Known as the Last Frontier, Alaska is an untouched region home to incredible wonders, and there’s no better way to take in the thrills of seeing glaciers and humpback whales than on board Ovation of the Seas—the most exciting cruise ship to sail to Alaska.
Imagine seeing the Northern Lights in Juneau and retracing the storied path of the Klondike Gold Rush in Skagway, or skydiving without ever leaving the ship and taking in panoramic views from 300 feet above sea level on the North Star, the signature glass observation capsule. With Ovation returning to Alaska in 2020, joined by Serenade and Radiance of the Seas, there will be more options than ever before to witness the grandeur of the state with Royal Caribbean.
So what exactly awaits when you traverse Alaska? For a glimpse, we turned to crew ambassador Stephen Burke, an acoustic guitarist and singer enjoying his first season in Alaska as a musician on Ovation. In the Q&A below, he shares all the action guests can expect on board—and why you’ll want to book a cruise to the 49th state on this unrivaled ship ASAP.
Q: Tell us about your first impression of Ovation.
Stephen: It’s ridiculous how much you can do in one trip. I love Ovation of the Seas! Catching breathtaking views of the rugged Alaskan landscape from the North Star is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and also the fact that you can surf and skydive from a cruise ship is something I’ll never get over. Guests can partake in tons of cool activities inside, like at the SeaPlex. It’s an unbelievable venue with bumper cars, gaming consoles, roller skating and—wait for it—a trapeze school.
Q: Speaking of the North Star, what are the views like from inside?
Stephen: As the highest vantage point of any cruise ship, and offering 360-degree views of Alaska in all its glory, the North Star is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. I was lucky enough to view the Hubbard Glacier from inside. To be 300 feet above sea level with the ocean below and have snowcapped mountains all around was just amazing.
[Editor’s tip: The North Star is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the “Highest Viewing Deck on a Cruise Ship!”]
Q: Where are some lesser-known spots on the ship to catch a great view?
Stephen: My go-to tip is to head over to the very front of the ship to the Solarium. On either side, you’ll find open-air spaces that overlook the edge of the ship—where you’ll get a stunning glimpse of the surrounding glaciers. A bonus: Though guests don’t always think of it, you’ll get breathtaking ocean views from 40 feet above deck by climbing the rock climbing-wall.
Q: Tell us about some of the features that set Ovation apart from other cruise ships.
Stephen: This is the first time a ship from our popular Quantum Class has sailed to Alaska, and guests have been wowed week in and week out because of what we have to offer. Sipping a cocktail mixed and muddled by robots, then heading to Two70 for an unbelievable production starring roboscreens are experiences you won’t find anywhere else. There’s also a mind-blowing, 11,000-piece art collection on board: One of my favorite works is a wall installation featuring moving butterflies that lights up when you touch the screen!
Q: What are some of your favorite experiences on board?
Stephen: Ripcord by iFly stands out because nowhere else can you skydive at sea—especially with a view like this! As a performer myself, I also love to watch the live entertainment going on around the ship. We have incredibly talented performers and entertainers from across the globe.
[Editor’s tip: All entertainment onboard Royal Caribbean cruises is complimentary!]
Q: Tell us about your favorite restaurant and some of the most memorable dishes you’ve had.
Stephen: My favorite place to eat is Izumi, our Japanese restaurant on board. I start with the miso soup and gyoza before digging into the futomaki, a thick sushi roll typically filled with vegetables. I also recently dined at Wonderland and was blown away—a highlight for sure is the chocolate dessert ball that melts before your eyes with caramel sauce!
Q: Can you tell us about some standout shore excursions offered on the seven-night Alaska itineraries from Seattle?
Stephen: Alaska is so beautiful that any adventure is sure to be spectacular. If I had to choose one, it would be the Dog Sledding and Glacier Flightseeing by Helicopter excursion. From getting a surreal view of the glaciers below by helicopter to playing with husky puppies before meeting their big brothers and sisters for a sled ride, nothing beats that day.
Q: Have you spotted any wildlife?
Stephen: It’s hard not to spot wildlife in Alaska! So far, I’ve been in the right place at the right time and have been lucky enough to see bald eagles, porcupines, bears and even dolphins and humpback whales.
Q: What other experiences are you looking forward to trying out?
Stephen: The Glacier Discovery by Helicopter experience is at the top of my summer bucket list, quickly followed by exploring Upper Dewey Lake in Skagway.
[Editor’s tip: Upper Dewey Lake is a phenomenal spot to see unparalleled views of glaciers, rocky peaks and crystal-clear waters from 3,000 feet above sea level.]
Q: Any recommendations for what to pack for a trip to Alaska?
Stephen: Good hiking shoes and a waterproof jacket are must-haves. And layer up! Always be ready to put extra clothing on or take some off as the temperature can change instantly. It’s been such lovely weather so far that I often go out in shorts and flip flops, which I hadn’t expected.
This is just a sampling of what’s in store when you book a cruise to the Last Frontier. Departing from Seattle, Ovation sails seven-night itineraries through Skagway and the Endicott Arm fjord, Alaska; Victoria, British Columbia—one of the oldest cities in the Pacific Northwest—and more. Come 2020, Serenade of the Seas will sail seven-night itineraries from Vancouver, while Radiance of the Seas will cruise alternating Southbound Alaska and Northbound Alaska routes.
Head here to book a once-in-a-lifetime vacation to Alaska.