First Impressions of Alaska: Big and Beautiful

There are just some destinations that it seems like everyone says that you have to visit at least once. Paris and New York City are certainly at the top of that list, but one of the destinations that I've heard as much as any other is Alaska. My father spoke more highly of it then any other destination he traveled to and I've had more friends then I can count who have told me that it's a "must-visit" destination.

However, for one reason or the other, Alaska hadn't made it onto the list of 45 U.S. states that I had visited. I knew I'd get to it eventually and probably say the same thing that so many others before me have said: "Oh Alaska, it's so beautiful." Can you hear the sarcasm? Deep down, part of my reluctance in visiting Alaska was a fear of being let down. But boy was I wrong. When I first stepped foot onto Alaska on Monday in Ketchikan, I had already seen miles of it, as a guest of Norwegian Cruise Line aboard Norwegian Jewel with Expedia.

Glacier Bay Alaska

Before even arriving in Ketchikan I felt like I had seen more than my share to dispel any skepticism. I had seen two of the most beautiful sunsets I had ever seen, with the sun setting behind snowcapped mountains, and one of the most beautiful sunrises (Also, one of the few sunrises I've actually seen since I'm not exactly a morning person) I had ever seen as we pulled into Ketchikan. I felt like an explorer, sailing waters and viewing distant lands that had never been discovered before. We would go miles and miles without seeing any forms of life and I would look up into the hills and wonder if any person had stepped foot on ay of them.

To put it into a couple words: Alaska is big, and beautiful. And did I say big? When I looked at the map to see how much of Alaska we would actually be traveling across, it paled in comparison to the state as a whole. To no one's surprise, what stood out above everything though was the scenery and wildlife. It was mesmerizing and so movie-like, from bears walking the shores peering in to catch their breakfast, to humpback whales rising out of the water before diving back in, to bald eagles spreading their wings and flying out from their nest, to large chunks of ice floating by our ship. They were all things I knew that I could see on a trip to Alaska, but actually seeing them for myself was something else.

While Alaska is home to miles of undeveloped land that is absent of WiFi and cell phone towers, there are in fact cities; which are more like towns. And very quirky towns at that. Why, you ask? Well any town that is known for their lumberjack show I believe can be filed under "quirky". That's exactly what I found on my first day ashore in the town of Ketchikan. But who knew that such a small Alaskan town could be known for so much, such as being the "Salmon Capital of the World" and home to the largest concentration of totem poles in the world. If there was this much eccentricity to Ketchikan, then I couldn't wait for Juneau and Skagway.

Whether you've been or not, what are your impressions of Alaska?