Insider Scoop on How to Experience Alaska

Royal Caribbean Shore Explorer and Irish rugby player shares highlights from his travels in the Last Frontier.
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Shore Explorer Harry McNulty atop Norris Glacier in Alaska.

Credit: Harry McNulty

Think you’ve got a sweet gig? Meet Harry McNulty. A native of Dublin, Ireland, Harry, 26, won Royal Caribbean’s Shore Explorer contest, earning himself the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit six different countries over three weeks. Did we mention he’s getting paid for documenting his adventures?

Royal Caribbean cruises to more than 270 destinations, and Harry’s journey took him from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and Osaka, Japan, to Lisbon, Portugal and our private island destination in The Bahamas—Perfect Day at CocoCay. And what did he do in all of these places? He checked off bucket-list experiences, including those in the Last Frontier—flying to glaciers, dog sledding and traversing suspension bridges in the wilderness.

We spoke to Harry after his time in Alaska. Read on as he shares his favorite moments, experiences and tips from his first visit to the largest state in the U.S.:

Q: What inspired you to apply to be Royal Caribbean’s Shore Explorer?

Harry: I wanted to show the world how much these destinations have to offer, so I just knew I needed to apply. I was in Hong Kong when I received the call saying I’d won, and I couldn’t help but jump up and down, and punch the air with excitement.

Q: Packing is key to any adventure. Which items did you find most useful for Alaska?

Harry: I did a ton of walking, so my adidas Terrex hiking shoes were the best thing I packed. I was super lucky with the weather—nothing but sunny blue skies. But that meant sunglasses were necessary because of the reflection from the glaciers.

Dogsledding on top of the Norris Glacier.

Credit: Harry McNulty

Q: What was your favorite shore excursion in Alaska and why?

Harry: This was my first time in Alaska (but not my last), and I have to say dog sledding on the top of Norris Glacier was incredible. Even getting there was memorable—we had to take a helicopter to get there. I even had the chance to guide the sled and spend some time with all the huskies!

Sled dogs train all year to stay in race shape.

Credit: Harry McNulty

Q: What was it like riding—aka “mushing”—with those energetic huskies?

Harry: It was awesome! They were born and raised to run, and they enjoy it. They’re all extremely obedient—if the rhythm gets disrupted or everyone isn’t in step, you can call their name and they will get straight back into it. They all train during the summer as well, since they compete in the 1,000-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race (also known as the Last Great Race on Earth).

The view of the Alaskan wilderness from a helicopter.

Credit: Harry McNulty

Q: How was your viewpoint from the helicopter to the Norris Glacier?

Harry: It was stunning…bright blue lakes formed from glacial waters, and there were glaciers and mountains as far as the eye could see. You get a very real understanding of why Alaska is described as such a wild, unique place.

Q: What did you learn about the state that you didn’t know?

Harry: Juneau, despite being Alaska’s capital, is only accessible by sea or air. Residents primarily buy local products and have one multinational food chain (McDonald’s), which is near the airport.

Pro tip: Juneau’s downtown area is full of centuries-old bars, shops and landmarks, but its surrounding nature is the real attention grabber, from snowcapped mountains and misty rain forests, to glaciers galore and unmatched wildlife.

Adventurer traversing the nearly 100-foot-high suspension bridge.

Credit: Harry McNulty

Q: Can you describe the feeling of walking on the suspension bridge?

Harry: It was not for the faint of heart, but it was a lot of fun! It was interesting to see the skill needed to attach all these lines and bridges to the trees. We were almost 100 feet high and could only see forest—pretty spectacular.

Q: Any local restaurants that you loved and would recommend other visitors try?

Harry: Tracy’s King Crab Shack is the place to go. There is one in the middle of Juneau that is perfect for visitors, and a smaller location on the water in the open air. What a spot!

Pro tip: If you hadn’t guessed it from the name, Tracy’s serves all things crab: crab legs, crab bucket, crab bisque, crab cakes and more crab.

A glimpse of the view while whale watching from the shore.

Credit: Harry McNulty

Q: Tell us about your whale-watching experience?

Harry: We saw a whale breach in the distance, which is usually a display of attraction but sometimes happens when whales wash themselves. It was breathtaking. I was told the best time to see whales in Alaska is from May to September, and I was fortunate to see a good number of them and even seals [in early August].

Q: Did you learn anything interesting about whale species?

Harry: Yes! There are two types of orca or “killer” whales. There are resident whales that remain local and transient whales that travel all over. Resident whales mostly eat Alaskan salmon, whereas transient whales have a wide, varied diet and eat whatever they can in each region they visit.

While our Shore Explorer contest has concluded, you can still replicate Harry’s adventure for yourself. Head here to catch a cruise to embark on your trip to the Last Frontier.