Don’t Overlook Your Own Back Yard

three u.s. destinations to add to your bucketlist pin
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When creating a bucket list, far-flung destinations often spring to mind first, but we should all remember that there are some incredible U.S destinations worthy of making that list. This year in particular, when international travel is likely to remain disrupted for a while, it just might be the time to turn your focus a little bit closer to home. We’ve got three great suggestions:

#1 Alaska

Mountains, lakes, glaciers, waterfalls, and extraordinary wildlife. If you’re looking for adventure in the great outdoors, Alaska is the perfect escape to start planning now — especially after spending so much time indoors these past few months! With so many gorgeous national parks and adventurous excursions to choose from, this trip will take some advance planning — another reason it belongs on a bucket list.

two people looking at the snow capped mountains in Alaska from boat
Annie and her mom enjoying the stunning views in Alaska

There’s no shortage of natural beauty in Alaska. Denali National Park has the highest peak in the U.S., breathtaking hiking trails and amazing wildlife viewing opportunities. If you’ve always wanted to see a grizzly bear, then Katmai National Park is the place to go. Famous for their “Fat Bear Week“, you can fly into the park and stay at a local lodge while keeping an eye out for grizzlies catching salmon. To see more bald eagles than you can count, check out the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve outside Haines, Alaska. And to get the most out of any of these parks, experience them with a knowledgeable guide booked through an outdoor adventure tour operator.

glaciers in alaska

The majestic Glacier National Park lets you see a calving glacier create a tidal wave. Stand in awe of these icy giants, explore the ice caves, or see it all from above with a helicopter tour.

The best hiking, fishing, and wildlife sightings are in summer and early autumn. But don’t discount late-winter and early-spring visits. Snow-filled activities like dog-sledding, seeing the start of the Iditarod Race, and chasing the Northern Lights are in store for a February-March trip.

For a truly unique experience search the skies for the Aurora from a relaxing hot spring at Chena Hot Springs Resort.

Whatever your outdoor adventure goals, head to Alaska for the stunning landscapes and variety of adventures.

woman holding a small husky puppy

Top Bucket List Experiences

  • See grizzly bears in their natural habitat
  • Glaciers & ice caves
  • Go dog sledding and cuddle a husky pup
  • Whale watching
  • See the Iditarod Race
  • Northern Lights
  • Ultimate fishing experience

#2 Sedona, Arizona

A calming and centering experience awaits you in the unique red rocks of Sedona, where you can combine relaxation with the great outdoors. You can hike, horseback ride and golf, or lounge pool-side, dine al fresco, and indulge in a decadent spa treatment at a luxurious resort like L’Auberge de Sedona or Enchantment.

sedona night sky next to a pool
Sedona’s Dark Skies are perfect for star-gazing [Photo Credit: Mark via Unsplash]

This small Arizonan town offers a huge number of beautiful hiking trails, and even a naturally-formed ‘waterslide’ in Slide Rock State Park.  You can enjoy the jaw-dropping scenery from your balcony, or during a morning meditation session, before going out to explore.

red rock formations at sunset in sedona arizona
Sedona’s majestic red rocks at sunset

If hiking isn’t for you, off-road Jeep tours venture out into the canyons to bring you close to ancient petroglyphs and Puebloan architecture such as Montezuma’s Castle (one of the best-preserved cliff dwelling in North America). Or you can take a guided kayak river trip down to the vineyards for some afternoon wine tasting.

two women at tlaquepaque craft villiage in Sedona Arizona

Finally, don’t miss out on the Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village. Modeled after a traditional Mexican village, you’ll find serenity within its walls. Browse shops and galleries where more often than not you can meet the creators. See beautiful hand-made jewelry, metal works, paintings, and other crafts before enjoying a delectable lunch.

A bucket list two-for-one, Sedona is situated only a two-hour drive from the Grand Canyon! Explore one of the seven natural wonders of the world on a day trip from your meditative and rejuvenating home base.

a woman looking up at the saguaro cacti in arizona

Top Bucket List Experiences

  • Off-roading adventure
  • Spiritual experiences among the red rocks
  • Hot air ballooning
  • Slide down a natural water-slide
  • Get up-close-and-personal with saguaros
  • Visit the Grand Canyon

#3 Florida Keys

Perhaps after all this craziness you just want to relax by the beach with a cool drink in hand. Look no further than the collection of islands at the southern-most point of the continental U.S. — The Florida Keys. ‘The Keys’ offer some of the best sunsets, seafood, snorkeling, and SCUBA around. Warm water, breath-taking parks, and the best key lime pie in the world? Definitely a location to add to the bucket list.

sunset with palm trees and infinity pool overlooking ocean Florida Keys
The Bungalows waterfront pool in Key Largo [Photo Credit: The Bungalows Resort]

Start at the northernmost island, Key Largo, with the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Explore coral reefs, seagrass swamps, and mangrove forests. Take a ride on a glass-bottom boat, kayak through the mangroves, or visit the nation’s first underwater park!

white bird against green grass in florida

Continue your journey along the Overseas Highway to mingle with the wildlife. Stop at the Wild Bird Sanctuary, the Dolphin Research Center and the Turtle Hospital.

Finally, cross the Seven-Mile Bridge and finish your journey in Key West. You can visit Ernest Hemingway’s house ( with its 50+ cats) and take a selfie at the southernmost point of the continental U.S.

The road trip from Key Largo to Key West is only two hours, leaving you plenty of time to sit back and relax. The Keys are their own paradise, of course, but you can also take it up a notch with a stay in a luxurious beachfront bungalow.

The Bungalows Resort soak with a view

In Key Largo, you’ll find the all-inclusive The Bungalows Resort — a beautifully peaceful location with luxurious adults-only private villas. Their stand-alone bungalows come with a waterfront view and a soaking tub on each outdoor veranda, and you can relax in the spa, pools, or with a morning yoga session. You can also venture a little further south for the luxury of a private island resort and spa at Little Palm Island. Here, guests arrive by boat or seaplane, and enjoy adults-only luxury with an optional all-inclusive plan that makes the experience complete.

Top Bucket List Experiences

  • Jetpack water flight
  • Snorkeling coral reefs
  • Dolphin Research Center
  • Turtle hospital
  • Hemmingway’s House
  • The southernmost point of the continental U.S
  • Key lime pie and conch fritters
  • Airboat through the everglades

Whether you are building your bucket list around adventure, relaxation or luxury, there are some fantastic options close to home. It’s not about how far away you travel, but the unique experiences you have, the breathtaking things you see, and the lasting memories you create. If you’d like to start planning a bucket list-worthy trip to any of these destinations send us an email!

Three Unique Places to See the Northern Lights

The Aurora Borealis ( or the Northern Lights ) is at the top of many bucket lists. And rightfully so! This amazing natural phenomenon has sparked legends of sky warriors, spirits, and far distant dawns. It has kept people looking up at the long winter night sky for centuries.

silhouette against the Aurora Northern Lights Alaska
[Photo Credit: Steve Halama via Unsplash]
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When you consider making this bucket list dream a reality, the first country that might spring to mind is Iceland. Iceland is a great place to see them! But, it’s not the only place to see these incredible lights. If you’re looking for something a little different, read on for 3 unique places to see the Northern Lights. Starting right in our own backyard!

First, a little background to prepare you to go aurora hunting:

What is the Aurora Borealis?

The short version: The particles emitted from the sun’s atmosphere break free and strike our atmosphere causing a reaction resulting in light.

The longer version: It’s so hot on the outermost surface of the sun (the Corona) that the hydrogen atoms split into protons and electrons. The gas of the charged particles is electrically conductive. The gas breaks free of the sun and blows away from the surface- sometimes called solar wind. These particles then strike our own atmosphere causing a chemical reaction that results in a release of energy in the form of light.

The Aurora from Space
Aurora from Space [Photo Credit: NASA via Unsplash]

When are they visible?

For the northern lights to be visible, you need darkness, high geomagnetic activity (storms on the surface of the sun), and clear skies (little to no cloud cover).

To increase your chances, you want to be far north, in the winter months (long, dark nights) and away from light pollution.

But the biggest factor in seeing the Northern Lights is the simple weather report. You won’t see much without clear skies, so keep a very close eye on the weather and cloud cover.

Remember: The lights are an unpredictable force of nature. So make sure the vacation you choose has other things that interest you! That way you’re guaranteed a good vacation, even if the cloud cover isn’t in your favor.

Ok, now that you’re ready to start your aurora hunt, let’s look at some unique locations!

Bright Aurora Northern lights against snow trees
[Photo Credit: Tim Motivv on Unsplash]

Fairbanks, Alaska

There’s a great Aurora spot right in our own backyard- no passport needed! If you’re looking for something a little more familiar and closer to home, then look no further than Northern Alaska.

You have a great chance of seeing the lights near Alaska’s second-largest city. With plenty of hotels, B&B’s, and its own airport, Fairbanks is easy to reach. To really see the Aurora clearly, you’ll have to travel outside the bright city lights. You can rent a car to visit Cleary Summit, Creamer’s Field, or Murphy’s Dome on nightly trips.

Aurora over Alaska
The view from Cleary Summit in Fairbanks [Photo Credit: Tommy Tang on Unsplash]

Fairbanks knows they have something special with these fantastic spirits, so many of the hotels offer aurora wake-up calls allowing you to sleep peacefully without the worry of missing anything. They also offer several Aurora tours if you’d rather not rent a car.

Best Time to Visit: The shoulder months of Late-September and Early March give you the clearest skies, but November-February will provide the longest night hours.

Places to Stay: Fairbanks has a huge selection of hotels, but you can also try staying a little outside the city at the Chena Hotsprings Resort or the Borealis Basecamp which offers geodesic igloos with 16ft windows/skylights to really improve your chances.

Other Things to Do: There are numerous outdoor activities from dogsledding to wildlife hikes, reindeer ranches, museums, and cultural sites.

northern lights behind Scottish monument
Northern Lights in Scottish Highlands [Photo courtesy of VisitScotland]

Orkney & Shetland Archipelago, Scotland

Scotland brings to mind Castles, lochs, monsters, whisky, and haggis but the Northern Lights? Picture yourself sitting in a cozy cabin nestled in the windswept northern isles, sipping local whiskey and watching the skies for these Merrie Dancers (as they’re known locally).

 If you’d like to plan a trip to Scotland or the UK then this is definitely something to include!

The northernmost Scottish Isles offer incredibly low light pollution with some of the largest expanses of Dark Sky in Europe. Combined with their low lying landscapes, this more than makes up for their “low” latitude compared to other aurora-viewing hotspots.

galaxy and northern lights behind a castle wall
In addition to the Aurora, there are fantastic night sky views in Northern Scotland [Photo courtesy of VisitScotland]

Reachable by ferry, Orkney & Shetland are the perfect places to make-your-own-adventure when hunting for the Aurora. The “Aurora tourism” boom hasn’t quite reached these isles yet, so there are few tours offered. Which gives you the opportunity to enjoy the lights in an intimate setting, and consider renting a camper van to be able to “chase” them across the isles.

Best Time to Visit: The winter months with the longest nights will be your friend in Scotland- aim for December- February. Visit in January- February to include one of Shetland’s famous Viking Fire Festivals on your trip!

Best Places to Stay: Any of the Islands are a good choice but try to stay away from the light pollution of Lerwick, Shetland. There are plenty of B&Bs and self-catering cabins, but the islands do have a few full-service hotels as well.

Other Things to Do: Archaeological and UNESCO sites ( Orkney has four monuments spanning five thousand years), wildlife walks & hiking, Shetland Ponies, Fire festivals and Folk Music Festivals.

Bow of a ship in icy Norwegian waters
[Photo Credit: Pascal Debrunner via Unsplash]

Cruising the Norwegian Coast

If you’re looking for something a bit more structured and with a practical guarantee of seeing the northern lights look no further than Hurtigruten Cruises!

Based in Norway, they have several options for Aurora Hunters. All the cruises head up the coast of Norway to the north-easternmost point of Kirkenes, a town that shares its border with Russia.

These cruises offer onboard guides, lectures, and presentations all about the lights and the stunning landscape. You also have to option of mini shore-excursions during the day in each of the ports! Although there is the risk that you’ll have more clouds on the coast, Hurtigruten offers a “Northern Lights Promise” which is their guarantee you’ll see the aurora or you get another cruise free! Making this option your highest chance of seeing the Aurora.

Aurora Northern Lights over water in Norway
A ribbon of light near the coast of Tromsø, Norway [Photo Credit: Sebastian Kowalski via Unsplash]

Their classic cruise starts from Bergen and heads around the coast to Kirken with options for 6-12 days and stopping at 22- 34 ports along the way! You also can choose from their Short Coastal Cruises ( 2-4 days) or Expedition Cruises (12-15 days)

Best Time to Visit: To maximize your nightly hours visit in January or February. Although the “Northern Lights Promise” is valid from October 1- March 31st.

Other Things to Do: The fact that Hurtigruten fits so many ports into their itinerary is pretty amazing. So without too much extra hassle, you can go on mountain hikes, city tours, kayaking, dogsledding and other cultural activities.

Final Tips & Tricks

Some final tips before you begin planning your incredible Aurora Vacation:

Aurora Northern Lights over Lofoton Norway
Aurora in Lofoten, Norway
[Photo Credit: Stein Egil Leiland via Pexels]
  • Avoid full moons – five days before the new moon is best
  • If you’re taking a tour, aim for the start of your trip so you have another chance
  • Use red-light flashlights and keep your eyes off screens for the best night vision
  • Bring extra camera batteries
  • Be patient
  • It’s literally FREEZING outside! Dress in layers.

If this list has sparked your imagination, send us an email and we can make it even easier to plan your Amazing Aurora Adventure!

Alaska for Millennials

Alaska is definitely a “bucket list” destination, but that does not mean you need to wait until you’re near the end to experience it!  I often have people tell me that they’ll visit Alaska later, when they’re older, as they want to see more exciting places while they are in their 30’s and 40’s. What?! I would encourage everyone to visit Alaska while they are young and fit enough to take advantage of all the adventurous activities!

Take a look at Lydia and Tim’s trip report, from their Alaska cruisetour this past    June, and keep in mind that they are just barely into their 30’s:

Hi Ann,

This is so long overdue, hopefully it’s still useful! Some things are a bit rusty, but here’s an update on how things went. It was a great trip and I understand why everyone comes back talking about how beautiful it is.

Rainville Alaska 5

BOS –> SEA –> YVR. Smooth flights, a little tight in the connection, but we made it to Vancouver as planned at around midnight. The Pacific Gateway Hotel seemed very nice for our brief stay and we were upgraded to a suite! The next morning we were picked up by a friend and had a brunch at a great little local place called the Red Wagon and got a bit of a tour of Vancouver until we embarked on the Grand Princess.

The ship was nice and we had a great room with a balcony. It was your pretty standard cruise, lots of food, entertainment, etc. I think we prefer Celebrity overall, but I’m definitely glad we picked this one for the itinerary. The highlights of the time at sea were the onboard naturalist Sandra Schempp and the piano player who did the sing-alongs at the piano bar. The naturalist had been going up to Alaska to visit her aunt her whole life and was incredibly knowledgeable; she gave lectures on the sea life, land animals, plants, and geo

logy that were great context for the rest of the trip. She also gave times to be out on the front of the ship where chances of seeing wildlife were highest. We saw some whales and otters with her. The ride itself is also just peaceful if you sit out on your balcony watching hundreds of miles of pristine pine forest go by. It’s incredible how vast and undisturbed Alaska really is.

Ketchikan – We didn’t have a tour booked and decided to make plans when we left the ship. There were a lot of tour companies selling trips at the docks and we went on one that took us to the Saxman totem village and to tour the island. It was a nice orientation and we saw lots of bald eagles all over. We also had the best halibut fish and chips of the trip at a place called Alava’s!

Rainville Alaska 1

Rainville Alaska 2

Juneau – We booked our Juneau excursion through ShoreTrips (Triple Adventure with glacier, whales, and ales) and we definitely made the right choice. We started with a trip to Mendenhall Glacier and walked out to the sandbar/waterfall which was beautiful. After that we went on a whale watch. The naturalist had talked about a whale feeding technique called bubble netting that happens only in a few places and during a pretty short period of time. We were lucky enough to see it! We wrapped up the day with a trip to Alaska Brewing Co.

Rainville Alaska 4

Skagway – We also booked our Skagway excursion through ShoreTrips. It was a bike ride, hike, and float down a river. Getting out of downtown Skagway was definitely the right choice. It’s fun to walk through and learn more about the gold rush, but a little bit cheesy and touristy. I would definitely recommend the tour we did to others.

Scenic glacier cruisingGlacier Bay and College Fjord were incredible and we’re glad we picked an itinerary that with both.  Having a balcony was fantastic so we could watch from our room and listen to the Park Ranger/naturalist’s guided explanation. As an added bonus at College Fjord there was a Smith Glacier and an Amherst Glacier, one for each of us.

Train ride – The train ride was beautiful and a nicer way to go than a bus both ways. It’s a little cramped and the guidance to have as little luggage on you as possible should definitely be heeded. More luggage = less legroom. They had a guide onboard who described what you were seeing; quite helpful. They also had a bartender so you could enjoy some Alaska beer on the way, and they brought on a husband/wife team who raised huskies and had competed and placed very high in the Iditarod.

Denali – Denali was definitely a highlight of the trip. On the cruise, another passenger reaffirmed that we should switch from the Natural History tour to a longer one. We took the Tundra Wilderness tour which takes you 60 miles into the park. Almost none of the wildlife is viewable from the first 15 miles of road, so if you want to see stuff it’s the way to go, and definitely worth it. Denali National Park is the size of Massachusetts and Denali State Park is the size of RI. The guides are incredibly knowledgeable and have all been doing it for years, apparently there’s quite a waitlist for the job. We got what our driver/guide called the Denali Grand Slam, Dall sheep, moose, caribou, grizzly bears, and the summit of Mt. Denali (which they say only 30% of visitors get to see). Also in the park we saw a golden eagle, porcupine, gyrfalcon, and spruce grouse.

Rainville Alaska 3

The Denali Princess lodge was very scenic. We didn’t eat at any of their restaurants; instead, we ate and shopped at the whole slew of shops and restaurants right across the street. The whole land tour thing is a little bit of a herding exercise, but it’s helpful to do on the first visit while you’re getting the lay of the land. I think if we went back we’d do our own thing on the land side.

The Mt. McKinley Princess lodge was also fine. Unfortunately it’s kind of in the middle of nowhere and they don’t have a shuttle to Denali State Park so you have to make use of the few walking paths on site. We did take their shuttle ($10/pp round trip) to Talkeetna. Talkeetna is the town where people who are going to climb Mt. Denali (Mt. McKinley to the lower 48) start from. There’s a National Park Service Station where they go through orientation and there’s a 15-minute video definitely worth checking out! Talkeetna also has some cute shops and restaurants and is worth the trip from the lodge.

The last night, at the Captain Cook Hotel, was also the most luxurious stay of the trip. Quite spacious compared to the ship cabin. The hotel was opened in the 1960s and feels a little like you’ve stepped into the era of Mad Men.

We had a great time on the adventure as always. Thank you once again for your help. Our trips wouldn’t be half as good and planning would be more than twice as stressful without your wisdom!

Lydia and Tim 

A summer adventure to Alaska

This trip report, from a client who just did an Alaska cruise with her family of four, provides a great opportunity to compare two different viewpoints of the exact same cruise itinerary. Clare (see below) was on the 8/4/13 sailing of the Norwegian Pearl from Seattle and another client, Terry (see her review here), was on the sailing right before that — on 7/28/13.  Between the two, there are LOTS of great tips and advice for anyone considering an Alaska cruise. Enjoy!

Hi Ann,

Okay, here you go….  I am sure I will write far more detail than you ever wanted!  All excursions were booked via the cruise line.

Seattle:

The hotel (Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza) was great – staff was friendly, and the kids felt like they were in someplace really “fancy” – ha ha.  Not like the cheap hotels we usually get for soccer tournaments and swim meets!

  • Food suggestions – My brother swears by Etta’s – we missed our dinner reservations on Friday b/c of flight delays, so we never got there.  Serious Pie – best pizza and Top Pot Donuts for breakfast! 🙂
  • We did the Experience Music Project and both kids LOVED it.  Highly recommend
  • My brother suggested we take the ferry to Bainbridge Island, just to get a good view of the city.  We did that, walked around town, got some ice cream and came back.

Juneau:

  • We did one of the whale watching tours.  Allen Marine – Whale Watching & Wildlife Quest.  Apparently, we got a really good trip – we saw bubble feeding – which the naturalist was so excited for.  She said she had not seen that all summer.  We did see a ton of whales, and some sea lions.
  • Overall, we thought that it was a good trip.  Very crowded – and we had a lot of people on the boat who did not want to “share” the sights – give people turns to take photos.
  • Mark has been on a lot of whale watches – and he thought this was among the best.  The staff was excellent.
  • Town – we did some shopping (no purchases) – and ate at the Red Dog Saloon.  Very “local” – fun place – food was fine, beer was great, prices were very high for the amount of food received.  They have live music (guitar/singer) for the cruise ships – he was very fun.  A little off color, but was fine for the kids.

Skagway:

  • Grizzly Falls Zip line – The kid’s favorite excursion.  It was a lot of fun.  The staff was outstanding – from the person who drove us from the dock to the location to the two women who led our zip lines.  We laughed, saw some scenery, and enjoyed our morning.  On the way back to town, the driver even stopped for us to take some photos.
  • White Pass Railway – Unbelievable scenery – lots of good information and photos.  It was 3 hours, which was a bit long, but the train can’t go too fast.  I would have been disappointed if this was our only excursion, but we were happy with it since we zip lined in the morning.
  • Town – we did some shopping – same stores for the most part as Juneau – this time we purchased.  Brett was disappointed he did not speak up in Juneau that he saw something he liked, b/c they did not have the item in Skagway.  We ate at the Sweet Tooth Café (kids choice this time).  Basic Diner food – it was good – but the prices were high (but more food than the saloon).  We were just a little tired of the ship food, but in hind sight, would not have done this – just gotten a treat and then eaten a meal on the boat.

Ketchikan:

  • Zodiac Coastline Excursion – Mark’s & my favorite excursion – and the kids loved it ALMOST as much as the zip lines.  The staff was the best.  We drove over 30 miles in our own small zodiac boat, led by one of their staff.  He fed two eagles – so we were super close.  Also went to a sea lion sanctuary and got within 20 feet of them.  It was amazing.  And, even though it was against the rules – he did let the younger kids drive the boats once we were out in open water.  🙂  They loved that.   I HIGHLY recommend this one!
  • That was all we had time for – just made it back to the ship in time.  We actually would have liked a little more time in this port.  It seemed rushed.
  • We walked from the ship along the water into town.  Fun to see the modern construction then turn to more old style.  Enjoyed seeing the castles.
  • We ate at Earl’s – by far the best food we had all week.  Thirst quenching beer also!  🙂  They were one of the few places we found that we could have a beer and feed the kids –the pubs we walked by were 19 and older.
  • $9 cab back to the ship

We all agreed we would rather have had a longer stay in Ketchikan and skipped Victoria – though the food was really good! 🙂

Norwegian Pearl:

  • Staff was outstanding – pretty much everyone we ran into had a smile on their face and seemed focused on making our trip enjoyable.
  • Mini-Suite – SO GLAD you suggested this size room – it was fine for the 4 of us.  Mark and I said we would never go smaller, even if it is just the 2 of us.  Room was clean, well-kept, and the bathroom size was not bad at all either.
  • Pools – the kids would have liked a larger pool to swim in.  There was an “Adult only” pool that was the same size as the kids and rarely had anyone in it, and if anyone was in it, there were only 2 or 3.  They were disappointed that even though the pool was 6 feet deep, they could not jump in.  They did love the slide.
  • Hot tubs were fine – kids thought they were too hot.   🙂
  • Food – you read a lot of mixed reviews about the food on this ship and Norwegian in general.  We would classify it as “fine.”  The poolside bbqs by far had the best on-ship food all week.  I think partially b/c they were cooking it fresh right in front of you.  We primarily ate in the buffet with maybe 6 meals in the dining rooms.  We ate there more for the peace and quiet, as the food was not too different from the buffet.  I would say a true “foodie” would probably think poorly of the food, but the average person/family would think it was okay.  The kids thought the fries were the best fries they had ever eaten (so they ate them all the time) and they also had delicious bread.  The fresh fruit was plentiful and ripe.  The crepes were delicious, but overall, the desserts just fair.  We ate twice at a place that was open all the time with more bar-like food, and this was pretty good.  The Chocolate Buffet – They had a ton of beautiful sculptures and displays.  A couple of things that tasted good, but nothing that I thought was outstanding.  Truthfully, I just find the people outrageous at this buffet!  (Brett was so disgusted by how “piggy” people were, he only tried one thing…)  Royal Caribbean did this much better as I recall.
  • Entertainment – great acts (Second City, a juggler, a comedian – all were kid appropriate or had kid-appropriate shows)
  • Kids Club – Dillon (10) – LOVED this – the staff members were terrific.  He tried to squeeze in a visit every day.  This was a life saver on days we were at sea all day and it was chilly or rainy out.
  • Other Activities – Brett was disappointed that a lot of the scheduled activities on the sports courts, ping pong tables, and golf area ended up getting cancelled b/c of weather or low turn-out.  One activity he was about 2 minutes late for had already started and they would not let him join in.  Also – he is an exercise fanatic, and it was very disappointing he could not visit the fitness center even if he was with Mark or I.  He did run on the deck/track almost every day.  (He needed to burn some energy!)
  • Rock Climbing Wall – the kids finally got to do this our last full day.  It was closed for most of our trip b/c of weather.  They were disappointed to not have done it earlier in the trip.
  • Glacier Bay – We LOVED this day – and primarily enjoyed it from our balcony.  We had hot chocolate delivered (it was gross… lol) and liked that we could turn on our TV to hear the Park Ranger narration.
  • Weather – not that you control this – but we did have great weather.  Days in port were 70 or higher.  Brett actually did not have enough shorts and t-shirts.
  • On-Board Spending – Mark and I are not big drinkers – I think we each had 6 beers the whole week and I had 2 or 3 mixed drinks – so I imagine our final bill was less than many.  We did go to Bingo a few times, and Deal or No Deal once.  We bowled and the kids did a few arcade games.  Mark and I did the soda deal – which for us is a steal.  So, our final bill was under $500 (we pre-paid our service charges, so this does not include those).  We were happily surprised with this – b/c we really did not go in trying to curtail our spending.
  • Kids did have ship envy when we were docked with one of the Princess ships and one of the Holland America ships.  🙂  But I think it is natural to see things you wished you had.
  • Embarkation and Disembarkation – VERY easy and quick.  Probably 20-25 minutes from arrival at the dock to walking on the boat.  No wait at disembarkation – we chose to walk off with our bags at 7:30 am to avoid the rush.

Ann – you provided excellent guidance for us.  We were hesitant to try Norwegian again b/c of our prior experience and just overall reviews are so mixed.  While we know it was not a top of the line ship or cruise line – it definitely met our needs.  I appreciated that you really had us think about what was important to us when we were selecting the right cruise – and not to totally focus on what other people had to say.  Also – when I asked about excursions – you guided us well in terms of the amount of activity and who else may select to go on certain activities.  THANK YOU for helping to make this a memorable trip for our family!  It really was a trip of a lifetime!

Thanks again,

~ Clare

You provided excellent guidance for us. I appreciated that you really had us think about what was most important to us when we were selecting the right cruise – and not to totally focus on what other people had to say. THANK YOU for helping to make this a memorable trip for our family! It really was a trip of a lifetime!

Clare and Mark (family cruise to Alaska)

The level of service we experienced was out of this world (and we did NOT make it easy on Ann). We weren’t quite sure where we wanted to go, when we would be able to go, or what “vibe” we were going for. After asking us some key questions (what we liked, didn’t like, why, etc.) Ann helped us narrow down our trip details and planned the honeymoon of our dreams. She helped book some of our excursions, answered some emergency questions while abroad and was always available/willing to help. I think it’s safe to say we won’t be using anyone else for future travel planning – Ann is a rockstar!

Carli (Italy and Spain)