glacier bay Rating: 8.5/10


JM in the “Alaska: Last Frontier” wolf sweatshirt.

No offense to any of the other lovely ports of call, but Ketchikan was our favorite. Which is wild to think about because we were only there on the ground for like 5 or 6 hours! But, when you feel a connection to a place, that’s it. You just feel that connection.

Ketchikan became a hub in the late 1800s for the fishing and logging industries, and it quickly grew into a bustling trade port. During World War II, the town played an important role as a transportation hub and military base for the United States.

While my parents learned more about the history, JM and I hopped on the Aleutian Ballad, the former star ship of Season 2 of the Deadliest Catch. So I’ll admit something, I haven’t actually watched the Deadliest Catch before. I didn’t have much context going into this experience.

The Ballad is 15 years past her active crabbing days. So on today’s trip, her crew relays their harrowing stories to people like us who – pictured here, like holding crab for photo opps.

There are three active deckhands on the trip who, true to form, have the gruff demeanor and hard exterior you’d expect from someone who spent half their life away from family and friends doing backbreaking work on 20-30 foot seas. But they were all really wonderful men who’d experienced unimaginable danger and loss in the country’s most dangerous profession.

It helps that they tell really good stories, too.

The peak of the excursion on the Bering Sea Crab Fishermen’s Tour was also the peak of our entire 7 Day cruise.

We approached an island outside of Ketchikan where the sailors shared their stories of life fishing on the Bering Sea. They started throwing herring off the bow. Pretty soon, about 20 bald eagles were swooping overhead and feeding directly off the bow.

A few minutes while we just stared at the eagles, and we turn around to find two whales breaching not 20 yards off the stern. I just felt so overwhelmed with awe. Pure, unadulterated awe and appreciation. And profound gratitude, too.

The stop in Ketchikan is a short one. Too short! I truly wish we’d had 12 hours in Ketchikan and 6 hours in Skagway, instead of the other way around. Thems is the breaks sometimes! After coming back into the harbor it was straight back to the cruise boat for us, as there wasn’t enough time to explore town. Still – our favorite stop of the trip by far!

Our ketchikan Rating: 9/10 – only because we didn’t have more time!

victoria, bc

Victoria was the most delightful surprise of our cruise. Because of an obscure maritime law from 1917, cruise ships with US ports of call (like ours) are required to visit an international port at some point on their journey. Given the four hours we had in port at Victoria, it’s clearly a stopover to check the “international port” box. But my take is that I wish we had had way more time in Victoria!

Today, Victoria is a popular tourist destination known for its historic architecture, beautiful gardens, and mild climate. We’ll be back for all of the above (& then some) the next time!

The gardens are stunning, like truly stunning. We had time to walk around colonial Victoria, grabbed ice cream, and then headed back to the ship. Many people on our boat didn’t even get off. They missed out!

Our victoria Rating: 9/10

And then, we returned back to where we started. With a lot of whale and eagle photos in the camera roll!

top cruise tips from laur and jm

  • The Observation Lounge is can’t miss for Glacier Bay because you’re close to the Rangers, merch, and passport stamps. If you book a Balcony room, however, sleep in and enjoy the private view from your balcony.

  • The Norwegian Mandara Spa package is worth it for the Alaska itineraries, especially when the weather is colder. Book well in advance to lock in the lowest prices! Don’t wait until you’re on board.

  • Don’t get the first train up the mountain in Skagway. There’s so much time on the Norwegian Encore itinerary that you’ll appreciate sleeping in and getting a leisurely breakfast.

  • DO get the fried dough in Skagway.

  • Spend a few days on the front or back end of your cruise in Seattle! Or Vancouver if your itinerary has you leaving from there.

  • Pack a sleep mask for the summer cruise – the days are so long! Even with blackout curtains I slept better with my sleep mask.

  • Don’t stay on the cruise boat in Victoria!

  • Bring binoculars! Your eyes will appreciate the wildlife without straining to see it.

our overall cruise rating – 7.5/10

We would definitely cruise Alaska again, but not with Norwegian!

  • Destinations: 10 out of 10 – it would be hard to top the ports of call on this trip. From the shortest in Victoria to the 12 hours in Skagway, you get to see several sides of southeast Alaska, with different and varied activity options in all!

  • Norwegian: 4 out of 10 – Having cruised with Norwegian before COVID, this cruise left a lot to be desired from a service level. It felt like NCL was trying to make up for lost pandemic profits by slashing crew numbers. You could feel the staff was overworked and the service suffered as a result. They call NCL “no cash left” for a reason, I guess – as every service has an additional fee. Not great.

  • Itinerary: 8 out of 10 – Having more time in Ketchikan and Victoria – and less in Skagway? – would really have been nice. I’m not a cruise designer or ship engineer, as we all know! But the time spent in port left a little to be desired.

  • The Boat: 8 out of 10 – The Norwegian Encore is gorgeous, the finishes are incredible, and the activities are varied. There are so many people on board, however, that I felt cramped in every public area, always. There’s not much you can do about it – and the private spaces like the spa and rooms felt like a true haven away from the action.